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Pat Cipollone Predicted the Obstruction and ConFraudUS Prosecutions

This morning, for the second time in two weeks, Liz Cheney called out former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, by name, to cooperate with the January 6 Committee.

Yesterday’s testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson revealed one reason why his testimony would be so important. He predicted — on January 3 or 4th — that Trump might be prosecuted under the very same crimes DOJ has been charging for well over a year: conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of the vote certification.

Cheney: We understand, Ms. Hutchinson, that you also spoke to Mr. Cipollone on the morning of the Sixth, as you were about to go to the rally on the Ellipse. And Mr. Cipollone said something to you like, “make sure the movement to the Capitol does not happen.” Is that correct?

Hutchinson: That’s correct. I saw Mr. Cipollone right before I walked out onto West Exec that morning and Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of, “Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”

Cheney: And do you remember which crimes Mr. Cipollone was concerned with?

Hutchinson: In the days leading up to the sixth, we had conversations about obstructing justice of defrauding the electoral count.

Cheney: Let’s hear about some of those concerns that you mentioned earlier in one of your interviews with us.

{video clip}

Hutchinson: … having a private conversation with Pat on the after noon of third or fourth, um, that Pat was concerned it would look like we were obstructing justice, or obstructing the electoral college count. I apologize for probably not being very firm with my legal terms here.

Or rather, Cipollone didn’t predict Trump would be charged with ConFraudUS and obstruction. He predicted “we” would, presumably including himself and even Hutchinson.

Here I’ve thought I was ahead of the curve by predicting — last August — that if Trump were prosecuted, it would be for those crimes. It turns out that Trump’s White House Counsel was way ahead of me, predicting the same even before the insurrection!

Cipollone’s recognition of this legal exposure is important for a number of reasons. First, it validates DOJ’s approach — and does so in advance of the DC Circuit’s consideration of DOJ’s appeal of Carl Nichols’ outlier opinion rejecting such an application.

Those are also the crimes named in the warrant served on Jeffrey Clark last week.

But Cipollone’s awareness of this exposure also may explain why Cipollone has been reluctant to testify (though it’s possible he has testified with DOJ and simply doesn’t want that to be public). Hutchinson laid out a number of things that Cipollone did on January 6 that made it clear he was not willingly going along with Trump’s actions, most notably his efforts to get Trump to call off his mob before Trump re-ignited them with his 2:24 text attacking Mike Pence again. If there was a conspiracy to obstruct the vote certification, he took overt acts to leave that conspiracy before and during the conspiracy on January 6.

By that point, however, it may have been too late for Cipollone to avoid all exposure to Trump’s corrupt actions. That’s because Cipollone would have been involved in the pardons of those — Cheney focused on Roger Stone and Mike Flynn last night, but Bernie Kerik and Paul Manafort also got pardons — who would go on to play key roles in Trump’s insurrection. (I assume Cipollone was not involved in the Bannon pardon that came after the attack, and I noted in real time that Cipollone likely prevented a bunch of other pardons that would have made obstruction more likely.) That is, Cipollone might have exposure for obstruction for actions already taken by January 3 or 4 when he explained this legal exposure to Hutchinson.

Even Bill Barr said that rewarding false testimony with a pardon would be obstruction. And Roger Stone, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort all delivered on that quid pro quo.

For all Liz Cheney’s specific exhortations, Cipollone may know better than to testify to Congress. Because without testifying to DOJ, first, that may cause him more legal trouble than his current (presumed) silence.

Update: As a number of people in comments noted, the Committee has formally subpoenaed Cipollone.

As Ali Alexander Returns to DC in Wake of Grand Jury Appearance, Alex Jones’ Associates Owen Shroyer and Joe Biggs Share a Lawyer

In an attempt to quash rumors that he was the surprise witness before the January 6 Committee today (he’s not; former Mark Meadows assistant Cassidy Hutchinson is), Ali Alexander complained that the January 6 Committee didn’t let him testify publicly.

On at least four occasions, my legal counsel asked the Committee to allow my deposition to be taken publicly so that the American public could operate from a shared set of facts. The Committee denied our requests to make my testimony public again and again. Instead, they me behind closed doors for 8 hours, at my own expense, depriving me of meals or making my return flight back home. [emphasis original]

That follows a statement issued last Friday, after his (first?) grand jury appearance complaining that DOJ didn’t just use his transcript from the January 6 Committee.

I provided the documents requested and suggested they obtain my full transcript of my testimony from the January 6 Committee. They responded then that they cannot obtain those transcripts due to separation of powers and thus, they needed me to repeat my testimony here today.

I almost feel a little sorry for Alexander. This Roger Stone mentee has been sent out with the same lawyer, Paul Kamenar, who helped Stone evade real accountability for his Russian operation in 2016 (in that case, by helping Andrew Miller challenge a subpoena for a year before he ultimately joined Stone’s defense team). Perhaps Alexander thought he was going to replay that same Roger Stone script, with him playing the role that Jerome Corsi did, publicly releasing a cover story as a way to get everyone telling the same false story.

To be sure, Alexander was always fucked, because by the time he told his cover story in December, DOJ had already debunked that cover story when Owen Shroyer tried to tell it. So not only was Alexander stuck, Friday, trying to retell the same story that he told in December, but even if he succeeded, he’d be on the hook for a story that Judge Tim Kelly has already ruled to be inaccurate specifically as regards the choices that the Alex Jones retinue made after they arrived at the Capitol on January 6.

In any case, Alexander will be back in DC today talking to “officials” some more about January 6. It’s unclear whether this is a follow-up interview with DOJ, now that they’ve locked Alexander into a story, or whether the GOP will attempt to serve as a clearinghouse for stories, as HPSCI did with the Russian investigation.

But Ali Alexander, a key member of Alex Jones’ retinue, is not done telling his currently operative story yet. Perhaps, if he is interviewed further, Alexander will be asked about Stop the Steal communications first made available by Brandon Straka in spring 2021, and probably bolstered by Baked Alaska earlier this year, communications that also seem to be inconsistent with Alexander’s currently operative story.

Like I said, I almost feel sorry that Alexander agreed to play the role of Roger Stone’s patsy in this go-around, because DOJ is better situated to deal with Stone’s games this time around.

For all the focus on Alexander, that makes two other recent developments rather interesting.

First, in a status hearing on Thursday, prosecutors revealed that they had only recently received the content from Alex Jones sidekick Owen Shroyer’s phone. They were providing it, unscoped, to Shroyer’s attorney, Norm Pattis, so he can have a sense of what’s there in advance of DOJ providing him the “scoped” content (“scoped” content is the stuff that the FBI determines complies with the warrant). In that case, the sides at least claim they’re discussing a plea, with plans for a status or that plea in 45 days.

Which makes the other recent development more interesting. On June 14, Norm Pattis joined Joe Biggs’ defense team.

 

This mens that Pattis formally represents two Alex Jones associates — one who currently works for InfoWars and one who worked for Jones until he got “fired” for pushing PizzaGate in 2016 — who converged at the top of the East steps on January 6; Pattis has a longtime affiliation with Jones too.

And unless and until DOJ raises conflict issues with the men (which they’re not likely to do unless and until Jones himself is charged), Pattis will have full access to what are believed to be both sides of conversations that took place in advance of and on January 6 which resulted in an Alex Jones-led mob arriving just as the carefully orchestrated Proud Boy attack on the Capitol needed large numbers of additional, unwitting “normies” to fill the building. That’s a pretty critical set of discovery.

So one member of the retinue is struggling quite obviously with his effort to come up with a consistent story (after telling one that has already been debunked), while the other members of the retinue have arranged to be in a position to share the most important discovery from the day back and forth.

Things have gotten downright interesting with the convergence of once and current Jones flunkies at the East side of the Capitol on January 6.

Jeffrey Clark: Physics Takes Over the Investigation Now

Last Thursday was an exciting day for those who have doubted Merrick Garland’s DOJ was really investigating top officials for matters pertaining to January 6.

Not only did multiple outlets describe Republicans involved in the fake elector scheme receiving subpoenas or even, in at least three cases, search warrants for their devices, but Jeffrey Clark’s home in Virginia was also searched on Wednesday. As part of that, according to the hysterical account Clark gave on Tucker Carlson, whatever agency did the search used an electronics sniffing dog and seized all the electronics in the house.

And that makes it a really good time to talk some more about how investigations work in the era of encrypted applications. It’s likely to be months — likely at least six months — until anything comes out of last week’s seizures.

The reason has to do with physics (and law).

We can be fairly certain that Clark — and probably some of the fake electors on whom warrants were served — used Signal or other encrypted apps. That’s because Mark Meadows and Scott Perry were conducting some of this conspiracy over Signal too, as was made clear in a slide in Thursday’s hearing.

Indeed, one reason Clark may have been raided is because he makes an easier target, for now, than Meadows or the Members of Congress who were involved. All of Clark’s communications directly with then President Trump bypassed DOJ’s contact guidelines and most can be shown to be part of a plot to overturn the election, whereas many of Meadows’ communications will be protected by Executive Privilege and Perry’s by Speech and Debate (though as I keep repeating, DOJ will be able to piggyback off the privilege review that the January 6 Committee has done).

To obtain Signal conversations that haven’t been saved to the cloud, one needs at least one of the phones that was involved in the conversation. That assumes the texts were not deleted. In the James Wolfe investigation, the FBI demonstrated some ability to recover deleted Signal texts, but in the Oath Keeper investigation, their Signal deletions forced investigators to seize a whole bunch of phones to reconstruct all parts of the communications.

By law, the government should have some of these Signal texts accessible. Under the Presidential Records Act, Mark Meadows had a legal obligation to share any such texts with the Archives. But because he replaced his phone in the months after the insurrection, at a time he knew of the criminal investigation, he may not have been able to comply. If DOJ can prove that he deleted Signal texts, he might be on the hook for obstructing the DOJ investigation.

So one thing DOJ may have been trying to do, by seizing the phones of at least four players in the fake electors plot on the same day, was to obtain phones sufficient to reconstruct any Signal threads about the plot. Those served subpoenas, both in this and an earlier round of subpoenas, will have to turn over Signal texts too, if they meet the terms of the subpoena. If DOJ were trying to reach the far higher bar of obtaining a warrant against someone protected by Speech and Debate or other privileges — like Perry — they likely would need to use such threads to meet that higher bar.

So back to the physics.

The table below shows how the investigations into a number of high profile investigative subjects have proceeded. While there are exceptions (investigations where the FBI has some excuse or urgency to conduct an interview, as with Mike Flynn and George Papadopoulos, are different), investigators often first obtain readily accessible cloud content with a gag order, then use the information from a person’s cloud content to obtain probable cause for a warrant to seize phones. Under that pattern, the phone seizure will alert a subject of an investigation to that investigation. In most cases (the first round of January 6 arrests and Roger Stone are exceptions, each for different reasons), the search of phones precedes any arrest by months if not years.

Whereas, during the Mueller investigation, the FBI could exploit phones in four months time, of late, it has been taking closer to six months to exploit cell phones, even without any kind of special review. Part of this delay is physics: if a person uses any kind of secure password, it takes the FBI time to crack that password (and still more time if someone uses additional security features, as Enrique Tarrio did). In many cases, the DOJ will have to use a filter team to exclude data that is somehow privileged; in all cases, DOJ will then do a scope review, ensuring that the investigative team only gets material responsive to the warrant. When a special review is required, such as the attorney-client privilege review for Rudy or the “journalistic” review for Project Veritas, that process can take much longer. Because DOJ will have to conduct a fairly exhaustive filter review for an attorney like Clark, it might take closer to nine months to exploit the devices seized last week.

This pattern suggests several things about the investigation into Jeffrey Clark (and the fake electors). First, DOJ likely obtained their first probable cause warrants against Clark and the fake electors months ago, probably pretty close to the time (though hopefully before) Lisa Monaco confirmed the investigation into the fake electors in January. In Clark’s case, an investigation may have come from a referral from DOJ IG. So contrary to what many outlets have reported, such as this example from James Risen at the Intercept, the searches of Clark and others are not proof that an investigation is beginning or that DOJ only recently established probable cause. Rather, they suggest DOJ has been investigating covertly for months, at least long enough to obtain probable cause that even more evidence exists on these phones.

But it’s also likely that it will take DOJ some months — until Christmas at least — to exploit Clark’s phone. This investigation will not move as quickly as you might think or hope that this point, and that’s partly dictated by the constraints of cracking a password — math and physics.

All that said, several prongs of an investigation that could implicate Trump may be much further on. As I’ll show in a follow-up (and as I’ve mentioned in the past), the investigation into Stop the Steal is undoubtedly much further on than people assume given Ali Alexander’s grand jury appearance last week. And the FBI has ways of getting content via the Archives, much as they obtained content from Trump’s transition from GSA, that bypass pattern laid out above.

What the government had to have been able to prove before it searched Clark and others last week was not just that that had probable cause against those subjects, but that the cloud content otherwise available to them showed that aspects of the crime were committed using materials only available on people’s phones, likely encrypted messaging apps.

Update: Several people have asked why there would be a privilege review for Clark’s phone, since he would have been a government attorney through January 6. I’m not certain there would be, but if a warrant covered the time since January 6 (which I think likely given what DOJ has done with warrants elsewhere), then any lawyering he has done since he left would be privileged.

Update: As noted in comments, also on Wednesday, the FBI seized John Eastman’s phone. The warrant is from DOJ IG, not DC USAO and bears a 2022 case number. DOJ IG opened an investigation into Clark in 2021, but perhaps something they saw in the Jan6 Committee hearings led to a new prong of the investigation, leading to this search? Given the squirreliness regarding what agency did the search of Eastman, I wonder if both these investigative steps were DOJ IG.

Background material

This annotated file shows the unsealed Mueller warrants, with labels for those warrants that have been identified.

This post shows how the Michael Cohen investigation started with Russian-related warrants in the Mueller investigation then moved to SDNY, including a crucial detail about preservation orders for Cohen’s Trump Organization emails served on Microsoft.

This post shows how the investigation into George Papadopoulos developed; his is the outlier here, in that overt actions took place closer to the beginning of the investigation — but in his case, DOJ used a series of informants against him to obtain information.

This post describes how Trump’s team only discovered Mueller had obtained transition devices three months after Mueller obtained them, via Mike Flynn’s statement of offense.

This post shows that the seizure of Roger Stone’s phones with his January 2019 arrest was just one step in an ongoing investigation.

This post uses the Michael Cohen example to explain how the Rudy investigation might work.

This post shows how the investigation into Project Veritas developed.

This post shows how it took almost an entire year to crack Enrique Tarrio’s password, with a filter team delaying access for another month.

This post describes how the sheer volume of Stewart Rhodes’ Signal texts delayed his arrest.

Rudy Giuliani Launched a Lynch Mob over a Ginger Mint

I find it harder to describe the details of yesterday’s January 6 Committee hearing, covering pressure Trump put on states to alter the vote, than the earlier hearings. That’s because the testimony about Trump’s bullying of those who upheld democracy — particularly election worker Shaye Moss and Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers — elicited so much emotion. This is what Trump has turned great swaths of the Republican Party into: bullies attacking those who defend democracy.

Trump’s bullies attacking anyone defending democracy

Bowers described how a mob, including an armed man wearing a 3%er militia patch, came to his house as his daughter fought a terminal illness.

Moss described how a mob descended on her granny’s house, hunting for her and her mother, Ruby Freeman. At least one member of the mob targeting those two Black women who chose to work elections betrayed self-awareness off their regressive stance: Moss testified that one of the threats targeted at her said, “Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.”

And Adam Schiff got Moss to explain a detail that formed the core of a video Rudy Giuliani used to summon his mob. Rudy had claimed that when Ms. Freeman passed Shaye something, it was a thumb drive to replace votes.

It was actually a ginger mint.

Schiff: In one of the videos we just watched, Mr. Giuliani accused you and your mother of passing some sort of USB drive to each other. What was your mom actually handing you on that video?

Moss: A ginger mint.

Moss testified that none of the people who had been working with her full time on elections in Fulton County, Georgia are still doing that work. They’ve all been bullied out of working to uphold democracy.

Tying the state violence to the January 6 violence

Early in the hearing, Schiff tied these threats of violence to Stop the Steal, the organization behind the purported speakers that formed the excuse to bring mobs to the January 6 attack. He explained, “As we will show, the President’s supporters heard the former President’s claims of fraud and the false allegations he made against state and local officials as a call to action.” Shortly thereafter, investigative counsel Josh Roselman showed a video from Ali Alexander predicting at a protest in November 2020, “we’ll light the whole shit on fire.”

Much later in the hearing, Schiff tied the takeover of state capitals to the January 6 riot with a picture of Jacob Chansley invading Capitols in both AZ and DC.

Chansley already pled guilty to attempting to obstruct the vote certification, and one of the overt acts he took was to leave Mike Pence this threatening note on the dais.

So one thing the hearing yesterday did was to tie the threats of violence in the states to the expressions of violence on January 6.

Showing obstruction of the vote certification, including documents

A second video described the fake electors scheme, developing several pieces of evidence that may help DOJ tie all this together in conspiracy charges.

The video included testimony from Ronna McDaniel acknowledging the RNC’s involvement. (Remember that McDaniel joined in the effort to censure Liz Cheney when she learned the committee had subpoenaed Kathy Berden, the lead Michigander on that fake certificate; Berden has close ties to McDaniel.)

Essentially he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states. I think more just helping them reach out and assemble them. But the — my understanding is the campaign did take the lead and we just were … helping them in that role.

The video also cited Trump’s own campaign lawyers (including Justin Clark, who represented Trump in conjunction with Steve Bannon’s refusal to testify) describing that they didn’t believe the fake electors scheme was prudent if the campaign no longer had legal challenges in a given state.

In a videotaped deposition, former campaign staffer Robert Sinners described himself and other workers as, “useful idiots or rubes at that point.” When ask how he felt upon learning that Clark and Matt Morgan and other lawyers had concerns about the fake electors, Sinners explained, “I’m angry because I think in a sense, no one really cared if … if people were potentially putting themselves in jeopardy.” He went on, “I absolutely would not have” continued to participate, “had I known that the three main lawyers for the campaign that I’ve spoken to in the past and leading up were not on board.”

And electors in individual states claimed to have been duped into participating, too. Wisconsin Republican Party Chair Andrew Hitt described that, “I was told that these would only count if a court ruled in our favor.” So using them as an excuse to make challenges on January 6, “would have been using our electors, well, it would have been using our electors in ways that we weren’t told about and we wouldn’t have supported.”

In the wake of yesterday’s hearing, one of MI’s fake electors, Michele Lundgren, texted reporters to claim that they had not been permitted to read the first page of the form they signed, which made the false claims.

As the video showed the fake certificates next to the real ones, Investigative Counsel Casey Lucier explained that,

At the request of the Trump campaign, the electors from these battleground states signed documents falsely asserting that they were the duly elected electors from their state, and submitted them to the National Archives and to Vice President Pence in his capacity as President of the Senate.

[snip]

But these ballots had no legal effect. In an email produced to the Select Committee, Dr. Eastman told a Trump campaign representative [Boris Epshteyn] that it did not matter that the electors had not been approved by a state authority. Quote, the fact that we have multiple slates of electors demonstrates the uncertainty of either. That should be enough. He urged that Pence act boldly and be challenged.

Documents produced to the Select Committee show that the Trump campaign took steps to ensure that the physical copies of the fake electors’ electoral votes from two states were delivered to Washington for January 6. Text messages exchanged between Republican Party officials in Wisconsin show that on January 4, the Trump campaign asked for someone to fly their fake electors documents to Washington.

A staffer for Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson texted a staffer for Vice President Pence just minutes before the beginning of the Joint Session. This staffer stated that Senator Johnson wished to hand deliver to the Vice President the fake electors votes from Michigan and Wisconsin. The Vice President’s aide unambiguously instructed them not to deliver the fake votes to the Vice President.

Lucier made it clear, though, that these fake electors were delivered to both Congress (Johnson) and the Executive Branch (the Archives).

This video lays out critical steps in a conspiracy to obstruct the vote certification, one that — because it involves a corrupt act with respect to fraudulent documents — would even meet Judge Carl Nichols’ standard for obstruction under 18 USC 1512(c)(2).

The Court therefore concludes that § 1512(c)(2) must be interpreted as limited by subsection (c)(1), and thus requires that the defendant have taken some action with respect to a document, record, or other object in order to corruptly obstruct, impede or influence an official proceeding.

Understand, many of these people are awful and complicit (and bmaz will surely be by shortly to talk about what an asshole Rusty Bowers is). But with respect to the fake electors scheme, the Committee has teed up a parade of witnesses who recognize their own criminal exposure, and who are, as a result, already rushing to blame Trump for all of it. We know DOJ has been subpoenaing them for evidence about the lawyers involved — not just Rudy and Eastman, but also Justin Clark.

DOJ has also been asking about Boris Epshteyn. He showed up as the recipient of an email from Eastman explaining that it didn’t matter that the electors had no legal legitimacy.

As Kyle Cheney noted, the Committee released that email last month, albeit with Epshteyn’s name redacted.

The Republican Party has not just an incentive, but a existential need at this point, to blame Trump’s people for all of this, and it may do wonders not just for obtaining cooperative and cooperating witnesses, but also to change how Republicans view the January 6 investigation.

Exposing Pat Cipollone’s exceptional unwillingness to testify

Liz Cheney continued to use the hearings to shame those who aren’t cooperating with the Committee. In her opening statement, she played the video of Gabriel Sterling warning of violence, where he said, “All of you who have not said a damn word [about the threats and false claims] are complicit in this.”

Then after Schiff talked about the threat to democracy in his closing statement …

We have been blessed beyond measure to live in the world’s greatest democracy. That is a legacy to be proud of and to cherish. But it is not one to be taken for granted. That we have lived in a democracy for more than 200 years does not mean we shall do so tomorrow. We must reject violence. We must embrace our Constitution with the reverence it deserves, take our oath of office and duties as citizens seriously, informed by the knowledge of right and wrong and armed with no more than the power of our ideas and the truth, carry on this venerable experiment in self-governance.

Cheney focused on the important part played by witnesses who did what they needed to guard the Constitution, twice invoking God.

We’ve been reminded that we’re a nation of laws and we’ve been reminded by you and by Speaker Bowers and Secretary of State Raffensperger, Mr. Sterling, that our institutions don’t defend themselves. Individuals do that. And we’ve [been] reminded that it takes public servants. It takes people who have made a commitment to our system to defend our system. We have also been reminded what it means to take an oath, under God, to the Constitution. What it means to defend the Constitution. And we were reminded by Speaker Bowers that our Constitution is indeed a divinely inspired document.

That set up a marked contrast with the list of scofflaws who’ve obstructed the Committee.

To date more than 30 witnesses called before this Committee have not done what you’ve done but have invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Roger Stone took the Fifth. General Michael Flynn took the Fifth. John Eastman took the Fifth. Others like Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro simply refused to comply with lawful subpoenas. And they have been indicted. Mark Meadows has hidden behind President Trump’s claims of Executive Privilege and immunity from subpoena. We’re engaged now in litigation with Mr. Meadows.

Having set up that contrast, Congresswoman Cheney then spent the entire rest of her closing statement shaming Pat Cipollone for refusing thus far to testify.

The American people in our hearings have heard from Bill Barr, Jeff Rosen, Richard Donoghue, and many others who stood up and did what is right. And they will hear more of that testimony soon.

But the American people have not yet heard from Mr. Trump’s former White House counsel, Pat Cipollone. Our Committee is certain that Donald Trump does not want Mr. Cipollone to testify here. Indeed, our evidence shows that Mr. Cipollone and his office tried to do what was right. They tried to stop a number of President Trump’s plans for January 6.

Today and in our coming hearings, you will hear testimony from other Trump White House staff explaining what Mr. Cipollone said and did, including on January 6.

But we think the American people deserve to hear from Mr. Cipollone personally. He should appear before this Committee. And we are working to secure his testimony.

In the wake of this, someone “close to Cipollone” ran to Maggie Haberman and sold her a bullshit story, which she dutifully parroted uncritically.

Cheney had just laid out that the “institutional concerns” had been waived by other lawyers (and were, legally, in the case of Bill Clinton). And any privilege issue went out the window when Sean Hannity learned of the White House Counsel complaints. Plus, White House Counsel lawyer Eric Herschmann has testified at length, including about matters — such as the call Trump made to Vice President Pence shortly before the riot — involving Trump personally.

Given Cheney’s invocation of those who pled the Fifth, I wonder she suspects that Cipollone’s reluctance has less to do with his claimed excuses, and more to do with a concern that he has personal exposure.

He may! After all, he presided over Trump’s use of pardons to pay off several key players in the insurrection, including three of the people Cheney invoked to set up this contrast: Flynn, Stone, and Bannon (though I suspect Cipollone had checked out before the last of them). And these pardons — and the role of pardons in the planning for January 6 more broadly — may expose those involved, potentially including Cipollone, in the conspiracy.

Whether or not Cheney shames Cipollone into testifying, including with her appeal to religion, he may not have the same luxury of refusing when DOJ comes calling.

Forty Feet: Trump Sicced a Murder Weapon on Mike Pence

Harry Litman observed after yesterday’s January 6 Committee hearing that you might be able to charge Trump with the attempted murder of Mike Pence.

This was not new news yesterday though.

I reported on the DOJ and the Committee’s mutual focus on the targeting of Pence on January 5. In a piece that described that Marc Short had not yet agreed to cooperate and Pence might never cooperate, NYT reported on the same focus of DOJ filings days later. Though, as sometimes happens, NYT got the timeline wrong; Gina Bisignano swore to her focus on Pence in August (and has not reneged on that point even as she attempts to withdraw her guilty plea), and Josiah Colt described how he and two co-conspirators responded to news that Pence would not stop the vote count by breaching the Senate in July 2021, almost a year ago.

DOJ has been focused on the effect of Trump’s targeting of Pence for over a year. In fact, to substantiate the seriousness of the threat facing Pence that day, the Committee cited witness testimony that has been public since January 13, 2021, in Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola’s original arrest affidavit.

W-1 further stated that members of this group, which included “Spaz,” said that they would have killed [Vice President] Mike Pence if given the chance. According to W-1, the group said it would be returning on the “20th,” which your affiant takes to mean the Presidential Inauguration scheduled for January 20, 2021, and that they plan to kill every single “m-fer” they can.

The allegation actually doesn’t show up in the Proud Boy sedition indictment, though Proud Boy Matthew Greene’s plea allocution talked about how the militia swarmed the Capitol with the intent of adding pressure to Pence.

To be sure, yesterday’s hearing laid out the following additional pieces of proof that Trump was specifically targeting Pence:

  • Jason Miller and Greg Jacob’s description of Trump’s deliberate misrepresentation, overnight on January 5, falsely claiming Pence agreed with him about the vote count
  • Descriptions about Trump calling Pence on around 11 on January 6 and calling him a whimp and a pussy, a call that distressed Ivanka because, “It was a different tone than I’ve heard him take with the Vice President before”
  • Trump’s addition references to Mike Pence in his January 6 speech, both in the prepared script and ad-libbed along the way
  • Details from White House aides confirming that Mark Meadows had informed Trump about the violence at the Capitol and how, instead of a tweet calling for calm, Trump instead “pour[ed] gasoline on the fire” (as Former White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews described it) by calling out Pence again in a tweet at 2:24 the day of the insurrection
  • Greg Jacob’s testimony about tensions with the Secret Service about evacuating the Capitol
  • Marc Short’s description of conversations with Kevin McCarthy expressing frustration that Trump wasn’t taking the circumstances seriously
  • Reconfirmation that Trump never called Pence to check on the Vice President’s safety
  • Tracking of Jacob’s “Thanks to your bullshit we are now under siege,” to events at the Capitol

Committee member Congressperson Pete Aguilar explained that at the moment Pence was evacuated from his ceremonial office, he and the mob were just forty feet apart.

The Committee looked at the threat posed by the Proud Boys to Pence.

It doesn’t look at something far more substantive, though potentially far more complex. Immediately after Trump’s tweet, the Oath Keepers indictment describes communications between Roger Stone associate Kelly Meggs and Stewart Rhodes, followed by a conference call involving those two and operational lead Mike Simmons. The Oath Keepers converged, and then the first Stack and the second (made up of men who had been providing security to Roger Stone that morning) breached the East doors, along with Joe Biggs and the mob brought by Alex Jones.

Once inside, the first Stack broke up, with Meggs and others heading towards Speaker Pelosi’s office to hunt her down.

103. Shortly thereafter, WATKINS and other members ofStack One exited the Rotunda through the northbound hallway toward the Senate Chamber.

104. Around this time, a member of Stack One yelled “the fight’ s not over” and waved !rioters down the hallways toward the Senate Chamber.

105. At 2:45 p.m. and afterward, WATKINS and other Stack One members joined the imob in pushing against a line of law enforcement officers guarding the hallway connecting the Rotunda to the Senate Chamber, as WATKINS commanded those around her to “push, push, !push,” and to, “get in there, get in there,” while exclaiming, “they can’t hold us.” When officers responded by deploying a chemical spray, the mob-including WATKINS and other Stack One members-retreated.

106. At 2:45 p.m., MEGGS, HARRELSON, HACKETT, MOERSCHEL, and other Stack One members walked southbound out of the Rotunda and toward the House of Representatives in search of Speaker Pelosi. They did not find Speaker Pelosi.

The others attempted to get to the Senate, whence Mike Pence had, minutes earlier, been evacuated.

As I’ve noted, with the sedition indictments, DOJ also added 18 USC 372 charges, conspiracy “to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person … from discharging any duties thereof.”

DOJ may never show that Trump and the mob he sicced on his Vice President conspired to kill him, or even that Trump’s 2:24PM tweet aided and abetted the attempts to find and assassinate Pence — though the judge presiding over the Oath Keepers case has deemed the possibility Trump could be held accountable for aiding and abetting to be plausible, at least for a lower civil standard. But there’s little doubt that Trump, his lawyers, two militias, and the mob entered into a common effort to prevent Pence from doing his duty that day. And with the militias, you can draw a line between Trump, his rat-fucker, Alex Jones, and the men at the Capitol to the threat and intimidation Trump sicced on his Vice President.

Junkets In Lieu of Investigation: John Durham Charged Ivan Danchenko without Ever Interviewing George Papdopoulos about Sergei Millian

Recently, Roger Stone invited George Papadopoulos onto his show to talk about how, even though Michael Sussmann was acquitted, it’s still proof of a grand conspiracy involving Hillary Clinton.

Stone invited Papadopulos to talk about how Durham and Billy Barr chased Papadopoulos’ conspiracy theories to Italy, which both the Rat-Fucker and the Coffee Boy seemed to take as proof that those conspiracies were true, even though Barr has publicly stated there was no there there.

The biggest news from Mr. Durham’s probe is what he has ruled out. Mr. Barr was initially suspicious that agents had been spying on the Trump campaign before the official July 2016 start date of Crossfire Hurricane, and that the Central Intelligence Agency or foreign intelligence had played a role. But even prior to naming Mr. Durham special counsel, Mr. Barr had come to the conclusion that he didn’t “see any sign of improper CIA activity” or “foreign government activity before July 2016,” he says. “The CIA stayed in its lane.”

Seemingly in hopes of finding details that Durham was ignoring, Stone asked Papadopoulos whether Durham had ever spoken to the Coffee Boy. Papadopoulos babbled for some time about his House testimony, then Stone followed up to get him to state that, no, Durham had never spoken to him.

Never.

Stone: You make a very good point. The fact that the Attorney General was on the trip means that he knows the origins of the Russian collusion fraud far earlier than other people realize. George, have you specifically met with either John Durham or representatives of his office to tell them what you know?

Papadopoulos: So, that’s a good question. In 2018, I was one of five witnesses who was invited by–under oath, behind closed doors–in front of the House Oversight Committee. And the other four witnesses, besides myself, were Rod Rosenstein, Sally Yates, uh, Jim Comey, and Loretta Lynch. Now, back in 2018, and there’s a Washington Post article, I think it’s called “Papadopoulos and Rosenstein about to testify behind closed doors,” back in 2018, people were scratching their heads, why on earth is George Papadopoulos one of four, one of five witnesses who is going to testify to both John Ratcliffe and Mark Meadows. Back then, obviously, before Mark Meadows was Chief of Staff at the White House and Ratcliffe was the head of DNI, they were Congressmen. They were in charge of the House Oversight Committee. During that testimony back then, both of those individuals who later served in senior White House, uh, Administrative capacities were asking me questions about wiretaps. They were asking me if I was being monitored while I was in Europe. They were asking me whether my lawyers were ever given so-called exculpatory information about any of, about Joseph Mifsud, any of these other type of operatives, both domestic and foreign. And I basically let them know, under oath, that I’m telling you. How I met him, what my background was, why I believe there was this target on my back, why I think it followed me all the way from the beginning, all the way until the summer of 2017, where they were, the FBI was trying to set me up while I was in Israel with this other bizarre exchange that I had, that I talk about in my book. So that testimony, I believe, was used with the Durham team, to help get this entire thing started, that’s how Durham and Barr flew to both to Rome, to talk to Italian intelligence services — not the FBI — to learn about Mifsud, and I believe — that’s why NBC has also been quoted as saying that Western intelligence officials have gone on the record and stated that it’s Papadopoulos’ breadcrumbs, if you want to call it that, that have led to Durham’s real conspiracy case that he’s trying to uh–

Stone: So, but to go to my direct question, have you had any direct contact with Durham or his office, or your attorneys?

Papadopoulos: No, I haven’t. No no no, no I haven’t. But my understanding is that that testimony, 2018, was used by the Durham, that’s my understanding.

This is fairly shocking — and damning news.

Papadopoulos’ testimony was not only not under oath (though committee staffers admonished the sworn liar not to do it to them), but it was a shitshow.

I’ve cataloged all the ways it was a shitshow below. But the fact that Billy Barr and Johnny D jumped on a plane together for their junket to Rome based off such a shitshow matters for two reasons.

First, it shows that they did no vetting of the conspiracy theories the Coffee Boy repeated in the hearing — which as I show below were really just rewarmed conspiracy theories parroted by John Solomon and Chuck Ross — before hopping on a plane for their junket. Importantly, one of those conspiracy theories was spread by Joseph Mifsud attorney Stephen Roh, who himself is suspected of sketchy ties to Russia.

The other reason it matters is because Durham’s Igor Danchenko prosecution treats Danchenko, whom the FBI found credible in 2017 and afterwards, as less credible than Sergei Millian. But George Papadopoulos, whose testimony Durham considered sufficiently credible to hop on a flight to Rome for, described Millian — in the context of details about his offer to hire him so long as he also worked in the Administration — as “a very shady kind of person.”

Q I guess there’s just one follow-up, because you said some kind of consultancy work for some — someone that Sergei Millian knew in Russia. What would have been the nature of that work? Like, what topic would the work have been on?

A My current understanding — and this is what I think it is, because this is a very shady kind of person — was that it was a former minister of some sort who had money and wanted to do PR work. But then, of course, we met in Chicago, and I felt that, you know, he was — I don’t know. I just felt that when he proposed this deal to me face-to-face that he might have been wearing some sort of wire. And he was acting very bizarre. And I don’t know what that was. Maybe I’m a paranoid person. But there were certain other events regarding Sergei Millian that made — that make me believe that he might have actually been working with the FBI.

Durham shouldn’t be able to have it both ways. If Papadopoulos’ testimony was deemed sufficiently credible, without any more vetting, to justify a taxpayer-paid trip to Rome, then his judgment that Millian is a “very shady person” the likes of whom might lie about a call with Igor Danchenko, then Durham should not rely on Millian’s unsworn Twitter ramblings for four charges against Danchenko.

In short, the fact that Durham hasn’t interviewed Papadopoulos at all, either before or after the junket, is yet more proof that Durham is hesitant to test any of his conspiracy theories with actual investigative work.


Catalog of Coffee Boy Testimony Shitshowery

One key piece of proof that Papadopoulos’ testimony before the Oversight Committee was a shitshow designed to elicit conspiracy theories about Mueller’s investigation rather than useful information is that the committee didn’t ask him for any emails or other records in advance — emails that Papadopoulos had earlier withheld from SSCI, with which request he only partly complied in 2019. Papadopoulos told the committee on at least 18 occasions he had emails or other records that would allow him to answer their questions — about when he joined the campaign, his communications with Olga Polanskaya, Joseph Mifsud, and Ivan Timofeev, his communications with Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Mike Flynn, KT McFarland, and Walid Phares, his communications with Sergei Millian, his meetings with Stefan Halper, his interactions with suspect Israelis — accurately, but that he couldn’t without those records. [Note the last several of these are out of order because I just kept finding more examples.]

1. Mr. Breitenbach. Is there any paperwork that you might have indicating when you actually began on the Trump campaign?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I believe we might have, we might have those emails.

Ms. Polisi. We have emails. We don’t have any official documentation.

Mr. Papadopoulos. I mean, if the emails would suffice, I think we have emails suggesting that I would be joining the campaign on this day, or Sam Clovis was telling me you’re on board, good job, or something like that.

[snip]

2. And I remember I even — where I’m going at is I don’t think I was talking to the same person [Olga Polanskaya]. That’s what I’m trying to say.

Q When you say talking?

A I mean writing back and forth.

Q By email? By text?

A Email. Email. And I remember there was even a point I messaged this person on Skype. And I said, are you the same person that I met a couple months ago or so? You know, it was just very odd. I think I, you know, I wrote that to her on Skype. Nevertheless, I think we could provide these emails of my interactions with this individual and Joseph Mifsud. What it seems was going on was that Mifsud was using her as some sort of Russian face or person.

[snip]

3. I could get into the details about what was going on with [Ivan Timofeev] or however —

Q Sure. A So I saw him as potentially the person that could, you know, introduce not only me, but the campaign to the people in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then act as the key point man for this potential Trump-Putin submit. We exchanged emails. We could provide those emails to you.

[snip]

4. Q Did you arrange for anyone else to travel to Russia? Let’s just keep it specifically —

A Yeah.

Q — based on your contacts with Mifsud at this point.

A Yes. I reached out directly to Paul Manafort, you know, and Corey Lewandowski and the top — the heads of the campaign, and openly told them I’m trying to arrange this. I mean, they were fully aware of what I was doing. This is all in emails. I’m not sure if you have those emails. I’m happy to provide them to you. That I’m trying to set up this meeting. Are we interested or are we not interested.

[snip]

5. Mr. Meadows. Are you indicating that there are some things that were reported that are not accurate?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s a kind way to say it. Okay. Let’s go back to April. I can’t remember exact dates in April, but April, and maybe we can send emails and when could corroborate certain things. I’m in talks with an Israeli diplomat named Christian Cantor, who was introduced to me through, I guess a friend at the Israeli embassy in D.C. named Dore Shapiro, who was an economic counselor. And you have to remember I was very connected to Israel and what was going on. So that was my network.

[snip]

6. Q So how often was that, would you say? Like how often would you be sending an email? I mean, I know it’s a rough estimate, but —

A It depends on the timing. I mean, there was a point where it was very frequent, and then I took a pause, then started up again. I can’t give a number. I really can’t. But there’s a lot of emails, and those are all documented.

Q Okay. So when the transition started, you said that you became introduced to Michael Flynn and K.T. McFarland.

A Over email.

Q Over email.

[snip]

7. Q And what was that project that you were discussing with Sergei Millian?

A Well, this — I never properly understood exactly what we were talking about. I believe I was asking him for a contract. And I have to go back, and I could share notes later on, but I — just giving off my current memory, that he wanted to do some sort of PR or consultancy for a friend of his or somebody that he knew in Russia. And I believe the terms of the agreement would have been $30,000 a month and some sort of office space and in New York. But then I felt that he wasn’t who he seemed to be and that he was working on behalf of somebody else when he was proposing this to me. And — I mean, we could get into that.

[snip]

8. Q With regard to Olga, you mentioned that she discussed sanctions with you in your correspondence. Does that ring a bell?

A I believe she did over email.

Q And what was the position on sanctions that she expressed over email?

A I can’t remember exactly, but we are happy to share them with — we have those emails in case you don’t. And are more than happy to share them with you.

[snip]

9. Q Did [Timofeev] correspond with you about any geopolitical issues in email?

A We certainly exchanged some emails. I can’t remember exactly what’s in those emails, but I’m more than happy to provide them to the committee.

[snip]

10 and 11. Q I’d also like to ask you about some of the communications that you referenced earlier with Trump campaign officials. You said earlier that you provided notes on President Trump’s — then candidate Trump’s big foreign policy speech to Stephen Miller?

A Yes.

Q What was the substance of those comments?

A I can’t remember but I’m more than happy to share them, because it is all in an email form.

Q And you said that you communicated with Steve Bannon by email as well. Is that right?

A Yes.

Q Would you be —

A Email and a couple of phone calls. What was that?

Q Would you be willing to share those emails with Steve Bannon with us as well?

A I’m more than happy to share whatever emails I have with the campaign with the committee.

[snip]

12. Q You mentioned a number of emails where both of you would have been copied. Did you and Mr. Phares have any direct communication just the two of you?

A We met face to face at the TAG Summit. And then we obviously met at the March 31st meeting. And I can’t remember if we met another time in person or not. But we certainly were in correspondence for months over email.

Q Did you discuss your efforts to set up the Putin-Trump meeting with Mr. Phares?

A I’m not sure he was copied on those particular emails, but I could send whatever emails I have with him to the committee. It’s fine with me.

[snip]

13. Q Did you reach out to anyone on the Trump campaign that day?

A That particular day? Like, I think, Steve Bannon, you know, just to say we did it or something like that. I can’t — like I said, I could provide all these emails, I just don’t know. I really can’t remember exactly what I did on that specific day.

[snip]

14. A Sergei Millian reached out to me out of the blue on LinkedIn around sometime in late July 2016. I can’t remember exactly how he presented himself, but he basically stated that he’s an American of Belarusian origin who worked for Trump or his organization, and he could be helpful in understanding the U.S.-Russia relationship, and he might be a good person to get to know. So I thought this was probably one of Trump’s people and he’s reaching out to me. That’s a good sign. I have the message somewhere. I could always present it to the committee here. And then we met shortly after that in New York.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. Do you know when in July of 2016, what the date was?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think it was around July 22nd. Mr. Meadows. And do you recall the date that you actually met with him?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I’m not even 100 percent sure of exactly the day in July. I could always go back in my records and provide that.

Mr. Meadows. That would be helpful. Those dates would be helpful, but when did you meet with him, in July or in August?

[snip]

15. You explained previously that Mr. — that Professor Mifsud had a connection to and introduced you to Ivan Timofeev. Is that right? A Via email, yes.

Q And did he explain at the time what the purpose of that introduction was?

A I assume he did. I just can’t remember exactly the language, the specific language of the introduction. But I have those emails and am more than happy to share that — those interactions with the committee.

[snip]

16. A I — as I’ve stated, I never met Timofeev in my life face-to-face, so I’m just trying to go back in my memory to see if he actually copied any Russian nationals on an email. I don’t recall that. But as I stated, I’m more than happy to share all communication I have with this person.

Q Great. Thank you.

A Yes.

Q Do you recall him introducing you to any other people in the emails or when you spoke to him by phone?

A I — I don’t recall. But they — but the emails should be in our possession, and we’re more than happy to provide them.

[snip]

17. Q Real quick, just following up on Congressman Ratcliffe’s questions in terms of timing with your conversation with Mr. Halper. You had mentioned it was sometime between September 13th through the 15th. But then you said that you had left London by flight, I suppose. So you might have a record on the day that you left?

A Yes.

Q And you think you met with him the day before you left.

A Yes.

Q Is that something you could provide to us?

A I believe so, yes. It shouldn’t be too hard.

[snip]

18. Mr. Meadows. So I want to follow up on one item from the previous hour, where you had talked about Mr. Tawil. I guess you had not heard from him about the $10,000. And then all of a sudden, you get an email, I assume an email out of the blue saying he wants his $10,000 back. Is that correct?

Mr. Papadopoulos. My memory of the past year, and any interactions I had with this individual — I’m more than happy to share his emails with the committee — was that he would reach out to me indirectly through contacts of mine, and ask how was George doing, what’s his news, even though I was all over the global media at that time. And I don’t remember him ever asking for his money back, even though I had offered to give him his money back, shortly after I left him in — wherever I left him. And going back into my records, I just looked at my email, and we can provide this to you, I think 2 days after I was sentenced, I think — so, September 9th of last month, he sends me an email and he says, not only am I thinking about suing you, but I want my money, and let’s act like we never met. Something along those lines.

Without these emails, the testimony was guaranteed to be useless with respect to 2016, but it gave Papadopoulos the opportunity to engage in wild conspiracy theorizing. The Coffee Boy didn’t much remember the events of 2016, but he did remember what he read in the Daily Caller, the Hill, and the NYT in the weeks before his testimony, which is what he spent much of his testimony telling Congress about.

A You know, I don’t want to espouse conspiracy theories because, you know, it’s horrifying to really think that they might be true, but just yesterday, there was a report in the Daily Caller from [Joseph Mifsud’s] own lawyer that he was working with the FBI when he approached me. And when he was working me, I guess — I don’t know if that’s a fact, and I’m not saying it’s a fact — I’m just relaying what the Daily Caller reported yesterday, with Chuck Ross, and it stated in a categorical fashion that Stephan Roh, who is Joseph Mifsud’s, I believe his President’s counsel, or PR person, said that Mifsud was never a Russian agent.

In fact, he’s a tremendous friend of western intelligence, which makes sense considering I met him at a western spying school in Rome. And all his interactions — this is just me trying to repeat the report, these are not my words — and when he met with me, he was working as some sort of asset of the FBI. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m just reporting what my current understanding is of this individual based on reports from journalists.

[snip]

But I guess the overwhelming evidence, from what I’ve read, just in reports, nothing classified, of course, because I’m not privy to anything like that, and considering his own lawyer is saying it, Stephan Roh, that Mifsud is a western intelligence source. And, I guess, according to reports yesterday, he was working with the FBI. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m just here to, you know, maybe, you know, let you — direct you in certain directions of what I’ve read and maybe, in case you haven’t read it.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. Are you aware of any potential exculpatory evidence that would exist that you just have not seen or your counsel have not seen?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I read John Solomon’s report, like I think probably everyone in this room did from The Hill a couple days ago, about Stefan Halper, which is another person. But in regarding Downer, no, I haven’t seen anything like that.

[snip]

Q Were you — are you aware of any other transcripts or recordings or exculpatory materials as Mr. Meadows referenced?

A This is what I currently understand. I read the John Solomon report about the Stefan Halper, I guess, tapes or recordings of some nature. And so — my old lawyer or — all I — my understanding is that they had a — that they gave me, my old lawyers, a passing reference to something about — I said about treason, and I am — no, about the exculpatory.

[snip]

A My current memory makes me believe that he was stating it as a fact, and I took it as well.

Q And did you believe him at the time?

A At the time, yeah.

Q And so —

A But at the time, also, I thought he was validating rumors. So that was really my impression of him. I mean, you have to understand this is a person who sold himself as the key to Moscow but then really couldn’t deliver on any one of real substance except Putin’s fake niece and the think tank analyst, and then now he’s drooping this information on me. It was very confusing. You can understand how confusing this process was over the month.

Q Do you not believe him now, given what you’ve learned, or do you — you know, do you continue to believe that he was given information that the Russians had Hillary Clinton’s emails?

A I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Everything I’ve ever tweeted or — probably, if that’s what you’re referring to, it’s just backed by things I’ve read in the media. And it’s not my job to dig into this person, because I really don’t care about this person. And legally, I’m not even allowed to talk to him directly or indirectly. So all I can do is read reports, read what his lawyer is saying, and take it with a grain of salt and just share that information with you that his lawyer, yesterday, said that he was working with the FBI. Was he? Is his lawyer a crazy person who’s slandering his client, or was he really working with the FBI and this was some sort of operation? I don’t have the answer to that, and I’m not sitting here telling you I do have the answer to that.

[snip]

Mr. Papadopoulos. Just who I am, my background in the energy business, because everyone was curious about my background in the energy business in Israel. And that’s another thing we’ll get to about what I think why I had a FISA on me, but I don’t know. She then apparently — I don’t remember it, I’m just reading The New York Times. She starts asking me about hacking. I don’t remember her actually asking me that, I just read it in The New York Times. Nevertheless, she introduces me the next time to Stefan Halper.

Mr. Meadows. She asked you about hacking?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember it. I just — I think I read that particular —

Mr. Meadows. You’ve read that?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Yes, that’s what I — I think I read it in The New York Times.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. You say a transcript exists. A transcript exists of that conversation?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s I guess what John Solomon reported a couple days ago.

Mr. Meadows. So are you aware of a transcript existing? I mean — Mr. Papadopoulos. I wasn’t aware of a transcript existing personally.

Mr. Meadows. So you have no personal knowledge of it?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I had no personal knowledge, no.

Mr. Meadows. But you think that he could have been recording you is what you’re suggesting?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Yes.

Having used the stories of Stephen Roh and John Solomon — key players in Russian influence operations — to float conspiracy theories about the Coffee Boy being set up, both Mark Meadows and John Ratcliffe then cued Papadopoulos to attack the Mueller investigation.

For example, Meadows suggested that the FBI had not read Papadopoulos his Miranda rights and had improperly searched his bags.

Mr. Meadows. They told you — I guess, they gave your Miranda rights?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember that. I don’t remember that. I’m sure there might be the video or a transcript of what was going on. You have to understand, I had just come off a trans-Atlantic flight.

In fact, when Papadopoulos told agents he was still represented by an attorney, they told him they would ask no further questions, read his rights and marked the Miranda form as waived. But even after being warned not to say anything without his lawyer present, he kept offering unsolicited comments. And in spite of Meadows’ insinuations, while in FBI custody Papadopoulos thanked the FBI agents for treating him well.

Meadows also found it deeply suspicious that the FBI would ask Papadopoulos to wear a wire to record Joseph Mifsud.

Mr. Meadows. Now, this is the same agent that said that he knew that you had said something. Is that the same person?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Same guy.

Mr. Meadows. And so, he was the one that said you had definitely — I want to make sure that we’re accurate with this. If you’ll — because the name keeps coming back. When you said you didn’t know what you had said to Mr. Downer, it’s the same agent that said, Oh, yes, you said it. Is that correct?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s how I remember it, yes.

Mr. Meadows. Okay. So go ahead.

Mr. Papadopoulos. So I told him, I’m not interested in wearing a wire.

Mr. Meadows. So on your second meeting with the FBI, they asked you to wear a wire?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Against Mifsud.

Mr. Meadows. Against Mifsud, who they believed at that time was doing what?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Well, I guess —

Mr. Meadows. Why did they want you to wear a wire for Mifsud?

The reason Meadows is so bothered that the FBI tried to investigate a suspected Russian agent is that he wanted proof that that Papadopoulos himself was taped. He was looking for something specific: transcripts.

Mr. Meadows. So as we look at this, I think getting our head around all of this is just — it’s hard to believe that it happened in the United States of America. And I think that that’s the trouble that I have with it. And I’ve seen nothing in the classified setting. I want to — for the record, I purposely have not gone into a classified setting to see things so that I can try to put this piece of the puzzle together. It is my belief that you were taped at some point or another by one of these officials, whether it be Mifsud or whether it be Downer or whether it be Halper. I don’t know which one of them did it, but I believe that certainly it is my strong belief that you were taped. Has anyone in the Department of Justice indicated to you that they may have a tape of a private conversation that you had with anyone of those three individuals?

The goal of Meadows and John Ratcliffe — probably the entire point of the hearing, which took place in the wake of a John Solomon article reporting on the topic — was to suggest that George Papadopoulos was deprived of exculpatory evidence, transcripts from his interactions with Halper, before he pled guilty and that he wouldn’t have pled guilty had he received it. Coached by Meadows and influenced by things he read at the Daily Beast, Papadopoulos says maybe the whole thing was a set-up.

Mr. Meadows. I guess if they had that, wouldn’t, before you pleaded guilty, wouldn’t that be something that they should have provided to you or let you know that there was exculpatory evidence out there?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Absolutely. And that would have changed my calculus 100 percent.

Mr. Meadows. Okay. So you, perhaps, would not have pleaded guilty if you knew that there was this tape of a private conversation with one of the three individuals that I just mentioned?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s correct. I guess, my thought process at the time —

Mr. Meadows. Because it could potentially have been a setup.

Mr. Papadopoulos. Absolutely could have been. And just going back in my memory, I guess the logic behind my guilty plea was that I thought I was really in the middle of a real Russia conspiracy, that this was all real, and that I had to plead out or face life in prison, the way they were making it seem. And after this conversation and after much information that’s come out, it’s clear that my — I was completely off on my calculus?

Here’s how former US Attorney Ratcliffe quizzes Papadopoulos about whether he was asked about his conversations with a confidential informant.

Mr. Ratcliffe. Again, to be real clear, the special counsel investigating collusion, potential collusion, or links between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government never asked you, the person around which this investigation was opened and centered, about any communications you had with an individual where you expressed that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s what I remember, yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. The reason I’m asking these questions, Mr. Papadopoulos, is your credibility is at issue, and will be at issue, because you have pled guilty to an 18 U.S.C. 1001 charge of lying to the FBI. And so there will be those that will call into question the truthfulness of your testimony. If you’ve lied to the FBI before, how do we know that you’re telling us the truth? But if there is a transcript of a conversation that you had where you expressed that you had no knowledge about collusion, that might corroborate your testimony. It might also raise obligations, obligations to you as a defendant, to your lawyers as defense counsel, and to various judges as arbiters of material facts.

Here’s how Meadows asked the same question.

Mr. Meadows. Both. I mean, obviously if the special prosecutor is trying to get to the truth and you’re having substantial conversations with Stefan Halper and they don’t ask any questions about it, I find that curious. Do you find that curious?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Now I do.

There are a few problems with Meadows and Ratcliffe’s story. First, Papadopoulos made clear that his lawyers did get the substance of the transcript in question, where Papadopoulos likened what Roger Stone did to treason.

Mr. Meadows. About recordings or transcripts of Mr. Halper?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I never saw anything, but my lawyers, to be clear, they had made a passing remark about something that I said about treason —

Worse still, when Meadows asked Papdopoulos about his conversation with Halper, the Coffee Boy tried to claim his purported disavowal of “collusion” was made to someone he never imagined could be investigating him.

Mr. Meadows. So when you pushed back with Stefan Halpern [sic], and you said, Listen, this is, you know, I’m not going to do that and colluding with the Russians would not be something that I would do. It would be against the law — I don’t want to put words in your mouth — you had no knowledge of being under an investigation at that particular time, is that correct?

Mr. Papadopoulos. So, that’s absolutely correct, and if I had even a scintilla of proof or belief that Stefan Halper was an FBI agent, there’s no way I would have be going and talking to him — I just wouldn’t, I don’t think I would. I don’t think anybody would be running into some sort of operation against themselves.

That’s false. According to the DOJ IG Report, he told another informant he thought Halper would tell the CIA what he said.

Papadopoulos said he believed Source 2 was going to go

and tell the CIA or something if I’d have told him something else. I assume that’s why he was asking. And I told him, absolutely not …. it’s illegal, you know, to do that.. .. [my emphasis]

That is, Papadopoulos admitted to a second FBI informant that he said what he had to Halper precisely because he believed Halper might share what he said with the IC.

Which is among the reasons the FBI believed his answer was a rehearsed cover story in real time.

Now, Papadopoulos’ claim that he never imagined Halper might tell the FBI what he said when in fact he said the nearly the opposite in real time is not the only false claim he made to Congress before Billy Barr and Johnny D went on their junket chasing his conspiracy theories.

This answer, for example, is mostly word salad. But it hides that Papadopoulos continued to pursue a meeting with Russia until September 2016, months after he reached out to Paul Manafort. The word salad obscures a topic — his later effort to set up a meeting with Russian — that Papaodpoulos refused to explain to Mueller.

And to the best of my understanding, that’s when, you know, I really stopped engaging about this Trump-Putin potential meeting.

[snip]

Q Were there other interactions with Mifsud about, I think I read about possibly setting up a trip to Russia about campaign officials? Is there other things you worked on with him aside from the Putin summit? A Yeah, I think what we were trying to do is bring — I was trying to bring the campaign, I think Sam Clovis and Walid Phares and I, we were talking about potentially going to Europe and meeting officials together. And I was trying to see who Mifsud potentially knew in the U.K., or in other parts of Europe that could facilitate that meeting. Of course, we never did it. I think Sam Clovis ended up telling me I can’t make it, I’m too busy, but if you and Walid want to go to this, whatever you’re trying to put together, go ahead. That’s what I remember.

Q And did that trip ever happen?

A I never traveled with Walid Phares, no.

Q Did you arrange for anyone else?

A What was that?

Q Did you arrange for anyone else to travel to Russia? Let’s just keep it specifically —

A Yeah.

Q — based on your contacts with Mifsud at this point.

A Yes. I reached out directly to Paul Manafort, you know, and Corey Lewandowski and the top — the heads of the campaign, and openly told them I’m trying to arrange this. I mean, they were fully aware of what I was doing. This is all in emails. I’m not sure if you have those emails. I’m happy to provide them to you. That I’m trying to set up this meeting. Are we interested or are we not interested. So Corey Lewandowski was informed, Paul Manafort was informed, Sam Clovis was informed about what I was doing and what my progress, I guess, if you want to call it that, was.

“It is a lot of risk,” the notes that Papadopoulos refused to explain appear to have said about a September meeting with Russia, originally scheduled for the same dates as he met Halper.

And when Democratic staffers tried to get back to the gist of the issue — away from the transcripts capturing coached answers Papadopoulos told because he thought the answer might get back to the CIA and to the charged conduct — Papadopoulos’ lawyer refused to let him answer.

Q Is it your position here today that you did not lie to the FBI during your first interview?

Ms. Polisi. I’m just going to advise my client not to answer that.

In several such interactions, the Democratic staffers identified material discrepancies between what Papadopoulos said to a Committee of Congress and what he had sworn to in his guilty plea.

So Mr. Papadopoulos, why did you lie to the FBI and claim that your interactions with Professor Misfud occurred before you became a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign?

Ms. Polisi. I’m going to object to this line of questioning.

Ms. Shen. What’s the objection based upon?

Ms. Polisi. We are here on a voluntary basis. We have answered all of your questions thus far. It is my advice to him that he not talk specifically about the offense conduct.

[snip]

Q Can you please turn to page 4. Mr. Papadopoulos, I believe earlier in this round, we were asking about your interviews with the FBI, and I believe that you said that you had brought up to the FBI the — the professor and your conversation with him. Is that correct?

A That is what I remember.

Q So if you could take a look at footnote 2 on this page, page 4, in the second paragraph, it reads, “To the contrary, the defendant identified the professor only after being prompted by a series of specific questions about when the defendant first learned about Russia’s disclosure of information related to the campaign, and whether defendant had ever, quote, ‘received any information or anything like that from a Russian government official’ unquote. In response, while denying he received any information from a Russian Government official that further identified the professor by name, while also falsely claiming he interacted with the professor ‘before I was with Trump though.'” Mr. Papadopoulos, what you just said earlier today during this interview doesn’t seem to jive with the information in this footnote. Can you explain the discrepancy?

Ms. Polisi. I’m still going to object to this line of questioning. I disagree with your characterization of his previous testimony. What’s written is written, you read it into the record.

Ms. Shen. Well, he just agreed with my characterization.

Ms. Polisi. No, he did not. He did not. He did not agree with your characterization.

Ms. Shen. I asked him if what we talked about earlier was correct — on the record.

Ms. Polisi. That is correct.

Ms. Shen. And then I read the paragraph from his sentencing memorandum, and you are not allowing him to respond to that.

Ms. Polisi. Correct, I’m not allowing him to respond to that.

I guess it makes sense that Durham would not interview Papadopoulos after this performance. It’s not actually clear whether he could tell the truth, and if he did, the truth — that the Coffee Boy was still pursuing a risky back channel to Russia even after the investigation into him was opened — would utterly destroy the objective of the Durham investigation.

So in the same way that Durham never subpoenaed Jim Baker before basing an entire indictment on his testimony, Durham never spoke to Papadopoulos, who would testify that in the same weeks when — Durham claims — Danchenko believed he had a sketchy call with Millian, Papadopoulos started having similar calls with the “very shady person” that Durham has made the centerpiece of his case against Danchenko.

The January 6 Militia Witnesses Are Cooperating with DOJ, Probably Not the January 6 Committee

Liz Cheney made a comment in Thursday’s public hearing that has attracted some attention. As part of her explanation that the January 6 investigation is ongoing, she said,

As we present these initial findings, keep two points in mind. First, our investigation is still ongoing. So what we make public here will not be the complete set of information we will ultimately disclose. And second, the Department of Justice is currently working with cooperating witnesses and has disclosed to date only some of the information it has identified from encrypted communications and other sources.

Some have wondered whether this reflects some kind of insight into where the DOJ investigation is headed.

I doubt that Cheney’s comment reflects any greater insight into where DOJ is headed than I’ve gotten from tracking DOJ’s investigation closely, though as I’ll explain below, the Committee undoubtedly has non-public insight into how the militias coordinated with those close to Trump. (One possible — and important — exception to this assumption might be Joshua James, the Oath Keeper who is known to have testified in an NYPD inquiry targeting Roger Stone associate Sal Greco.)

While the Committee showed clips of depositions it had with Stewart Rhodes (pleading the Fifth in response to a question about arming members), Enrique Tarrio (expressing regret he didn’t monetize the Stand Back and Stand By comment), and Jeremy Bertino (who is Person-1 in the sedition indictment charging the Proud Boy leaders and who told the Committee that membership tripled in response to Trump’s comment), the more substantive claims about the militias on Thursday always cited the indictments against them, not evidence independently gathered by the Committee.

For example, Cheney described how Trump’s December 19, 2020 tweet, “initiated a chain of events. The tweet led to the planning for what occurred on January 6, including by the Proud Boys, who ultimately led the invasion of the Capitol and the violence on that day.” In his questioning of documentarian Nick Quested, Bennie Thompson likewise cited the indictment against the Proud Boys for claims about the lead-up to the attack.

To be sure, Thompson laid out details of the attack that are not generally known, but which are public: the Proud Boys skipped Trump’s speech and kicked off their attack to coincide with the Joint Session, not Trump’s speech; the Proud Boys first attacked at the site where the mob soon to be led by Alex Jones would arrive. I’ve laid out some of these dynamics in this post, and the Sedition Hunters have developed two detailed timelines that show how this worked, one describing the phases of the attack, and another capturing key communications of those implicated in it.

I’ve likewise noted what Cheney has: The Proud Boys — and virtually everyone else who organized in advance — responded to Trump’s tweet as if it was an order. I’ve also described — in a post called, “Back Was Stood, And By Was Stood: The Passive Voice Behind the Top Down Structure of the Charles Donohoe Statement of Offense” — how in cooperating witness Charles Donohoe’s Statement of Offense, DOJ for the first time used the passive voice to describe how the riot was announced.

[T]he foundation of that hierarchy that is so remarkable.

On December 19, 2020, plans were announced for a protest event in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, which protest would coincide with Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.

On or before December 20, 2020, Tarrio approached Donohoe and solicited his interest in joining the leadership of a new chapter of the Proud Boys, called the Ministry of Self Defense (“MOSD”). Donohoe understood from Tarrio that the new chapter would be focused on the planning and execution of national rallies and would consist of hand-selected “rally” boys. Donohoe felt privileged to be included and agreed to participate.

Close to every other filing in the January 6 case that mentions the announcement of these plans actually cites what was taken as the formal announcement: Trump’s tweet, in response to which hundreds if not thousands of rioters began to make plans to come to DC.

Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud ‘more than sufficient’ to swing victory to Trump https://t.co/D8KrMHnFdK . A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!

The import of that December 19 tweet was clear even in real time; the NYT and WaPo recently returned to the central role it plays in a great number of January 6 cases.

But this statement of offense instead presents what was viewed as an order from Trump in the passive voice: “Plans were announced.” Trump announced those plans, as every other charging document makes clear.

And the next day, in response to that announcement, Tarrio started building that top-down hierarchical structure that would go on to intentionally assault the Capitol and cops.

There are many things this statement of offense does with that masterful use of the passive voice. It implicates, without mentioning, people like Peter Navarro and Ali Alexander, the former because he was mentioned in the tweet and the latter because he was organizing it. The statement of offense makes clear that Tarrio told Donohoe and other Ministry of Self Defense leaders about what their plan was, but doesn’t reveal what he has shared, particularly what he shared about direct planning with people close to Trump. Indeed, the language of the statement of offense leaves open the possibility that Tarrio was moving on this even before the public launch of the riot by Trump.

But most importantly, without naming him, this structure puts Trump at the head of that hierarchy that bears top-down responsibility for the intentional violence and damage in the service of obstructing the vote certification.

The implication from the Statement of Offense is that Donohoe learned certain things starting on December 20 that he has shared with prosecutors. One reason I’m pretty sure that prosecutors haven’t shared it with the Committee, yet, is because Donohoe’s cooperation does not show up in the discovery index provided to the defendants themselves on May 12, over a month after Donohoe flipped, which prosecutors filed publicly last week. Similarly, prosecutors have not yet explicitly told defense attorneys the person who shared a plan with Tarrio talking about occupying the Capitol, though they have the returns for Tarrio’s phone that should help defense attorneys learn that person’s identity.

(I do wonder whether a challenge to a very recent call records subpoena from the Committee by Russian-American Kristina Malimon, discovered by Kyle Cheney, not to mention the high profile former Trump impeachment lawyers representing her, means the Committee thinks they’ve figured out the person’s identity, though.)

The schedule of upcoming January 6 hearings explains one reason why Cheney referenced the ongoing investigation when citing DOJ’s cooperating witnesses:

  • June 13: The Big Lie
  • June 15: Decapitate DOJ
  • June 16: Pressuring Pence
  • June 21: Pressuring the States
  • Hearing 6: Trump Assembles a Mob and Sics it on Congress
  • Hearing 7: Trump Does Nothing as Capitol Is Attacked

The dates for the last two hearings, hearings that will include details about how the Proud Boys paused their attack to await reinforcements brought by Alex Jones, opened a second front in seeming coordination with the Oath Keepers and Jones, and considered a second assault until learning the National Guard had finally been deployed, are not known yet. Whenever they are, though, they’ll come after June 21, and therefore after the June 17 discovery deadline in the Proud Boy Leaders case. DOJ has said they won’t supersede the Leaders indictment beyond what it currently is (meaning no more co-conspirators will be added to it). But the fates of Persons-1 (Bertino), -2, and -3 are up in the air right now, as well as a number of charged Proud Boys (like Ron Loehrke), who played key roles in the tactical success of the attack but who have not yet been indicted. Similarly, the fates of those known to coordinate most closely with the militias — Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and Ali Alexander — remain uncertain.

Who knows? Their fates may be less uncertain between now and the last Committee hearing!

To be clear: as Chairman Thompson told Jake Tapper this week, the Committee does know of some of the coordination. I’ve heard of a communication implicating Stone that I believe the Committee has. Alex Jones complained about how many communications the Committee — specifically those of Cindy Chafian and Caroline Wren — had obtained, and one or both of them also communicated with Tarrio. A key focus of the testimony of Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence — and surely, Katrina Pierson, whom Stone and his associates have tried to blame for the attack — described their panic after Trump told his mob to walk to the Capitol. That testimony must explain why Pierson fought so hard to keep Wren’s chosen speakers, including Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, Brandon Straka, and others, off the stage. This fight also shows up in Mark Meadows’ texts. And Ali Alexander testified for eight hours; we’ll see how successfully the Committee debunked his already-debunked cover story, but Alexander lost his shit during the hearing on Thursday. The role of the Stop the Steal effort in delivering bodies to the right places at the Capitol is the most important known coordination from the day of the attack.

Rudy Giuliani also had communications with Proud Boy associate James Sullivan, Mike Flynn had some ties to militias (especially the First Amendment Praetorians), and Sidney Powell was paying for the defense of a number of militia members.

The Committee knows a great deal about how Trump’s mob got directed to the Capitol. But I suspect they’re still waiting to learn all the details that cooperating witnesses have provided.


Known cooperating witnesses

Oath Keepers

Jon Schaffer: The substance of Schaffer’s cooperation against the Oath Keepers is still not clear (and could well extend beyond them).

Graydon Young: Young interacted with Roger Stone in the weeks leading up to the attack, may know details of the alliance struck between Proud Boys and Florida Oath Keepers, and was part of the First Stack to bust into the Capitol; he also implicated his sister.

Mark Grods: Grods was the first Oath Keeper who was present at the Willard the day of the attack to flip, and likely provided details of the QRF and implicated Joshua James.

Caleb Berry: Berry would provide more details of Oath Keeper activities, potentially implicating Stone, in Florida, and also was witness to the attempt to hunt down Nancy Pelosi.

Jason Dolan: Dolan would explain why he and Kenneth Harrelson were waiting at the top of the East Stairs when the First Stack, Joe Biggs and his co-travelers, and Alex Jones and Ali Alexander converged there before the door was opened from the inside.

Joshua James: James called in reports from someone who is almost certainly Stone the day of the attack, participated in key discussions with Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, and Mike Simpson during the attack, and was closely involved in Rhodes’ continued efforts after January 6.

Brian Ulrich: Ulrich would provide details of planning specific to Georgia Oath Keepers and the advance planning in December.

Todd Wilson:  Wilson would explain the mobilization of the North Carolina Oath Keepers; he also witnessed a call Rhodes made to someone close to Trump after the riot.

Proud Boys

Matthew Greene: Greene will explain details of the communications involved the day of the attack and the specific goal to pressure Mike Pence.

Charles Donohoe: Donohoe will provide prosecutors an inside understanding of how the leadership of the Proud Boys worked, including with whom Tarrio may have been working starting in December and details about Tarrio’s arrest, which led Donohoe to try to fill in.

Louis Colon: A Kansas City Proud Boy who received perhaps the most favorable deal will undoubtedly implicate his co-conspirators and describe how the cell structure of the Proud Boys worked on January 6; he may also provide important debunking of someone who had been an FBI informant the day of the attac.

Others

Gina Bisignano: Bisignano cooperated against her fellow SoCal anti-maskers, but in the light of Carl Nichols’ rejection of DOJ’s application of obstruction, is attempting to withdraw her guilty plea. A hearing on her attempt to withdraw her plea will be held on June 22. She has not withdrawn her stated intent, one directly influenced by Trump’s speech, to pressure Mike Pence.

Josiah Colt: Colt cooperated against his co-conspirators, Ronnie Sandlin and Nate DeGrave, describing how they armed themselves and helped open both the East Door and the Senate Gallery.

Klete Keller: The substance of Keller’s cooperation is not known.

Jacob Fracker: Fracker testified against fellow VA cop Thomas Robertson.

Robert Lyon: Lyon testified against his co-defendant, Dustin Thompson.

Misdemeanor cooperators

Virtually all plea deals require the defendant to share their social media and sit for an interview with the FBI. A handful of defendants are known to have convinced prosecutors to drop or hold off felony charges by providing limited cooperation (including sharing encrypted communications) in advance. They are believed to include:

Jeff Finley: Finley was a co-traveler of Proud Boy Zach Rehl on January 6.

Brandon Straka: Straka who was among those excluded from speaking on January 6,  was on Ali Alexander’s Stop the Steal listserv, and spent time with Mike Flynn before heading to the Capitol.

Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet: Baked Alaska could share communications involving white nationalists like Nick Fuentes. But Gionet fucked up his plea colloquy, so prosecutors can charge him with a felony incorporating his cooperation if he doesn’t plead by July 10 (not like I’m counting days but that’s less than a month away).

Jacob Hiles: Hiles cooperated against Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley and his buddy James Horning.

Father and son Proud Boy pair Jeffrey and Jeremy Grace likely also avoided felony exposure by cooperating (though Jeffrey’s plea just got pushed back two weeks); they spent much of January 6 with Ron Loehrke.

There Was No Crime Predicating the Durham Investigation

Deep in a NYT piece that suggests but does not conclude that John Durham’s purpose is to feed conspiracy theories, Charlie Savage writes,

Mr. Barr’s mandate to Mr. Durham appears to have been to investigate a series of conspiracy theories.

That’s as close as any traditional media outlet has come to looking at the flimsy predication for Durham’s initial appointment.

Billy Barr, however, has never hidden his goal. In his memoir, he describes returning to government — with an understanding about the Russian investigation gleaned from the propaganda bubble of Fox News, not any firsthand access to the evidence — with a primary purpose of undermining the Russian investigation. He describes having to appoint Durham to investigate what he believed, again based off Fox propaganda, to be a bogus scandal.

I would soon make the difficult decision to go back into government in large part because I saw the way the President’s adversaries had enmeshed the Department of Justice in this phony scandal and were using it to hobble his administration. Once in office, it occupied much of my time for the first six months of my tenure. It was at the heart of my most controversial decisions. Even after dealing with the Mueller report, I still had to launch US Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the genesis of this bogus scandal.

In his shameless excuses for bypassing MLAT to grill foreigners about their role in the investigation, Barr describes “ha[ving] to run down” whether there was anything nefarious about the intelligence allies shared with the US — a rather glorified description for “chasing George Papadopoulos’ conspiracy theories around the globe.”

Durham’s investigation was up and running by the late spring. Pending IG Horowitz’s completion of his review of Crossfire Hurricane, I asked Durham to focus initially on any relevant activities by the CIA, NSA, or friendly foreign intelligence services. One of the more asinine aspects of media coverage about Durham’s investigation was all the heavy breathing during the summer as news seeped out that I had contacts with foreign governments on Durham’s behalf. Various journalists and commentators claimed this indicated that I was personally conducting the investigation and suggested there was something nefarious about my communicating with allied governments about Russiagate. [sic] This coverage was a good example of the kind of partisan nonsense that passes as journalism these days.

One of the questions that had to be run down was whether allied intelligence services had any role in Russiagate [sic] or had any relevant information. One question was whether US officials had asked foreign intelligence services to spy on Americans. Various theories of potential involvement by British, Australian, or Italian intelligence agencies had been raised over the preceding two years. Talking to our allies about these matters was an essential part of the investigation. It should not surprise anyone that a prosecutor cannot just show up on the door- step of a foreign intelligence agency and start asking questions. An introduction and explanation at more senior levels is required. So— gasp!—I contacted the relevant foreign ambassadors, who in turn put me in touch with an appropriate senior official in their country with authority to deal with such matters. These officials quite naturally wanted to hear from me directly about the contours of the investigation and how their information would be protected.

Much later, when Barr claimed that Durham would not lower DOJ standards just to obtain results, Barr again described an investigation launched to “try to get to the bottom of what happened” rather than investigate a potential crime.

I acknowledged that what had happened to President Trump in 2016 was abhorrent and should not happen again. I said that the Durham investigation was trying to get to the bottom of what happened but “cannot be, and it will not be, a tit-for-tat exercise.” I pledged that Durham would adhere to the department’s standards and would not lower them just to get results. I then added a point, meant to temper any expectation that the investigation would necessarily produce any further indictments:

[W]e have to bear in mind [what] the Supreme Court recently re- minded [us] in the “Bridgegate” case—there is a difference between an abuse of power and a federal crime. Not every abuse of power, no matter how outrageous, is necessarily a federal crime.

And then Durham lowered DOJ standards and charged two false statement cases for which he had (and has, in the case of Igor Danchenko) flimsy proof and for which, in the case of Michael Sussmann, he had not tested the defendant’s sworn explanation before charging. Durham further lowered DOJ standards by turning false statement cases into uncharged conspiracies he used to make wild unsubstantiated allegations about a broad network of others.

This entire three year process was launched with no evidence that a crime was committed, and it seems likely that only the Kevin Clinesmith prosecution, which DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz handed Durham months after he was appointed as a fait accompli and which could easily have been prosecuted by the DC US Attorney’s Office, provided an excuse to convene a grand jury to start digging in the coffers of Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie.

There was no crime. Durham was never investigating a suspected crime and then, as statutes of limitation started expiring, he hung a conspiracy theory on a claimed false statement for which he had no solid proof. Eight months into Durham repeating those conspiracy theories at every turn — conspiracy theories that Durham admitted would not amount to a crime in any case! — a jury told Durham he had inadequate proof a crime was committed and that the entire thing had been a waste of time and resources.

“The government had the job of proving beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said, declining to give her name. “We broke it down…as a jury. It didn’t pan out in the government’s favor.”

Asked if she thought the prosecution was worthwhile, the foreperson said: “Personally, I don’t think it should have been prosecuted because I think we have better time or resources to use or spend to other things that affect the nation as a whole than a possible lie to the FBI. We could spend that time more wisely.”

Compare that to the Russian investigation, which was started to figure out which Trump associate had advance knowledge of Russia’s criminal hack-and-leak operation and whether they had any criminal exposure in it. Here’s how Peter Strzok described it in his book:

[A]gents often don’t even know the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. They have a term for that: an unknown subject, or UNSUB, which they use when an activity is known but the specific person conducting that activity is not — for instance, when they are aware that Russia is working to undermine our electoral system in concert with a presidential campaign but don’t know exactly who at that campaign Russia might be coordinating with or how many people might be involved.

To understand the challenges of an UNSUB case, consider the following three hypothetical scenarios. In one, a Russian source tells his American handler that, while out drinking at an SVR reunion, he learned that a colleague had just been promoted after a breakthrough recruitment of an American intelligence officer in Bangkok. We don’t know the identity of the recruited American — he or she is an UNSUB. A second scenario: a man and a woman out for a morning run in Washington see a figure toss a package over the fence of the Russian embassy and speed off in a four-door maroon sedan. An UNSUB.

Or consider this third scenario: a young foreign policy adviser to an American presidential campaign boasts to one of our allies that the Russians have offered to help his candidate by releasing damaging information about that candidate’s chief political rival. Who actually received the offer of assistance from the Russians? An UNSUB.

[snip]

The FFG information about Papadopoulos presented us with a textbook UNSUB case. Who received the alleged offer of assistance from the Russians? Was it Papadopoulos? Perhaps, but not necessarily. We didn’t know about his contacts with Mifsud at the time — all we knew was that he had told the allied government that the Russians had dirt on Clinton and Obama and that they wanted to release it in a way that would help Trump.

The answer, by the way, was that at least two Trump associates had advance knowledge, George Papadopoulos and Roger Stone, and Stone shared his advance knowledge with Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump, among others. By all appearances, DOJ was still investigating whether Stone had criminal exposure tied to his advance knowledge when Barr interfered in that investigation in February 2020, a fact that Barr hid until the day before the 2020 election.

With the Russian investigation, there was a crime: a hack by a hostile nation-state of a Presidential candidate, along with evidence that her opponent at least knew about the related leak campaign in advance. With the Durham investigation, there were only Fox News conspiracy theories and the certainty that Donald Trump shouldn’t be held accountable for encouraging Russia to hack his opponent.

The fact that this entire three year wild goose hunt was started without any predicating crime is all the more ridiculous given Durham’s repeated focus both on the predication of Crossfire Hurricane (in criticizing Horowitz’s report on Carter Page) and the Alfa Bank inquiry (during the Sussmann trial). John Durham, appointed to investigate conspiracy theories, deigns to lecture others about appropriate predication.

And that’s undoubtedly why, in the face of this humiliating result for Durham, Billy Barr is outright lying about what Durham’s uncharged conspiracy theories revealed about the predication of the Russian investigation.

He and his team did an exceptionally able job, both digging out very important facts and presenting a compelling case to the jury. And the fact that he … well, he did not succeed in getting a conviction from the DC jury, I think he accomplished something far more important, which is he brought out the truth in two important areas. First, I think he crystalized the central role played by the Hillary campaign in launching — as a dirty trick — the whole RussiaGate [sic] collusion [sic] narrative and fanning the flames of it, and second, I think, he exposed really dreadful behavior by the supervisors in the FBI, the senior ranks of the FBI, who knowingly used this information to start an investigation of Trump and then duped their own agents by lying to them and refusing to tell them what the real source of that information was.

That’s not what the trial showed, of course. Every witness who was asked about the centrality of the Alfa Bank allegations responded that there were so many other ties between Trump and Russia that the Alfa Bank allegations didn’t much stick out. Here’s how Robby Mook described it in questioning by Michael Bosworth.

[I]t was one of many pieces of information we had. And, in fact, every day, you know, Donald Trump was saying things about Putin and saying things about Russia. So this was a constituent piece of information among many pieces of information, and I don’t think we saw it as this silver bullet that was going to conclude the campaign and, you know, determine the outcome, no.

Q. There were a lot of Trump/Russia issues you were focused on?

A. Correct.

Q. And this was one of many?

A. Correct.

In response to questioning by Sean Berkowitz, Marc Elias traced the increased focus on Russia to Trump’s own request for Russia to hack Hillary.

Q. Let’s take a look — let me ask a different question. At some point in the summer of 2016, did Candidate Trump make any statements publicly about the hack?

A. Yes.

Q. What do you recall him saying and when?

A. There was a publication of emails, of DNC emails, in the days leading up to the Democratic National Convention. And it was in my opinion at the time clearly an effort by Russia to ruin what is the one clean shot that candidates get to talk to the American public. Right? The networks give you free coverage for your convention. And in the days before the convention, there was a major leak. And rather than doing what any decent human being might do and condemn it, Donald Trump said: I hope Russia is listening and, if so, will find the 30,000 Hillary Clinton emails that he believed existed and release them. That’s what I remember.

Q. Did you feel the campaign was under attack, sir?

A. We absolutely were under attack.

Q. And in connection with that, were there suggestions or possibilities at least in your mind and in the campaign’s mind that there could be a connection between Russia and Trump?

A. Again, this is, you know — this was public — Donald Trump — you know, the Republican Party historically has been very anti-Russia. Ronald Reagan was like the most anti-communist, the most anti-Soviet Union president.

And all of a sudden you had this guy who becomes the nominee; and they change the Russian National Committee platform to become pro-Russian and he has all these kind things to say about Putin. And then he makes this statement.

And in the meantime, he has hired, you know, Paul Manafort, who is, you know, I think had some ties to — I don’t recall anymore, but it was some pro-Russia thing in Ukraine.

So yeah. I thought that there were — I thought it was plausible. I didn’t know, but I thought it was an unusual set of circumstances and I thought it was plausible that Donald Trump had relations with — through his company with Russia.

Democrats didn’t gin up the focus on Trump’s ties to Russia, Trump’s own begging for more hacking did.

The trial also showed that this wasn’t an investigation into Trump. Rather, it was opened as an investigation into Kirkland & Ellis client Alfa Bank, which FBI believed had ties to Russian intelligence.

The investigation even considered whether Alfa Bank was victimizing Trump Organization.

Barr is similarly lying about whether supervisors revealed the source(s) of this information and what it was.

The source for the allegations was not Hillary, but researchers. And the trial presented repeated testimony that David Dagon’s role as one source of the allegations being shared with investigative agents. That detail was not hidden, but agents nevertheless never interviewed Dagon.

And even the purported tie to the Democrats was not well hidden. Indeed, the trial evidence shows that the FBI believed the DNC to be the source of the allegations, and that detail leaked down to various agents — including the two cyber agents, Nate Batty and Scott Hellman, whose shoddy analysis encouraged all other agents to dismiss the allegations — via various means.

Andrew DeFilippis made great efforts (efforts that lowered DOJ standards) to claim differently, but the evidence that key investigators assumed this was a DNC tip was fairly strong.

Three years after launching an investigation into conspiracy theories, Barr is left lying, claiming he found the result he set out to find three years ago. But the evidence — and the jury’s verdict — proves him wrong.

For years, Durham has been seeking proof that the predication of the Russian investigation was faulty. The only crime he has proven in the interim is that his own investigation was predicated on Fox News conspiracy theories.

John Durham Is Prosecuting Michael Sussmann for Sharing a Tip on Now-Sanctioned Alfa Bank

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During his cross-examination of Jim Baker, Michael Sussmann’s lawyer Sean Berkowitz introduced the Electronic Communication that opened the investigation pertaining to the Alfa Bank anomaly. He did so, ostensibly, to show that when DeFilippis elicited Jim Baker to explain the predication of investigations, Baker claimed not to remember that an investigation into the Alfa Bank anomaly had been opened, and claimed not to remember that the EC erroneously said the investigation was a referral from DOJ.

Q. And you were aware, though, because the government showed you a document, that a particular file number here was opened up, correct?

A. I don’t — did I see that? I don’t remember seeing that yesterday.

Q. Let’s show — I don’t think they showed it to you yesterday. They showed it to you in one of your preparation exhibits.

A. Okay. Okay.

Baker should have known it because he was shown the Electronic Communication during an interview with Durham, but he had forgotten it on the stand. So this appeared to be yet another attempt to show Baker’s hot-and-cold running memory.

When Berkowitz moved to enter it into evidence, DeFilippis noted it was a government exhibit, suggesting they weren’t hiding it (even though they hadn’t shown it to Baker on the stand). Probably they would have introduced it when Alfa Bank case agent Allison Sands testifies, probably Monday.

But introducing it with Baker gave Sussmann an opportunity to lay out several huge problems with Durham’s case against him and ensure that DeFilippis has to deal with this EC with Sands.

First, there’s this: When the FBI opened an investigation into this anomaly, they considered it an investigation into Alfa Bank.

This was an investigation into Alfa Bank. Not an investigation into Donald Trump.

In the part of the EC that explains why they opened it, they repeat, again, that it’s an investigation into Alfa Bank. But they also opened it because the FBI was still trying to figure out what Trump associate got an advance heads up that the Russians were going to intervene to hurt Hillary. But even in the context of the fact that one of the agents investigating Crossfire Hurricane had been pulled back to Chicago to work on this investigation, the investigation was not into biological human Donald Trump, it was into corporate human Trump Organization.

Based on the information above, FBI Chicago has predicated a Full Counterintelligence investigation into the activities of ALFA BANK, in order to conduct further investigation regarding the extent and nature of the network communications between ALFA BANK and the TRUMP ORGANIZATION. This investigation will attempt to determine the validity of the information that was provided by the third-party entity, and to assess whether or not pose a threat to either the TRUMP ORGANIZATION, or United States national security.

In addition, FBI investigation [redacted] [CROSSFIRE HURRICANE] was predicated based on an allegation that a member of the TRUMP campaign had received a suggestion from the Russian Government, indicating that the Russian government could assist the TRUMP campaign with an anonymous release of information during the campaign, which would be a detriment to the HILLARY CLINTON campaign. Investigation in [redacted] has surfaced additional ties between the TRUMP campaign team and the Russian government.

Investigation of the communications between the Russian ALFA BANK and the TRUMP ORGANIZATION could provide additional insight about the connections between the TRUMP ORGANIZATION and Russia, and help to determine whether those ties pose a threat to United States national security.

This matter is being treated as a Sensitive Investigative Matter based on the fact that the TRUMP ORGANIZATION is affiliated with a current U.S. Presidential candidate. As such, FBI Chicago requests that FBIHQ/NSLB coordinate with the US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE to provide all appropriate notifications required by the DIOG.

So it was sensitive because it related to Trump Organization, and only through that corporate human, to the biological human who was a presidential candidate. Even there, the EC at least envisioned, appropriately, that Trump might be a victim of this, as he would be if someone were trying to infiltrate the campaign or his company.

And in fact, Durham’s own evidence supports the predication against Alfa. The script that Durham falsely suggested (he will be disproven on this point later) were the basis for the research in the technical white paper was focused on Alfa Bank.

There is another that includes the anomalous mail server in question, right next to dcleaks — a query that may well have returned data on Roger Stone’s pre-public searches on the domain, and in any case, since this was entered as a government exhibit, should have obliged Durham to turn over details of these Stone searches.

It’s only a request from July 2017 — probably in conjunction with Dan Jones’ attempt to chase down this anomaly — that the searches were called “Trump query jobs,” and even there, one was focused on Alfa Bank.

The FBI viewed this as an investigation into Alfa Bank, and Joffe’s data requests actually reinforce that.

That creates three problems for Durham.

First, on redirect, DeFilippis got his star cyber agent Scott Hellman, to offer up this explanation for why he found the white paper crap when the counterintelligence people saw something more. It’s about the data, his star witness said.

Q. Now the counterintelligence division, when they look at information like this, are they looking at it with an eye towards the same issues or different issues from the cyber division?

A. Um, I think they’d probably be looking at it from the same vantage point, but if you’re not — you don’t have experience looking at technical logs, you may not have the capability of doing a review of those logs. You might rely on somebody else to do it. And perhaps counterintelligence agents are going to be thinking about other investigative questions. So I guess it would probably be a combination of both.

Never mind that the evidence shows that Hellman didn’t look closely at the data, which caused him to make a false claim in his own assessment of it. He should know that this tied in with the investigation into whom, in Trump’s camp, got advance notice that Russia was going to attack Hillary, because he was on an email that his boss, Nate Batty, sent laying out how the guy investigating George Papadopoulos had been called back to Chicago to also look at this.

Curtis has been working (TDY) the election issues and has been called back by CD to work matters related to this white paper. CG had a copy of the white paper I forwarded to you from CD channels, and was inquiring as to whether ECOU 1 had any logs or other data from the referenced server.

Sure, maybe his comment about “other investigative questions” covers Hellman here. But the reason CD looked at this differently is because they were hunting for the Trump associate who got advance notice of the hack-and-leak. Hellman knows that.

Another problem this creates for Durham is that — as laid out here — he accused Michael Sussmann of lying about sharing allegations about “a Presidential candidate.”

As Sussmann noted in a recent filing summarizing conflicting views on jury instructions, Durham’s indictment describes Sussmann’s alleged lie this way:

[O]n or about September 19, 2016, the defendant stated to the General Counsel of the FBI that he was not acting on behalf of any client in conveying particular allegations concerning a Presidential candidate, when in truth, and in fact, and as the defendant knew well, he was acting on behalf of specific clients, namely, Tech Executive-1 and the Clinton Campaign.

Never mind that Durham characterized the allegations as pertaining to “a Presidential candidate,” which presents other problems for Durham, he has also accused Sussmann of lying about having two clients.

Mr. Sussmann proposes modifying the last sentence as follows, as indicated by underlining: Specifically, the Indictment alleges that, on or about September 19, 2016, Mr. Sussmann, did willfully and knowingly make a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement or representation in a matter before the FBI, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2), namely, that Mr. Sussmann stated to the General Counsel of the FBI that he was not acting on behalf of any client in conveying particular allegations concerning Donald Trump, when, in fact, he was acting on behalf of specific clients, namely, Rodney Joffe and the Clinton Campaign.5 The government objects to the defense’s proposed modification since it will lead to confusion regarding charging in the conjunctive but only needing to prove in the disjunctive.

4 Authority: Indictment.

5 Authority: Indictment.

Durham’s language about “conjunctive” versus “disjunctive” will likely be the matter for heated debate next week. Particularly in the wake of Cooper’s decision that the materials from the researchers won’t come in as evidence, Durham seems to be preparing to prove only that Sussmann lied about representing Hillary, and not about Joffe. Sussmann, meanwhile, seems to believe that Durham will have to prove that his alleged lie was intended to hide both alleged clients.

At least the people who opened this investigation didn’t see these allegations to pertain to Donald Trump, biological human They viewed them, first and foremost, as an allegation about Alfa Bank, and secondarily as an allegation about corporate human, Trump Organization.

This distinction will show up over and over again in the next week.

Finally, this goes to materiality. There was no way FBI was going to take allegations that might explain who got advance notice of the hack-and-leak attack on Hillary and not see if it answered that question. Durham wants to complain that this got opened as a Full Investigation when the allegations weren’t that strong. They weren’t! But the reason why it got opened as a Full Investigation is because Crossfire Hurricane had already been opened as a Full Investigation looking for the unknown subject who had gotten a heads up on Russia’s attack plans,

Sussmann has both Jonathan Moffa (who is included on this opening EC) and Michael Horowitz slotted as witnesses next week. He explicitly said that Moffa will address materiality and, depending on how things go, Horowitz’s determination that CH was properly predicated as a Full Investigation might become an issue as well.

In other words, Durham is going to have to talk about Crossfire Hurricane.

And from there, things could get worse, because we know Durham didn’t provide discovery to allow Sussmann to fully argue these issues.

John Durham is prosecuting Michael Sussmann because he brought allegations to the FBI about a bank that has now been sanctioned as part of an effort to halt Russia’s efforts to dismantle democracies in Ukraine and elsewhere, including the United States. Yet for months, he has claimed that such a tip did grave damage to Donald Trump.

Other Sussmann trial coverage

Scene-Setter for the Sussmann Trial, Part One: The Elements of the Offense

Scene-Setter for the Sussmann Trial, Part Two: The Witnesses

The Founding Fantasy of Durham’s Prosecution of Michael Sussmann: Hillary’s Successful October Surprise

With a Much-Anticipated Fusion GPS Witness, Andrew DeFilippis Bangs the Table

John Durham’s Lies with Metadata

emptywheel’s Continuing Obsession with Sticky Notes, Michael Sussmann Trial Edition

Brittain Shaw’s Privileged Attempt to Misrepresent Eric Lichtblau’s Privilege

The Methodology of Andrew DeFilippis’ Elaborate Plot to Break Judge Cooper’s Rules

Jim Baker’s Tweet and the Recidivist Foreign Influence Cheater

That Clinton Tweet Could Lead To a Mistrial (or Reversal on Appeal)

Like the January 6 Investigation, the Mueller Investigation Was Boosted by Congressional Investigations

Midway through an article on which Glenn Thrush — who as far as I recall never covered the Russian investigation and has not yet covered the January 6 investigation — has the lead byline, the NYT claims that it is unusual for a congressional committee to receive testimony before a grand jury investigation does.

The Justice Department has asked the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack for transcripts of interviews it is conducting behind closed doors, including some with associates of former President Donald J. Trump, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

The move is further evidence of the wide-ranging nature of the department’s criminal inquiry into the events leading up to the assault on the Capitol and the role played by Mr. Trump and his allies as they sought to keep him in office after his defeat in the 2020 election.

[snip]

The Justice Department’s request for transcripts underscores how much ground the House committee has covered, and the unusual nature of a situation where a well-staffed congressional investigation has obtained testimony from key witnesses before a grand jury investigation. [my emphasis]

That’s simply false. This is precisely what happened with the Mueller investigation, and there’s good reason to believe that DOJ made a decision to facilitate doing the same back in July, in part to avoid some evidentiary challenges that Mueller had difficulties with, most notably Executive Privilege challenges.

First, let’s look at how Mueller used the two Congressional investigations.

At the start, he asked witnesses to provide him the same materials they were providing to Congress. I believe that in numerous cases, the process of complying with subpoenas led witnesses to believe such subpoenas were the only way Mueller was obtaining information. Trump Organization, especially, withheld a number of documents from Mueller and Congress, including direct contacts with Russian officials and a Steve Bannon email referencing Russian involvement in the election. By obtaining a warrant for Trump Transition materials held by GSA and the Trump Organization emails of Michael Cohen hosted by Microsoft, Mueller got records the subjects of the investigation were otherwise hiding. Steve Bannon, too, falsely told Mueller he didn’t use his personal accounts for campaign business, only to discover Mueller had obtained those records by the time of his October 2018 interview. Surprising witnesses with documents they had been hiding appears to have been one of the ways Mueller slowly coaxed Bannon and Cohen closer to the truth.

We should assume for key figures in the vicinity of Ali Alexander and John Eastman, the same is happening with the January 6 investigation: the very people who’ve been squealing about complying with subpoenas or call records served on their providers are likely ones DOJ obtained covert warrants for.

Then there are the prosecutions that arose entirely out of Congressional interviews. There were three Mueller prosecutions that arose out of Committee investigations.

Perhaps the most interesting was that of Sam Patten — whose interview materials are here. He had an interview with SSCI on January 5, 2018, where he appears to have lied about using a straw donor to buy Inauguration tickets for Konstantin Kilimnik. By March 20, the FBI attempted their first interview of Patten, after which Patten deleted some emails about Cambridge Analytica. And when Mueller did interview Patten on May 22, they already had the makings of a cooperation deal. After getting Patten to admit to the straw purchase and also to violating FARA — the latter of which he would plead guilty months later, on August 31 — Patten then provided a ton of information about how Kilimnik worked and what he had shared with Patten about his role in the 2016 operation, much of which still remained sealed as part of an ongoing investigation in August 2021. Patten had two more interviews in May then appeared before the grand jury, at which he shared more information about how Kilimnik was trying to monitor the investigation. He had two more interviews before pleading guilty, then at least two more after that.

Not only did Patten share information that likely served as part of a baseline for an understanding about Russia’s use of Ukraine to interfere in US politics and provided investigators with an understanding of what the mirror image to Paul Manafort looked like, but this remained secret from much of the public for three months.

It’s less clear precisely when SSCI shared Cohen’s lies with Mueller. But in the same period, both Mueller and SDNY were developing parallel investigations of him. But by the time Cohen pled guilty in SDNY (also in August 2018), Mueller had the evidence to spend almost three months obtaining information from Cohen as well before he entered into a separate plea agreement with Mueller in which he admitted to the secret communications with the Kremlin that he and Trump lied to hide.

Meanwhile, HPSCI’s much more hapless investigation proved a way to get a limited hangout prosecution of Roger Stone. By May 2018, when Mueller developed evidence showing not just ways that Stone was obstructing his own investigation but also how Stone attempted to craft lies to tell to the Committee — coordinated with Jerome Corsi and reliant on threats to Randy Credico — it provided a way to prosecute Stone while protecting Mueller’s ongoing investigation into whether Stone conspired with Russia.

And by all public appearances at the time, it appeared that Congress was acting while Mueller was not. But that was false (and is probably false now). The entire time during which SSCI and HPSCI were taking steps with Cohen and Stone that would late become really useful to the criminal investigation, Mueller was taking active, albeit covert, steps in his own investigations of the two men (whether he was investigating Patten personally or just Kilimnik is uncertain). Mueller obtained his first warrants against Cohen and Stone in July and August, respectively. But no one knew that until the following spring. That is, Cohen and Stone and everyone else focused on Congress while Mueller got to investigate covertly for another nine months.

We should assume the same kind of thing is happening here. All the more so given the really delicate privilege issues raised by this investigation, including Executive, Attorney-Client, and Speech and Debate. When all is said and done, I believe we will learn that Merrick Garland set things up in July such that the January 6 Committee could go pursue Trump documents at the Archives as a co-equal branch of government bolstered by Biden waivers that don’t require any visibility into DOJ’s investigation. Privilege reviews covering Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and John Eastman’s communications are also being done. That is, this time around, DOJ seems to have solved a problem that Mueller struggled with. And they did so with the unsolicited help of the January 6 Committee.

Even those of us who’ve been covering DOJ’s January 6 prosecution day-to-day (unlike Thrush) have no way of saying what DOJ has been doing covertly in the last year — though it is public that they’ve been investigating Alex Jones, the purported new thrust of this investigation, since August.

What we know from recent history, however, is that DOJ’s use of Congress’ work in no way suggests DOJ hasn’t been doing its own.