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Loose Ends as the Stone Trial Moves to Closing Arguments

Somewhat unexpectedly, the government announced this morning it would rest after testimony from Rick Gates and the FBI Agent, Michelle Taylor. My overall take is that Stone is likely to be found guilty on a number of the false statements charges, though may skate on witness tampering. But that nevertheless will be a win for him, because he has been playing for a pardon, not acquittal, and he retreated to a new cover story — that he had no intermediary with WikiLeaks — which is what Trump needed him to say. I think the smartest thing Stone has done in the last several years was not to take the stand and I half wonder whether prosecutors tried to bait him to do so by finishing early.

Stone filed for an acquittal, which is fairly normal. By my read, it misstated the indictment, pretending that Stone was accused of lying about having an interlocutor with WikiLeaks rather than lying about who his was (which, again, serves his goal of getting a pardon). Amy Berman Jackson seemed to adhere to my reading as well, noting that none of the charges require that Stone actually have an interlocutor (though she did warn prosecutors they need to be very specific about what language in the transcript they’re saying are lies). Nevertheless, ABJ reserved judgment on that motion.

I’ll say more about what I think really went down once the final exhibits are released to journalists and after closing arguments tomorrow.

But I wanted to capture a number of loose threads from the trial (and this is based off live tweeting, so it’s more vague than I would wish):

  • Prosecutors made sure to get Steve Bannon to explain the relationship between Ted Malloch and Erik Prince and the campaign, yet Prince did not testify and Malloch’s testimony wasn’t entered. So why include that detail?
  • The government tried to enter Bannon’s grand jury testimony, unsuccessfully, after he had to be held to his prior testimony. Was there a discrepancy or a different articulation prosecutors were trying to hold him to?
  • Footnote 989 of Volume I of the Mueller Report seems to suggest that Bannon’s testimony came in under a proffer agreement (and his first interview clearly stretched the truth). But that proffer did not get introduced into evidence. Why not?
  • The defense did not raise the most obvious challenge to Gates’ testimony, that his claim Stone knew of hacked emails in April 2016 might represent a confusion with Hillary’s FOIAed emails. Since they could only make this argument with Gates’ testimony, I’m curious why they didn’t raise it.
  • The defense spent a lot of time talking to Gates about Stone’s role in compiling voter rolls. Why?
  • Prosecutors named a bunch of Stone’s flunkies as witnesses, and subpoenaed and flew in Andrew Miller. They seem to have first informed Miller he’d be testifying at what would be the end of a full week trial (what they initially said they expected), then held him through Stone’s defense, suggesting they might use him as a rebuttal witness. But he never testified. Why not?
  • The government never presented something they had planned to as 404b information — that Stone also lied about whether the campaign knew of his campaign finance shenanigans. They didn’t do so. Why not? (This may related to the Miller question.)
  • Prosecutors made a point of having Gates describe Stone asking for Jared Kushner’s contact so he could brief him on stolen emails. But that point was dropped. That loose end is particularly interesting given that they had Bannon testify about the July 18 email Stone sent him, which probably pertains to an investigation that was ongoing in March.

Update: I’ve reviewed the acquittal motion and actually think Stone may win on this point:

COUNT 6 – FALSE STATEMENT

STONE testified falsely that he had never discussed his conversations with the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary” with anyone involved in the Trump Campaign.

Evidence as to Count 6 suffers from the same infirmity as Counts 4 and 5. The count fails because of the government’s failure to prove the conversations with the Trump Campaign contained, or specifically related to, information Mr. Stone received from Mr. Credico. There was no evidence presented that any of the information was not already available in the public domain. Furthermore, there was no evidence presented that the conversation were about, or relating to, Russian interference. “And did you discuss your conversations with the intermediary with anyone involved in the Trump campaign?” HPSCI transcript, at 102 (emphasis added). No, the conversation had nothing to do with Randy Credico. Even if, arguendo, Stone spoke to a Campaign official, Bannon, Trump, or if Stone had non-public information from an intermediary, but did not cite to Credico in those communications, then the answer is not false. The government must live with the imprecise wording of Count VI.

Stone absolutely did lie about speaking to Trump people about what he knew about WikiLeaks. But in doing so, as far as we know, he always attributed his information to Assange directly, not to Credico or Corsi (though I’m fairly certain he could prove that he gave Corsi credit). So I actually think that’s why ABJ reserved on this front: because Stone is right. The government fucked up the wording on this.

 

It Doesn’t Matter for Prosecutors’ Case that Randy Credico Was Bragging or (Purportedly) Drunk

Some reporters appear to be getting their understanding of the Roger Stone trial from Stone’s defense attorneys rather than from actually reading the indictment and the trial exhibits, because they report as truth that it will harm prosecutors’ case if Credico can be shown to be drunk or bragging when he suggested to Stone he had ties to Julian Assange. Here’s the NYT:

Complicating the prosecution’s case, both men appear to have repeatedly lied to and about each other. And both appear to have exaggerated their connections with WikiLeaks, either privately or publicly.

Mr. Credico testified that many of his claims regarding WikiLeaks amounted to “braggadocio” and that he repeatedly overstated his access to Mr. Assange partly as a way to “one-up” Mr. Stone.

While it is true that Stone’s lawyers are arguing that poor little Roger with the Nixon-tattoo Stone got lied to by both Credico and Jerome Corsi, that defense doesn’t actually exonerate Stone of the charges against him (which is noteworthy in and of itself). Stone is not accused of having a back channel to WikiLeaks, which claims about Credico’s credibility might undermine; he’s accused of lying about his claims about having one and who that is. Most notably, Stone is accused of lying about how he communicated with his claimed back channel(s), and no attacks on Credico can make the abundant correspondence between Stone and Credico disappear.

Consider the evidence presented to prove that Stone lied just last week, on top of what was already referenced in the indictment (which I laid out here).

1. STONE testified falsely that he did not have emails with third parties about Assange, and that he did not have any documents, emails, or text messages that refer to Assange.

In addition to having Credico and Steve Bannon introduce their own emails (and texts in the case of Credico) that mention Assange, FBI Agent Michelle Taylor introduced the Erik Prince texts described in the indictment that reference Assange (and confirm that those texts were with Prince), as well as an October 3, 2016 Stone email to Prince stating that he, “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming.”

2. STONE testified falsely that his August 2016 references to being in contact with the head of WikiLeaks were references to communications with a single “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary,” who STONE identified as Credico.

As noted, the only evidence that Credico and Stone spoke about Assange post-dates the days in early August when Stone claimed to have an intermediary. Multiple comms from Credico show him pointing that out to Stone over and over and over (once even before the election and more explicitly in early 2017): he couldn’t be Stone’s intermediary because all their discussions of Assange post-date Stone’s claims to having an intermediary. Indeed, Credico and Stone even spoke about Stone’s intermediary when Stone appeared on Credico’s show on August 23, 2016.

To disprove that Credico could not be his intermediary, Stone would need to introduce evidence he and Credico talked about WikiLeaks before that. All Stone offered to disprove that were some Credico tweets from 2016 dated June 17, July 22, and July 24, none of which were addressed to Stone and only the first of which addresses upcoming email drops.

In addition, the government introduced communications that make it clear Stone was aware of Corsi’s import before he testified. For example, on March 24, 2017, Stone sent Corsi and Gloria Borger his attorneys’ letter to HPSCI stating he was “anxious to redress the false and misleading way he has been portrayed by some on the Permanent Select Committee.” That letter got sent one day after Corsi had posted the cover story he and Stone started working on the previous year.

Further, one of the most damning exhibits introduced last week shows that on October 19, 2017, Stone forwarded Credico an email from his attorney, Grant Smith, with the subject line “Credico Paragraph.” The email purported to share the paragraphs in an October 13, 2017 letter to HPSCI naming Credico as Stone’s source. But the version Smith sent to Stone which got forwarded to Credico materially differs from the one sent to HPSCI, in part by offering a half paragraph of complimentary language on Stone’s relationship with Credico that wasn’t actually included in the letter to HPSCI.

But it also includes this paragraph:

Mr. Stone noticed Credico had traveled to London on at least two occasions and conducted two landmark interviews with Julian Assange on WBAI. To be absolutely clear, Credico was only asked to confirm for Mr. Stone that the postings and interviews by Assange in which he claimed to have the Clinton data ,both of June 21 [sic], were accurate. Mr. Credico never said he knew or had any information as to source or content of the material. Mr. Credico never said he had confirmed this information with Mr. Assange himself. Mr. Stone knew Credico had his own sources within WikiLeaks and is credible. Mr. Stone concedes that describing Credico as a go-between or intermediary is a bit of salesmanship for his InfoWars audience but the confirmation by Credico turned out to be 100 % accurate. [emphasis original]

The unitaliczed text does show up in a form in Stone’s letter, albeit phrased in a way to downplay any potential request from Stone. But the italicized language does not show up in Stone’s letter. It’s effectively a script for Credico, one that might placate Credico’s concerns about Stone overstating his knowledge, but one that was false on its face.

3. STONE testified falsely that he did not ask the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary,” to communicate anything to the head of Organization 1 and did not ask the intermediary to do anything on STONE’s behalf.

As I noted in this post, there are emails showing Stone requested both Corsi and Credico do things with regards to Assange. Two emails introduced last week prove that Stone knew he had such emails. On April 3, 2018, Stone’s lawyer Grant Smith wrote Stone cc’ing Corsi stating, “At Roger’s request, I attach the only 2 emails on the subject between the two of you.” That wasn’t true: An August 15, 2016 Corsi email stating, “More to come than anyone realizes,” is almost certainly also a reference to stolen emails.

Tellingly, the very next day, August 4, 2018, Stone sent Credico an email saying, “Everything I know about the WikiLeaks disclosures I heard from you and can prove it.”

More damning still, on March 10, 2018, Stone forwarded Credico the thread of emails, dating from September 2016, in which he requested that Credico ask Assange if he had emails on Libya. The thread includes Credico claiming, “I asked one of [Assange’s] lawyers,” a reference to Margaret Ratner Kunstler. Stone sent it as a threat — and indeed, his threats to attack Kunstler were probably among the most effective Stone used with Credico, per Credico’s testimony. But by sending it (this time not even involving his lawyers), Stone proved that he knew of the request he made of Credico in September 2016, and knew he had communications reflecting the request.

4. STONE testified falsely that he and the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary” did not communicate via text message or email about WikiLeaks.

As the above shows, Stone not only did communicate extensively with Credico — his claimed intermediary — via text and email, but he was aware of it. Likewise, he was aware that he had communicated via email, the intermediary the government suggests he was trying to hide, with Corsi.

5. STONE testified falsely that he had never discussed his conversations with the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary” with anyone involved in the Trump Campaign.

Ultimately, the government argues that this trial is going to be about Stone trying to hide how damning all this is for Trump, and it’s in Stone’s communications with the campaign that are most damning. Stone already proved he knew of the Bannon email introduced at trial last week when he shared it after Bannon went to the NYT. Much of the rest of the proof of this will show up in this week’s testimony, not least from Rick Gates.

Which is why Stone’s current defense story is so interesting: because it highlights that Stone continues to lie to cover up the Trump campaign’s knowledge of all this. By suggesting that Stone believed Corsi was also an intermediary for him, Stone’s lawyers are basically pleading guilty to several of the false statements charges against Stone — lies 1 through 4 as numbered here — as part of his defense! Effectively, this is not a defense to the charges against Stone. It is, instead, a new lie, meant to deny what he did not in his HPSCI testimony, that he had an intermediary, as a retreat position on his larger lie, that Trump didn’t know about any of this.

That Stone is still obstructing that fact is made all the more clear by two other exhibits introduced last week.

First, the government introduced the letter by which Stone cleaned up his lie denying speaking to any Russians. On June 15, 2018, after Michael Caputo described his testimony with Mueller’s team, Stone’s lawyer, Grant Smith, sent a letter to Devin Nunes admitting he and Stone entertained Henry Greenberg’s (whom Caputo correctly introduced to him as a Russian) offer of dirt on Hillary, only to say Stone and Trump wouldn’t spend money for such things.

Smith sent another letter on December 20, 2018, in which he asserted that, “Mr. Stone’s testimony provided during the interview was forthcoming, truthful, and wholly consistent with his many detailed public statements on the matters being investigated.” In other words, as recently as December of last year, Smith reaffirmed that Stone’s claims to have one intermediary who was Credico remained the operative story.

Given that Stone cleaned up the Greenberg story, it raises real questions why, at a time when Stone knew people had testified against him and after months during which emails proving Stone’s lies about having communications about Assange were lies had been aired publicly, Stone didn’t clean up his intermediary story in the December letter by saying what his attorneys are now arguing in court, that an epic rat-fucker was duped by a comedian and a hoaxster. That would have saved him a year of legal fees and a significantly diminished ability to work.

But it would have served to acknowledge that Corsi was an interlocutor before Robert Mueller closed up shop.

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

Rick Gates Got Sent Two Key Jerome Corsi Posts

Last year, as Mueller was managing the failed Jerome Corsi cooperation deal, I did a series of posts suggesting that Corsi and Stone seemed to have gotten advanced information about the John Podesta email dump. I argued that, in part, because the two started crafting an elaborate Matryoshka cover-up by the end of August to excuse away Stone’s “time in the barrel tweet.” More importantly, Corsi wrote a piece picking up what the two men had been plotting in August on October 6, seemingly anticipating John Podesta documents that would only be dumped on October 11. In other words, Corsi and Stone seemed to know by mid-August what WikiLeaks would drop in October.

I posted the first of those posts on October 22.

Three days later, Mueller’s team interviewed Rick Gates (PDF 39). According to the headings in the interview, which were dates, the interview traced the key milestones of the WikiLeaks dump:

  • June 12, 2016 to July 22, 2016
  • Post July 22, 2016 WikiLeaks Releases
  • October 4, 2016
  • October 7, 2016
  • [Redacted]

Much of the content below that last redacted heading is redacted, but it’s clear the section as a whole relates to the two Corsi pieces that bookend my theory that he and Stone got the files ahead of time.

** Gates was shown an email [redacted] containing the subject line “Trump adviser: WikiLeaks plotting email dump to derail Hillary” **

Gates did not recall receiving the aforementioned email.

[redacted]

** Gates was shown an email [redacted] containing the subject line “Russia? Look who’s really in bed with Moscow — Podesta & Clinton Foundation money-laundering with Russia” **

[redacted]

The FOIAed backup for this interview includes the emails by which the articles were sent.

They obscure the date that the first one was sent, though it was posted on August 15; the second, which Corsi published on October 6, got sent 15 hours later, so just before mid-day on October 7. (Steve Bannon’s assistant Alexandra Preate sent Stone a text at 6:30PM telling him “Well done,” presumably for the actual WikiLeaks releases).

But it sure seems like the campaign was in the loop on some of this.

I’m fairly certain none of this will be aired at the Stone trial. The government doesn’t even plan to enter Stone’s “time in a barrel” tweet into evidence and there’s nothing in the draft exhibit list that looks like it could be these emails. Plus, much of their case seems designed not to have to rely on Corsi.

But it sure seems to have been of interest last year.

Three Questions Not Asked of Steve Bannon

The Roger Stone trial is done for the week, with Randy Credico getting through his testimony (though probably without substantiating the witness tampering charge tied to him), with Margaret Kunstler confirming that Credico had never provided information from Assange to Stone through her, and with a very short appearance from Steve Bannon.

Bannon’s appearance was most interesting, in my opinion, for what he wasn’t asked. Here’s CNN’s coverage.

Prosecutor Michael Marando asked Bannon what he made of Stone’s August 18 email — introduced in Aaron Zelinsky’s opening — telling Bannon, ““I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty.” Bannon responded by calling Stone some lame euphemism for “rat-fucker,” and observed that Stone is highly experienced in such things. But Bannon was not asked whether there was any follow-up to the email. That’s particularly interesting given the possibility that it pertains to another investigation, albeit one not related to the core Russian issues.

As expected, Marando asked Bannon about his emails to Roger Stone on October 4, 2016.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone
EMAIL:

What was that this morning???

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Roger Stone
TO: Steve Bannon
EMAIL:
Fear. Serious security concern. He thinks they are going to kill him and the London police are standing done.

However —a load every week going forward.

Roger stone

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone
EMAIL:

He didn’t cut deal w/ clintons???

Marando used Bannon’s request to Stone as a way to premise that Bannon believed that Stone was the campaign point person on any outreach to WikiLeaks.

But Bannon wasn’t asked about the last email in that thread, which asked Bannon to tell Rebecca Mercer to send him some money. That’s significant, because the government wants to show that Stone lied to HPSCI about discussing his dark money shenanigans with the campaign (but that he cleaned that lie up). Since that exchange amounts to Stone telling Trump’s campaign manager what he was up to, I had thought Bannon might be asked to elaborate on that. He was not.

Finally, Bannon was not asked about his response to an email Paul Manafort sent to Jared Kushner and David Bossie on November 5, 2016 about how to “secure the victory.”

Later, in a November 5, 2016 email to Kushner entitled “Securing the Victory,” Manafort stated that he was “really feeling good about our prospects on Tuesday and focusing on preserving the victory,” and that he was concerned the Clinton Campaign would respond to a loss by “mov[ing] immediately to discredit the [Trump] victory and claim voter fraud and cyber-fraud, including the claim that the Russians have hacked into the voting machines and tampered with the results.”

Bannon responded to that email by saying, (PDF 258)

We need to avoid this guy like the plague

They are going to try and say the Russian worked with wiki leaks to give this victory to us

Paul is nice guy but can’t let word out he is advising us

Of course, this is the Roger Stone trial, not any of Paul Manafort’s multiple trials. So it’s unsurprising that this didn’t come up. But, particularly given the way it reflected a tie between Russia, WikiLeaks, and Manafort, it might have.

Especially given that, when Bannon was asked about this on a February 14, 2018, he appears to have invoked Stone in his not entirely truthful answer.

Candidate Trump never said to Bannon that he was in contact with [5 letter name redacted for ongoing proceeding] or Manafort. Bannon knew they were going to win, and in this email he wanted to avoid Manafort because Bannon believed that if people could link them to Manafort, they could then try to link them to Russia.

That redacted name could not be Gates, the other 5-letter name associated with Manafort, because he remained on the campaign after Manafort left. And the FOIA exemption is most consistent with a Stone redaction.

In other words, a month after Bannon had the exchange about WikiLeaks with Roger Stone that did show up in the trial, he tied Stone, Manafort, WikiLeaks, and Russia together in his mind.

None of this (besides, I guess, the lack of follow-up on the August 18 email) is particularly surprising. But it is notable that Bannon wasn’t asked about a range of tangential issues, even issues that will be aired in different ways at the trial.

The Cognitive Dissonance of Learning about Roger Stone’s “Collusion”

On March 27, just days after Bill Barr issued his “summary” of the Mueller Report but well before the Report got released publicly, I wrote a post laying out how Barr obviously understated the complicity of Trump and his flunkies. I noted how he focused exclusively on what the campaign (and not its satellite ratfuckers) did, and only on what they may have done with Russia. As a result, it left a big space for what Roger Stone, according to his indictment, did: attempt to (with uncertain success) optimize the release of the stolen emails.

Stone was not charged with conspiring with WikiLeaks. But then, short of making an argument that WikiLeaks is a known agent of Russia — which the US government has never done — optimizing the WikiLeaks release is not a crime. But assuming that Corsi is correct that Stone got WikiLeaks to hold the Podesta release to dampen the impact of the Access Hollywood video, it is absolutely coordination. And even according to Stone — who believed Trump needed to avoid alienating women to win — dampening the release of the video influenced the election.

Now consider how this behavior falls into Barr’s supposed exoneration of Trump campaign involvement in the hack-and-leak.

First, there’s Barr’s truncated citation of a Mueller Report sentence. [my emphasis throughout]

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

Then a footnote defining what the word “coordinated” means in that sentence.

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

Finally, there’s Barr’s own version.

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

The exoneration for coordination in Mueller’s language, at least, extends only to the Trump campaign, not to rat-fuckers working on the side (one of the things Mueller reportedly asked a lot of witnesses was precisely when and why Stone left the campaign). And at least according to this language, Mueller’s assessment of coordination extended only to coordination with the Russian government. So even if Mueller and the US government are getting close to labeling WikiLeaks a Russian entity, it still wouldn’t count for this assessment. Unsurprisingly, Barr relies on that language to give the Trump campaign a clean bill of health on the hack-and-leak side.

Most cynically, though, even after Barr acknowledges that the Russians used WikiLeaks to disseminate the stolen emails, the very next sentence doesn’t mention the charges Mueller brought against Stone for hiding his own (and through him, the campaign’s, including Donald Trump’s) coordination of the releases “for purposes of influencing the election.”

But we know Stone’s indictment has to be in the report. That’s because the report, by regulation, must list all Mueller’s prosecutorial decisions. So not only would Mueller describe that he indicted Stone, but he probably also explains why he didn’t include a conspiracy charge in Stone’s indictment (which probably relates primarily to First Amendment concerns, and not any illusions about WikiLeaks’ willing service for Russia on this operation). So it must be in the report. But Barr doesn’t mention that, indeed, the Trump campaign, through their associated rat-fucker, did actually coordinate on the hack-and-leak and did actually influence the election by doing so, they just didn’t coordinate directly with the Russian government.

On this matter, it’s crystal clear that Barr cynically limited his discussion of the report to obscure that Mueller had, indeed, found that the campaign “coordinated” on the hack-and-leak for purposes of influencing the election.

When the Report came out, it became clear I was more right than I expected. First, there were two previously unknown incidents showing the evidence against Stone to be worse than previously known. The report showed Rick Gates witnessing a call where Stone, presumably, informed Trump that more files were coming. But it also included testimony from Ted Malloch who, contrary to being an intermediary to Assange (as Corsi had claimed) instead described learning from Corsi that WikiLeaks would drop John Podesta emails, backing the claim that Corsi and/or Stone got advanced information about the releases.

But the Report also had an almost entirely redacted section that — the TOC makes clear — includes analysis about whether optimizing email releases with WikiLeaks constitutes a campaign donation.

As noted, that section is almost entirely redacted, at least in part because of the Stone trial. Nevertheless, in most parts, it parallels the analysis done, in unredacted form, on the June 9 meeting. It has a section on whether these emails constitute a thing of value and whether the benefit was obtained willfully (that part is unredacted and suggests there might be difficulties on this front as well). But it also includes a section on the constitutional implications of defining optimized releases of emails as a campaign finance violation.

So we should assume that Mueller didn’t charge what we’re seeing in part for very good First Amendment reasons (though the EDVA indictment of Julian Assange seems to conflict with that analysis).

I raise all this by way of explanation to the many people wondering how the abundant evidence that not just Stone, but Trump himself, worked to optimize the release of the stolen emails did not get charged. Mueller considered it, and in part for reasons that we should all respect, did not charge it.

All that said, people experiencing cognitive dissonance should remember something else.

Mueller’s Report only addressed crimes he charged or declined to charge. It did not — he said explicitly on page 2 — address collusion. And while Bill Barr tried to define “collusion” as “conspiracy between the campaign itself and the Russian government,” and having done so exonerated Trump of all collusion, the report itself does not do so.

Which is why I keep going back to how Mark Meadows defined “collusion” in a hearing a year ago. In walking George Papadopoulos through his claimed ignorance of any attempt to optimize the emails that Joseph Mifsud told him about, Meadows defined “collusion” as “benefiting from Hillary Clinton emails.”

Mr. Papadopoulos. And after he was throwing these allegations at me, I —

Mr. Meadows. And by allegations, allegations that the Trump campaign was benefiting from Hillary Clinton emails?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Something along those lines, sir. And I think I pushed back and I told him, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. What you’re talking about is something along the lines of treason. I’m not involved. I don’t know anyone in the campaign who’s involved. And, you know, I really have nothing to do with Russia. That’s — something along those lines is how I think I responded to this person.

Mr. Meadows. So essentially at this point, he was suggesting that there was collusion and you pushed back very firmly is what it sounds like. [my emphasis]

One of Trump’s top backers in Congress defines “collusion” as whether the campaign benefitted from the release of Hillary’s stolen emails. And while we haven’t yet seen in trial exhibits that Stone did succeed (though the Malloch testimony seems to suggest we will), what we have seen is that the campaign, from Trump on down, made significant efforts to “collude.”

That’s where I predicted we’d end up after hearing Barr’s very narrow exoneration but before seeing the report: that the campaign “colluded” in ways that Mueller could not charge criminally.

The Narrative and Legal Tensions Set on Day One of Roger Stone’s Trial

I tried to travel to DC to cover the Roger Stone trial, but it didn’t happen. So I’m working second-hand to get details I’d like to have.

But I’ve got three questions from day one of Roger Stone’s trial that go to both the narrative tension prosecutors are setting and, probably, some legal traps as well. I won’t lay all of them out, but here are three.

Aaron Zelinsky introduces only the calls on which (prosecutors claim) they don’t know what happened

Aaron Zelinsky, one of the only remaining Mueller prosecutors still on this team, did the opening. He went after Trump from the start, making it clear that Stone lied to protect Trump. He described previously unknown calls between Stone and Trump on June 14 — after the WaPo reported on the DNC hack, on June 30 — after Guccifer 2.0 posted an FAQ claiming not to be Russian, and on August 31 — just before emailing Corsi and telling him to go meet Assange.

Unless I missed it, neither Zelinsky nor the former FBI Agent who took the stand first mentioned the August 3 call Stone already admitted. That was the same day that Stone wrote Manafort and told him “I have an idea to save Trump’s ass.” That’s also one of the days when (in an email to Sam Nunberg the next day) Stone claimed to have spoken with Julian Assange.

More interestingly, Zelinsky didn’t mention that Rick Gates would testify to witnessing Trump take a call — almost certainly from Roger Stone — after which he told Gates that there were more WikiLeaks emails coming. He didn’t mention a similar, earlier call Michael Cohen witnessed, where Stone predicted the WikiLeaks emails would dump later in the week of July 18 or 19, but it’s not clear whether Cohen will testify (which would explain why Zelinsky wouldn’t mention it).

In other words, Zelinsky didn’t mention the most damning calls we know of.

That’s probably about creating narrative tension — saving the best for last — but also making visible the problem with Stone’s obstruction. We don’t know what was said on those calls because Stone (and Trump, in his written answers to Mueller) denied they even existed.

What’s up with Jerome Corsi?

Zelinsky made it clear that Gates (who we knew about), Credico (who’s the key witness, and probably beginning his testimony tomorrow), and Steve Bannon (about whom I had my doubts) will testify.

The sense I got from reporters at the trial, however, is that the government would not call Jerome Corsi.

I mean, why would you? He entered into a cooperation agreement, then blew it up. He’s a batshit conspiracy theorist. When Stone submitted his exhibit list back in September, the government even challenged the relevance of both Stone’s John Podesta-related emails (an August 15 one, as well as the more famous “time in the barrel” one), as well as a contact with Corsi that must pertain to their effort to start crafting a cover story even in August.

All that suggests the government doesn’t want to get into the most damning aspects of Stone’s interactions with Corsi, but instead just wants to make it clear that Stone’s earlier communications with him makes it clear he lied to the House Intelligence Committee about Credico to hide (the government suggests) what he was up to with Corsi.

Meanwhile, Stone’s defense — such as it exists — amounts to arguing that Credico and Corsi were just pulling a fast one on poor little Rog, pretending they had ties to WikiLeaks but lying about it. That’s all well and good with Credico, who has admitted he was fluffing his ties with WikiLeaks. It is likely also true that Corsi was.

But how will Stone prove that Corsi was overstating his access to Assange if you don’t call him to testify?

Nevertheless, it seems like Corsi will be the giant black hole of this trial, with his referral for lying to the grand jury and all the other reasons why he’s a disaster witness hanging in the background.

Why did Mueller refer what appears to be a follow-up on a Bannon email that will be litigated at this trial elsewhere?

One email Zelinsky did promise we’d learn more about, however, is an August 18 one (some outlets date this to August 16, but it appears to be exhibit 28) that Stone sent to Bannon promising, “I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty.”

That seems to suggest that the email is the one discussed in hearings on how Paul Manafort breached his plea agreement, in part, by lying to investigators on another investigation.

Effectively, Manafort was asked some questions in a proffer session before his plea on September 13, in response to which he offered information that implicated someone with a 7-character name. [These dates are in the government’s January 15 filing at 23.] Then, in a debriefing on October 5, he changed his story to make it less incriminating — and to match the story the subject of the investigation was telling to the FBI at the time (last fall). When pressed by his lawyers, Manafort mostly changed his story back to what it had been. But the head fake made Manafort useless as a witness against this person.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson summed up this change this way:

The allegation is that the defendant offered a version of events that downplayed [redacted; “the President’s” or “the Candidate”s might fit] role and/or his knowledge. Specifically, his knowledge of any prior involvement of the [16-17 character redaction] that was inconsistent with and less incriminating of [7 character redaction] than what he had already said during the proffer stage and now consistent with what Mr. [7 character redaction] himself was telling the FBI.

This investigation pertains to events that happened “prior to [Manafort] leaving the campaign (on August 19).” [January 15 filing at 26]

As Andrew Weissman described in the breach hearing, Manafort’s version of the story first came when prosecutors, “were asking questions about an e-mail that Mr. [5 character name] had written about a potential way of saving the candidate. That’s sort of paraphrasing it. And this was a way of explaining, or explaining away that e-mail.” In the Janaury 15 filing, this conversation arises to explain “a series of text messages.” [See 25]

Weissmann describes that the revised story Manafort told was, “quite dramatically different. This is not I forgot something or I need to augment some details of a basic core set of facts.” Manafort’s original story involved Mr. [7 character redaction] providing information about a [redacted] who was doing something. Manafort appears to have made a representation about what Mr. [7 character name] believed about that (likely important to proving intent).

But in the second session, Manafort appears to have shifted the blame, implicating Mr. [5 character name] whom, “Mr. Manafort had previously said, I did not want to be involved in this at all,” but leaving out what Mr. [7 character name] had said. Manafort’s testimony effectively left out that when Mr. [5 character name] had called previously, Manafort had said, “I’m on it, don’t get involved.” It appears that Weissmann surmised that Manafort changed the story because his version would make it central to the question of criminality [this might be a reference to being related to the Mueller investigation], so he revised it in an attempt to avoid providing anything that might be helpful to implicating Mr. [7 character name].

Effectively, in the wake of an email written by someone with a 5-character name (so stone would fit) in the days before Manafort resigned on August 19 (so either August 16 or 18 would fit) that promised, “a potential way of saving the candidate,” someone else (my wildarseguess is Kushner) got involved. But once he got his plea agreement, Manafort changed his story to blame the guy who sent the email (in this scenario, Stone) and not the other guy.

There’s just one problem with this presumption that the email Zelinsky described and the one invoked in this investigation are one and the same.

By September of 2018, this was a separate investigation being conducted by “another district.”

The investigation is in another district.  The initial government 12/7 filing says that explicitly at 8. The breach filing at 112 says they had the other investigative team “come here.”

I find it perplexing that some other US Attorney’s office — even DC — would be investigating the aftermath of the Stone to Bannon email discussed today, when such an email (if it related to Stone and WikiLeaks) would be central to what Mueller was still investigating. Corsi hadn’t blown up his plea deal yet. And Bannon’s interview where he presumably told truths he didn’t tell in February 2018 wasn’t until October 26. I mean, I have theories. I can come up with theories for just about anything. But still, why would this email be central to Zelinsky’s opening in a trial where Steve Bannon will testify unless it remained solidly within Mueller’s purview in October 2018?

Anyway, these are the big questions I take away from the first day of Stone’s trial. I think they suggest both narrative and legal plot twists that no one is expecting.

What Prosecutors Need to Show to Prove Roger Stone Guilty

There has been some absolutely shitty coverage in advance of Roger Stone’s trial that doesn’t even understand the indictment. So to try to minimize the bad coverage, I’m going to lay out what the prosecutors need to prove to show that Roger Stone is guilty.

Stone is accused of telling 5 lies to the House Intelligence Committee, plus intimidating Randy Credico in an attempt to talk him out of testifying honestly. Together, those actions will prove the obstruction charges.

I’ve mapped out each of the lies, below, with what the government needs to do to prove they’re lies, and the evidence the government has already said it’ll offer to prove that. The italicized sentences come from the indictment; where I didn’t otherwise replace it, Organization 1 is WikiLeaks.

Stone has emails with others mentioning Julian Assange and knew that when he testified

STONE testified falsely that he did not have emails with third parties about the head of Organization 1, and that he did not have any documents, emails, or text messages that refer to the head of Organization 1.

The government needs to show not only that he had emails with others (and documents and texts) talking about Julian Assange but that he knew that when he testified.

The emails and texts they’ll use to prove this include:

  • A July 25, 2016 email to Corsi with the subject line, “Get to [the head of Organization 1].” The body of the message read, “Get to [the head of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” On or about the same day, Person 1 forwarded STONE’s email to an associate who lived in the United Kingdom and was a supporter of the Trump Campaign (GX35)
  • A July 31, 2016 email to Corsi with the subject line, “Call me MON.” saying that Ted Malloch, “should see Assange.” (GX 36)
  • An August 2, 2016 email from Corsi to Stone stating that, “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. 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.” (GX 37)
  • An August 19, 2016 text from Credico saying, “I’m going to have [Assange] on my show next Thursday.” (GX 46)
  • An August 21, 2016, text from Credico saying, “I have [Assange on Thursday so I’m completely tied up on that day.” (GX 46)
  • An August 26, 2016 text exchange with Credico where Credico said, “[Assange] talk[ed] about you last night,” Stone asked what Assange said, and Credico responded, “He didn’t say anything bad we were talking about how the Press is trying to make it look like you and he are in cahoots.” (GX 47)
  • August 27, 2016 text messages from Credico saying, “We are working on a [Assange] radio show,” and that, “[Assange] has kryptonite on Hillary.”
  • A September 18, 2016, email to Credico asking, “Please ask [Assange] for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30—particularly on August 20, 2011 that mention [the subject of the article] or confirm this narrative.” (GX 48)
  • A September 19, 2016, text to Credico writing, “Pass my message . . . to [Assange].” Credico responded, “I did.” (GX 49-57)
  • An October 1, 2016, text from Credico claiming, “big news Wednesday . . . now pretend u don’t know me . . . Hillary’s campaign will die this week.” (GX 58)
  • An October 2, 2016, email from Stone to Credico saying “WTF?,” linking an article saying that Assange was canceling “highly anticipated Tuesday announcement due to security concerns.” Credico responded, “head fake.” (GX 59)
  • An October 2, 2016, text to Credico stating, “Did [Assange] back off.” On October 3, 2016, Credico responded, “I can’t tal[k] about it.” Then said, “I think it[’]s on for tomorrow.” Credico added later that day, “Off the Record Hillary and her people are doing a full-court press they [sic] keep [the head of Organization 1] from making the next dump . . . That’s all I can tell you on this line . . . Please leave my name out of it.” (GX 58)
  • An October 3, 2016 email or text, probably to Erik Prince, stating, “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming.”
  • An October 3, 2016 email from Matthew Boyle asking, “Assange – what’s he got? Hope it’s good.” Stone responded, “It is. I’d tell [Bannon] but he doesn’t call me back.” (GX 31)
  • An October 4, 2016 email between Bannon and Stone asking what Assange had. (GX 32)
  • An October 4 2016 text, probably from Prince, saying “hear[d] anymore from London,” to which Stone replied, “Yes – want to talk on a secure line – got Whatsapp?” (GX 32)
  • An October 7, 2016 text from Bannon assistant Alexandra Preate saying “well done.” (GX44)

The government also has to prove that Stone knew he had all these comms. One way they’ll do so is by showing they were still in Stone’s possession when they searched his home. Another way they’ll prove it is by showing that Stone shared many of them, on the record, with reporters as he was trying to walk back his story.

Stone’s references to an intermediary are not to Credico

STONE testified falsely that his August 2016 references to being in contact with the head of WikiLeaks were references to communications with a single “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary,” who STONE identified as Credico.

The government has to prove that 1) Credico could not have been the intermediary Stone referred to publicly in early August and 2) there was at least one other person that Stone was using as an attempted intermediary to Assange.

To prove this, first of all, the government will show that there were no communications between Credico and Stone until Credico told Stone that he was going to have Assange on his show on August 19, which was after Stone repeatedly claimed to have an intermediary.

The government will also show that Stone had communications with Corsi that amount to treating him as an intermediary. It will do this by showing the following communications:

  • A July 25, 2016 email to Corsi with the subject line, “Get to [the head of Organization 1].” The body of the message read, “Get to [the head of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” On or about the same day, Person 1 forwarded STONE’s email to an associate who lived in the United Kingdom and was a supporter of the Trump Campaign
  • A July 31, 2016 email to Corsi with the subject line, “Call me MON.” saying that Ted Malloch, “should see Assange.”
  • An August 2, 2016 email from Corsi to Stone stating that, “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. 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.”

The government will further show that Stone knew Credico couldn’t be the intermediary because he spoke to both Credico and Corsi about that. For example, they’ll show

  • On January 6, 2017, Credico texted Stone, “Well I have put together timelines[] and you [] said you have a back-channel way back a month before I had [the head of Organization 1] on my show . . . I have never had a conversation with [the head of Organization 1] other than my radio show . . . I have pieced it all together . . .so you may as well tell the truth that you had no back-channel or there’s the guy you were talking about early August.” (GX 61)
  • On November 30, 2017, after Stone asked Corsi to write something about about Credico, Corsi asked, “Are you sure you want to make something out of this now? Why not wait to see what [Person 2] does. You may be defending yourself too much—raising new questions that will fuel new inquiries. This may be a time to say less, not more.” (GX 41)

The government may show there was another intermediary (probably the source Corsi refused to give up when he stopped cooperating) — and in fact, this prosecution may be an attempt to force Stone to admit that.

Stone asked for favors from his intermediaries to Assange

STONE testified falsely that he did not ask the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary,” to communicate anything to the head of Organization 1 and did not ask the intermediary to do anything on STONE’s behalf.

The government will need to prove that he asked for favors from intermediaries. This will show, at least:

  • The July 25, 2016 email to Corsi with the subject line, “Get to [the head of Organization 1].” The body of the message read, “Get to [the head of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” On or about the same day, Person 1 forwarded STONE’s email to an associate who lived in the United Kingdom and was a supporter of the Trump Campaign. This was a request not for information about emails, but the emails themselves.
  • A September 18, 2016, email to Credico asking, “Please ask [Assange] for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30—particularly on August 20, 2011 that mention [the subject of the article] or confirm this narrative.”
  • A September 19, 2016, text to Credico writing, “Pass my message . . . to [Assange].” Credico responded, “I did.”

The government will prove he remembered that when he testified because after he testified, he threatened Margaret Kunstler, through whom Credico asked Assange for help. I suspect they have additional proof on this front.

Stone communicated with an intermediary about Assange

STONE testified falsely that he and the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary” did not communicate via text message or email about WikiLeaks.

The government can prove this with both the Credico and Corsi communications (though I suspect it knows of more). As above, they can prove Stone knew he had these communications because he offered them up to people and indicated he knew of them in real time to Corsi.

Stone discussed his outreach via an intermediary with the Trump campaign

STONE testified falsely that he had never discussed his conversations with the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary” with anyone involved in the Trump Campaign.

The government needs to show Stone passed on information he represented as coming from an intermediary to Assange to the Trump campaign. To prove this the government will show:

  • Starting in June, Stone told Trump campaign officials that emails were coming.
  • Around July 18, Stone called Trump at his Trump Organization phone (patched through via Rhona Graff) and told Trump the emails would be coming out that week.
  • Sometime after the July 22 release, Stone called Trump on his cell phone and told him more emails were coming; after Trump hung up, he told Rick Gates (who was driving with him to Laguardia) that more emails were coming.
  • In October, Stone claimed to have information from WikiLeaks to both Bannon and Erik Prince.

The government will prove Stone remembered this with comms with Credico and Corsi, making it clear he was protecting Trump (any one of his pleading emails telling Trump he was protecting him since then would do the trick, as well).

The government will also show that Stone was discussing his campaign finance shenanigans with the campaign, and lied about that to HPSCI, before he cleaned up his testimony.

Stone tried to prevent Credico from telling HPSCI that he was not Stone’s intermediary

The government will show abundant communications, including from third parties, to document the pressure Stone put on Credico to lie for him. That includes:

  • A November 19, 2017 text instructing Credico to, “‘Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan’ . . . Richard Nixon.” (GX 63)
  • Multiple texts, starting on December 1, 2017, instructing Credico to do a Frank Pentangeli.” (GX 69)
  • On December 1, 2017, Stone texted Credico stating, “And if you turned over anything to the FBI you’re a fool.” Later that day, Credico responded, “You need to amend your testimony before I testify on the 15th.” Stone responded, “If you testify you’re a fool. Because of tromp I could never get away with a certain [sic] my Fifth Amendment rights but you can. I guarantee you you are the one who gets indicted for perjury if you’re stupid enough to testify.” (GX 69)
  • On or about December 24, 2017, Credico texted Stone, “I met [the head of Organization 1] for f[i]rst time this yea[r] sept 7 . . . docs prove that. . . . You should be honest w fbi . . . there was no back channel . . . be honest.” Stone replied approximately two minutes later, “I’m not talking to the FBI and if your smart you won’t either.” (GX 69)
  • On April 9, 2018, emailed Credico, “You are a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds.” Stone also threatened to take Bianca away: “take that dog away from you,” and then added, “I am so ready. Let’s get it on. Prepare to die [expletive].” (GX 112-114)
  • When Credico emailed Stone on May 21, 2018, “You should have just been honest with the house Intel committee . . . you’ve opened yourself up to perjury charges like an idiot.” Stone replied, “You are so full of [expletive]. You got nothing. Keep running your mouth and I’ll file a bar complaint against your friend [Margaret Kunstler].” (GX 124-126)

The government will also show that when Stone got in trouble for 2007 for leaving a threat for Eliot Spitzer’s father, he blamed it on Credico.

What the Exhibit Decisions and the Witness List Say to Expect from Roger Stone’s Trial (Updated)

Today, jury selection begins in the the Roger Stone trial. The final jury questionnaire, which got released, includes a list of witnesses or people who will be mentioned at trial. I’ve italicized the people who’ll surely just be mentioned. I’ve marked the people whose communications may be entered by stipulation with asterisks (meaning they don’t necessarily have to testify to prove they had communications with Stone); in addition, the numbers for people like Rhona Graff and Keith Schiller have also been stipulated). Bill Binney and Peter Clay probably will not testify, as Amy Berman Jackson has excluded that line of defense for Stone.

  • Julian Assange
  • Jason Aubin
  • Steve Bannon*
  • William Binney (probably excluded)
  • Zachary Blevins
  • Matthew Boyle (Breitbart guy in the loop between Bannon and Stone)
  • Michael Caputo (said in September that he appeared on the witness list and so was banned from contact, but says he will not be a witness)
  • Peter Clay (probably excluded)
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Jerome Corsi*
  • Randy Credico*
  • Richard Gates* (this is his last testimony as part of his cooperation agreement before he moves towards sentencing)
  • Jason Fishbein
  • David Gray (Corsi’s lawyer)
  • John Kakanis
  • Margaret Kunstler (who probably won’t testify; Credico emailed her on request of Stone)
  • David Lugo
  • Theodore Malloch (testified that Corsi told him Stone knew John Podesta emails were coming)
  • Paul Manafort*
  • Rebekah Mercer (Stone told Bannon he wanted funding from her)
  • Andrew Miller
  • Tyler Nixon
  • Sam Nunberg (Stone told him he had just spoken with Julian Assange on August 4)
  • John Podesta
  • Alexandra Preate (Bannon’s assistant)*
  • Erik Prince* (probably the campaign associate that Stone WhastApped with in October 2016)
  • Bill Samuels
  • Michael Strum
  • Jason Sullivan
  • Michelle Taylor (FBI Agent)
  • Donald Trump*

Yesterday ABJ also made final decisions about witnesses and testimony (see this thread for live tweeting that didn’t make it into the coverage).

The issue people care about (but is fairly minor for the trial) is what will happen with the Godfather II clip that will explain a Frank Pentangeli reference Stone made to try to convince Credico to lie to Congress. An FBI case agent will introduce it, in concept, and after Credico testifies, the government may move to introduce the clip itself.

More interesting are debates about what Stone will do to discredit Credico, Jerome Corsi (if he testifies), and Steve Bannon. With Credico, ABJ seemed intent on leaving out stuff that discredits him, possibly including his fondness for Julian Assange.

Stone wanted to submit Jerome Corsi’s entire book (which I agree discredits him pretty readily). But ABJ will only permit him to use it to discredit Corsi if he says something inconsistent.

Most interesting has to do with Bannon, who (given the witness list) is necessarily the person that worked in the transition and the White House discussed in yesterday’s hearing. Stone says there’s something Bannon has done recently that would discredit his testimony. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if the government doesn’t call Bannon at all, not least because the government only released his derogatory interview over the weekend (where he clearly lied), not the one from October 26, 2018 that would be relevant to the trial (and as a result, the government didn’t release his proffer agreement, as they did with Michael Cohen). He’s relevant because of some emails exchanged in early October 2016 between Breitbart journalist Matthew Boyle and Stone, then Stone and Bannon (which appear to be exhibits 31 and 32). The thing is, the email for Bannon (at least) and his assistant, at least, are stipulated, meaning an FBI Agent can enter those into evidence. The big reason why Bannon might be called personally is to explain the reference to this email.

FROM: Roger Stone

TO: Steve Bannon

EMAIL:

Don’t think so BUT his lawyer Fishbein is a big democrat .

I know your surrogates are dumb but try to get them to understand Danney Williams case

chick mangled it on CNN this am

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3819671/Man-claiming-Bill-Clinton-s-illegitimate-son-prostitute-continues-campaign-former-president-recognize-him.html

He goes public in a big way Monday— Drudge report was a premature leak.

I’ve raise $150K for the targeted black digital campaign thru a C-4

Tell Rebecca to send us some $$$

We know from an earlier ABJ ruling that the government will introduce how Stone also lied to HPSCI about coordinating his dark money efforts with the campaign, before he later cleaned it up. And Bannon may be necessary to explain this. I understand that Stone’s specific late election targeting efforts suppressing the black vote in a surprise swing state — on top of his efforts to suppress the vote — would look very damning given what we otherwise know about suppression efforts. Stone clearly believes Bannon is testifying, but then he also has a grudge against him so would love to smear him publicly. But I leave open the possibility that the government enters this information via other means (especially given that they said they only need one witness in addition to the FBI Agent to introduce this stuff).

Curiously, nothing public suggests Stone is doing much to discredit Rick Gates (who will almost certainly testify to witnessing Trump get a call on his cell phone from Stone telling him of upcoming dumps) or Michael Cohen (who would testify to witnessing Trump being informed in advance about the July 22 WikiLeaks dump, if he is sprung from prison to do so), whose testimony would in some ways be far more damning.

Otherwise, ABJ seems to have made remarkably favorable rulings for the government yesterday on several counts.

On September 25, 2019, for the reasons stated on the record in the courtroom at the Pretrial Conference, the following government exhibits (“GX”) were ruled on as follows: GX 21, 22, 24, 42, 43, 44, 165, 166, and 167 are admitted. GX 148 will be admitted with redactions.

These involve:

  • June 13 and 15 emails with someone — possibly Corsi? — which would bracket the revelation of the DNC hack; there’s an email involving Corsi and Stone where they talk about “phishing with John Podesta” and given Stone’s argument that these emails would be prejudicial, I wonder if that’s it?
  • A July 29 email, (possibly to Manafort?), at the time when Trump was ordering people to get Stone to chase down these emails
  • Some texts that appear to involve Jerome Corsi from January 2018; remember there are allegations that Corsi was paid by InfoWars to keep silent (though that’s also the period when Stone was talking about getting Assange a pardon with Credico in texts that Stone didn’t challenge)
  • Three charts showing Stone’s comms with — probably — Credico (to show that he wasn’t talking to Credico until he needed a cover story) and Trump campaign officials; normally defense attorneys succeed in getting such charts excluded but the government won this fight, apparently
  • A redacted set of Stone’s toll records, which will show who he called when (there’s a 212 line that may be Trump’s cell phone)

In addition, ABJ generally limited Stone’s use of HPSCI majority and minority Russian reports to the parts that affect him; she specifically excluded the section on Christopher Steele, which is a testament to how desperate Stone is.

Among the only emails that Stone successfully got admitted to discredit Credico are ones from February 9, February 24, and June 3, 2017, the first two of which will be redacted.

The case against Stone is strong. He appears to be preparing to argue that he was never really subpoenaed for all the documents he told HPSCI he didn’t have (which the government will argue is why he lied about not having any). But that’s about all he seems prepared to do — besides attacking Credico, Corsi, and Bannon — to defend himself.

The Mueller Report Was Neither about Collusion Nor about Completed Investigation(s)

In the days since BuzzFeed released a bunch of backup files to the Mueller Report, multiple people have asserted these 302s are proof that Robert Mueller did an inadequate investigation, either by suggesting that the information we’re now seeing is incredibly damaging and so must have merited criminal charges or by claiming we’re seeing entirely new evidence.

I’ve had my own tactical complaints about the Mueller investigation (most notably, about how he managed Mike Flynn’s cooperation, but that might be remedied depending on how Emmet Sullivan treats Sidney Powell’s theatrics).  But I have yet to see a complaint that persuades me.

You never know what you can find in the Mueller Report if you read it

Let’s start with claims about how the release revealed details we didn’t previously know. Virtually all of these instead show that people haven’t read the Mueller Report attentively (though some don’t understand that two of the six interview reports we’ve got record someone lying to Mueller, and all are interviews of human beings with imperfect memories). Take this Will Bunch column, which claims that Rick Gates’ claims made in a muddled April 10, 2018 interview reveal information — that Trump ordered his subordinates to go find Hillary emails — we didn’t know.

Rick Gates, the veteran high-level political operative who served as Donald Trump’s deputy campaign manager in 2016, told investigators he remembers exactly where he was — aboard Trump’s campaign jet — when he heard the candidate’s desires and frustrations over a scheme to defeat Hillary Clinton with hacked, stolen emails boil over. And he also remembered the future president’s exact words that day in summer 2016.

Gates’ disclosure to investigators was a key insight into the state of mind of a campaign that was willing and eager to work with electronic thieves — even with powerful foreign adversaries like Russia, if need be — to win a presidential election. Yet that critical information wasn’t revealed in Mueller’s 440-page report that was supposed to tell the American public everything we needed to know about what the president knew and when he knew it, regarding Russia’s election hacking.

The passage in question comes from an interview where a redacted section reflecting questions about what Gates knew in May 2016 leads into a section on “Campaign Response to Hacked Emails.” What follows clearly reflects a confusion in Gates’ mind — and/or perhaps a conflation on the part of the campaign — between the emails Hillary deleted from her server and the emails stolen by Russia. The passage wanders between these topics:

  • People on the campaign embracing the Seth Rich conspiracy
  • Don Jr asking about the emails in “family meetings
  • The campaign looking for Clinton Foundation emails
  • Interest in the emails in April and May, before (per public reports) anyone but George Papadopoulos knew of the stolen emails
  • The June 9 meeting
  • Trump exhibiting “healthy skepticism” about some emails
  • The anticipation about emails after Assange said they’d be coming on June 12
  • The fact that the campaign first started coordinating with the RNC because they had details of upcoming dates
  • RNC’s media campaigns after the emails started coming out
  • Trump’s order to “Get the emails” and Flynn’s efforts to do so
  • Details of who had ties to Russia and the Konstantin Kilimnik claim that Ukraine might be behind the hack
  • China, Israel, Kyrgyzstan
  • Gates never heard about emails from Papadopoulos
  • Sean Hannity

This seems to be more Gates’ stream of consciousness about emails, generally, then a directed interview. But Gates’ claim that 1) he didn’t know about emails from Papadopoulos but nevertheless 2) was party to discussions about emails in April and May is only consistent with some of these comments pertaining to Hillary’s deleted emails.

Once you realize that, then you know where to look for the “Get the emails” evidence in the Mueller Report: in the description of Mike Flynn making extensive efforts to get emails — albeit those Hillary deleted.

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

264 Flynn 4/25/18 302, at 5-6; Flynn 5/1/18 302, at 1-3.

265 Flynn 5/1/18 302, at l-3.

The footnotes make it clear that in the weeks after Mueller’s team heard from Gates that Flynn used his contacts to search for emails, they interviewed Flynn several times about that effort, only to learn that that incredibly damning effort to find emails involved potentially working with Russian hackers to find the deleted emails. And to be clear: Bunch is not the only one confused about this detail–several straight news reports have not been clear about what that April 10 interview was, as well.

A November 5, 2016 email from Manafort — which the newly released documents show Bannon wanting to hide that Manafort remained a campaign advisor — is another thing that actually does show up in the Mueller Report, contrary to claims.

Later, in a November 5, 2016 email to Kushner entitled “Securing the Victory,” Manafort stated that he was “really feeling good about our prospects on Tuesday and focusing on preserving the victory,” and that he was concerned the Clinton Campaign would respond to a loss by “mov[ing] immediately to discredit the [Trump] victory and claim voter fraud and cyber-fraud, including the claim that the Russians have hacked into the voting machines and tampered with the results.”937

In other words, there is little to no evidence that the most damning claims (save, perhaps, the one that RNC knew of email release dates, though that may not be reliable) didn’t make the Report.

The Mueller Report is an incredibly dense description of the details Mueller could corroborate

The FOIAed documents are perhaps more useful for giving us a sense of how dense the Mueller Report is. They show how several pages of notes might end up in just a few paragraphs of the Mueller Report. The entirety of the three Gates’ interviews released Saturday, for example, show up in just four paragraphs in the Mueller Report: two in Volume I describing how the campaign made a media campaign around the leaks and how Trump once told him on the way to the airport that more emails were coming.

And two paragraphs in Volume II repeating the same information.

Worse still, because the government has released just six of the 302s that will be aired at the Roger Stone trial starting this week, much of what is in those interviews (undoubtedly referring to how Manafort and Gates coordinated with Stone) remains redacted under Stone’s gag order, in both the 302 reports and the Mueller Report itself.

Shocked — shocked!! — to find collusion at a Trump casino

Then there are people who read the 302s and were shocked that Mueller didn’t describe what the interviews show to be “collusion” as collusion, the mirror image of an error the denialists make (up to and including Bill Barr) in claiming that the Mueller Report did not find any collusion.

As I’ve pointed out since March 2017, this investigation was never about collusion. Mueller was tasked to report on what crimes he decided to charge or not, so there was never a possibility he was going to get into whether something was or was not collusion, because that would fall outside his mandate (and the law).

Worse still, in his summary of the investigation, Barr played a neat game where he measured “collusion” exclusively in terms of coordination by the campaign itself with Russia. It was clear from that moment — even before the redacted report came out — that he was understating how damning Mueller’s results would be, because Roger Stone’s indictment (and communications of his that got reported via various channels) made it crystal clear that he at least attempted to optimize the releases, but that involved coordination — deemed legal in part out of solid First Amendment concerns — with WikiLeaks, not Russia, and so therefore wouldn’t be covered by Barr’s narrow definition of “collusion.”

Of late, I’ve found it useful to use the definition of “collusion” Mark Meadows used in a George Papadopoulos hearing in 2018. In an exchange designed to show that in an interview where George Papadopoulos lied about his ongoing efforts to cozy up to Russia his denial that Papadopoulos, the coffee boy, knew about efforts to benefit from Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails, Meadows called that — optimizing the Clinton releases — “collusion.”

Mr. Papadopoulos. And after he was throwing these allegations at me, I —

Mr. Meadows. And by allegations, allegations that the Trump campaign was benefiting from Hillary Clinton emails?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Something along those lines, sir. And I think I pushed back and I told him, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. What you’re talking about is something along the lines of treason. I’m not involved. I don’t know anyone in the campaign who’s involved. And, you know, I really have nothing to do with Russia. That’s — something along those lines is how I think I responded to this person.

Mr. Meadows. So essentially at this point, he was suggesting that there was collusion and you pushed back very firmly is what it sounds like. [my emphasis]

One of the President’s biggest apologists has stated that if the campaign did make efforts to optimize the releases, then they did, in fact, collude.

The Roger Stone trial, which starts Tuesday, will more than meet that measure. It astounds me how significantly the previews of Stone’s trials misunderstand how damning this trial will be. WaPo measures that Mueller failed to find anything in Roger Stone’s actions, which is not what even the indictment shows, much less the Mueller Report or filings submitted in the last six months.

The Stone indictment suggests that what prosecutors found instead was a failed conspiracy among conspiracy theorists, bookended by investigative dead ends and unanswered questions for the team of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

And MoJo hilariously suggests we might only now, in the trial, establish rock solid proof that Trump lied to Mueller, and doesn’t even account for how some of its own past reporting will be aired at the trial in ways that are far more damning than it imagines.

Here’s why I’m certain these outlets are underestimating how damning this trial will be.

Along with stipulating the phone and email addresses of Erik Prince and Steve Bannon (meaning communications with them could be entered into evidence even without their testimony, though Bannon has said he expects to testify), the government plans to present evidence pertaining to four direct lines to Trump and three to his gatekeepers.

One way prosecutors will use this is to show that, when Trump told Rick Gates that more emails were coming after getting off a call he got on the way to Laguardia, he did so after speaking directly to Roger Stone. They’ll also date exactly when a call that Michael Cohen witnessed happened, after which Trump said the DNC emails would be released in upcoming days got put through Rhona Graff.

It’s not so much that we’ll get proof that Trump lied to Mueller (and not just about what he said to Stone), though we will absolutely get that, but we’ll get proof that Trump was personally involved in what Mark Meadows considers “collusion.”

The Mueller Report and the ongoing criminal investigations

Both Mueller critics and denialists are also forgetting (and, in some cases, obstinately ignorant) about what the Mueller Report actually represented.

We don’t know why Mueller submitted his report when he did — though there is evidence, albeit not yet conclusive, that Barr assumed the position of Attorney General planning to shut the investigation down (indeed, he even has argued that once Mueller decided he could not indict Trump — which was true from the start, given the OLC memo prohibiting it — he should have shut the investigation down).

A lot has been made of the investigative referrals in the Mueller Report, of which just 2 (Cohen and Greg Craig) were unredacted. We’ve seen just one more of those thus far, the prosecution of George Nader for child porn, a prosecution that may lead Nader to grow more cooperative about other issues. Some of the (IMO) most revealing details in the weekend’s dump were b7ABC FOIA exemptions for materials relating to Alexander Nix and Michael Caputo. Normally, that redaction is used for upcoming criminal prosecutions, so it could be that Nix and Caputo will have a larger role in Stone’s trial than we know. But it also may mean that there is an ongoing investigation into one or both of them.

In addition, investigations of some sort into at least three of Trump’s aides appear to be ongoing.

It is a fact, for example, that DOJ refused to release the details of Paul Manafort’s lies — covering the kickback system via which he got paid, his efforts to implement the Ukraine plan pitched in his August 2, 2016 meeting, and efforts by another Trump flunkie to save the election in the weeks before he resigned — because those investigations remained ongoing in March. There’s abundant reason to think that the investigation into Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman and Rudy Giuliani, whether it was a referral from Mueller or not, is the continuation of the investigation into Manafort’s efforts to help Russia carve up Ukraine to its liking (indeed, the NYT has a piece on how Manafort played in Petro Poroshenko’s efforts to cultivate Trump today).

It is a fact that the investigation that we know of as the Mystery Appellant started in the DC US Attorney’s office and got moved back there (and as such might not even be counted as a referral). What we know of the challenge suggests a foreign country (not Russia) was using one of its corporations to pay off bribes of someone.

It is a fact that Robert Mueller testified under oath that the counterintelligence investigation into Mike Flynn was ongoing.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Since it was outside the purview of your investigation your report did not address how Flynn’s false statements could pose a national security risk because the Russians knew the falsity of those statements, right?

MUELLER: I cannot get in to that, mainly because there are many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Currently?

MUELLER: Currently.

That’s consistent with redaction decisions made both in the Mueller Report itself and as recently as last week.

It is a fact that when Roger Stone aide Andrew Miller testified, he did so before a non-Mueller grand jury. When Miller’s lawyer complained, Chief Judge Beryl Howell reviewed the subpoena and agreed that the government needed Miller’s testimony for either investigative subjects besides Stone or charges beyond those in his indictment. Indeed, one of the most interesting aspects of Mueller’s statement closing his investigation is the way it happened as Miller was finally agreeing to testify, effectively ensuring that it would happen under DC, not Muller.

Again, these are all facts. No matter how badly Glenn Greenwald desperately wants to — needs to — spin knowing actual facts about ongoing investigations as denial, it is instead basic familiarity with the public record (the kind of familiarity he has never bothered to acquire). At least as of earlier this year — or last week! — there has been reason to believe there are ongoing investigations into three of Trump’s closest advisors and several others who helped him get elected.

At least two of those investigations continue under grand juries, impaneled in March 2019, that Chief Judge Beryl Howell can extend beyond January 20, 2021.

Why Mueller closed up shop

Nevertheless, it is indeed the case that Mueller closed his investigation after producing a report that showed abundant obstruction by the President, but stated that his investigation “did not establish” that the Trump campaign engaged in coordination or conspiracy with Russia, including regarding a quid pro quo.

In particular, the investigation examined whether these contacts involved or resulted in coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia providing assistance to the Campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future. Based on the available information, the investigation did not establish such coordination.

I’d like to end this post with speculation, one not often considered by those bitching about or claiming finality of the Mueller investigation.

In his closing press conference, Mueller emphasized two things: he saw his job as including “preserving evidence” against the President, and he noted that under existing DOJ guidelines, the President cannot be charged until after he has been impeached.

First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting President because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents are available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could now be charged.

And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.

In Mueller’s explanation of why he didn’t hold out for an interview with Trump, he said that he weighed the cost of fighting for years to get that interview versus the benefit of releasing a report  with “substantial quantity of information [allowing people] to draw relevant factual conclusions on intent and credibility” when he did.

Beginning in December 2017, this Office sought for more than a year to interview the President on topics relevant to both Russian-election interference and obstruction-of-justice. We advised counsel that the President was a ” subject” of the investigation under the definition of the Justice Manual-“a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.” Justice Manual § 9-11.151 (2018). We also advised counsel that”[ a]n interview with the President is vital to our investigation” and that this Office had ” carefully considered the constitutional and other arguments raised by . .. counsel, and they d[id] not provide us with reason to forgo seeking an interview.” 1 We additionally stated that “it is in the interest of the Presidency and the public for an interview to take place” and offered “numerous accommodations to aid the President’s preparation and avoid surprise.”2 After extensive discussions with the Department of Justice about the Special Counsel’s objective of securing the President’s testimony, these accommodations included the submissions of written questions to the President on certain Russia-related topics. 3

[snip]

Recognizing that the President would not be interviewed voluntarily, we considered whether to issue a subpoena for his testimony. We viewed the written answers to be inadequate. But at that point, our investigation had made significant progress and had produced substantial evidence for our report. We thus weighed the costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, with resulting delay in finishing our investigation, against the anticipated benefits for our investigation and report. As explained in Volume II, Section H.B., we determined that the substantial quantity of information we had obtained from other sources allowed us to draw relevant factual conclusions on intent and credibility, which are often inferred from circumstantial evidence and assessed without direct testimony from the subject of the investigation.

I take that to mean that Mueller decided to end the investigation to prevent Trump’s refusals to testify to delay the release of the report for two years.

In his testimony, Mueller agreed, after some very specific questioning from former cop Val Demings, that Trump was not truthful in his answers to Mueller.

DEMINGS: Director Mueller, isn’t it fair to say that the president’s written answers were not only inadequate and incomplete because he didn’t answer many of your questions, but where he did his answers show that he wasn’t always being truthful.

MUELLER: There — I would say generally.

She laid out what I have — that Trump refused to correct his lies about Trump Tower Moscow, as well as that he obviously lied about his coordination on WikiLeaks. So lies are one of the things the Mueller Report documents for anyone who reads it attentively.

But Trump’s obstruction extends beyond his lies. His obstruction, as described in the Report, included attempts to bribe several different witnesses with pardons, including at minimum Manafort, Flynn, Cohen, and Stone (those aren’t the only witnesses and co-conspirators the evidence shows Mueller believes Trump bribed with promises of pardons, but I’ll leave it there for now).

So here’s what I think Mueller did. I suspect he ended his investigation when he did because he was unable to get any further so long as Trump continued to obstruct the investigation with promises of pardons. So long as Trump remains President, key details about what are egregious efforts to cheat to win will remain hidden. The ongoing investigations — into Manafort and Stone, at a minimum, but possibly into others up to and including the President’s son — cannot go further so long as any prosecutorial effort can be reversed with a pardon.

That said, some of those details will be revealed for the first time starting this week, in the Stone trial. And, if the Parnas and Fruman influence operation is, indeed, related to Manafort’s own, then Trump’s personal criminal involvement in that influence operation is being revealed as part of a parallel impeachment inquiry.

Which is to say that I suspect Mueller got out of the way to allow investigations that cannot be fully prosecuted so long as Trump remains President to continue, even as Congress starts to do its job under the Constitution. And Congress has finally started doing so.

DOJ Pre-Dumps the Stone Trial: What BuzzFeed Obtained via FOIA

DOJ released the first batch of Mueller 302s in response to BuzzFeed’s FOIA.

While the documents are really damning (though, in part, simply because they make things reported in the Mueller Report more visible), they actually are going to be among the least damning documents released to BuzzFeed.

DOJ seems to have released documents that pertain to six Mueller team interviews that will likely come out in live testimony in Roger Stone’s trial in the next two weeks. They include interview reports and back-up from three people:

  • Rick Gates. These interviews date to April 10, 2018 (PDF 9-25); April 11, 2018 (PDF 26-38); October 25, 2018 (PDF 39-66).
  • Michael Cohen. These interviews date to August 7, 2018 (PDF 242-274); September 18, 2018 (PDF 67-95).
  • Steve Bannon. This interview is dated February 14, 2018 (PDF 96-241).

All three may testify at Roger Stone’s trial, as Gates and Bannon had direct communications with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks and Cohen witnessed a Trump-Stone phone call where Stone discussed WikiLeaks.

Significantly, while the Gates interviews and the second Cohen interview include testimony that will be repeated at trial, the first Cohen and the Bannon interview were substantially lies (the Mueller Report says this about the first Cohen interview; it’s clear Bannon was lying because much of what is recorded was contradicted by his fall 2018 testimony). Thus, to the extent that these men testify, the interviews we’re seeing will be introduced as derogatory evidence by Stone.

Arguably, the government used this BuzzFeed FOIA to pre-empt damaging information from Stone.

This release doesn’t include the Bannon interview that will be the basis for any testimony in Stone’s trial. And it includes just a tiny bit of information from Gates’ far more extensive comments about Paul Manafort’s Russian entanglements (including the Ukrainian efforts that seem to be a preview of what Rudy Giuliani has been up to). So we’re really only getting a snippet of damaging information we’ll get over the next two weeks.

Plus, by releasing these documents now, it’ll put information that will become public in the next two weeks beyond this existing FOIA, hiding it for some time until BuzzFeed appeals or someone else FOIAs for it. That is, in part, this FOIA “release” is really an attempt to lock down information.

Again, don’t get me wrong. This is valuable stuff. Jason Leopold continues to be able to liberate more useful information than Congress can, with their power of subpoena.

But this is mostly just a pre-dump of the Roger Stone trial.