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Friends of Sedition: The Networked January 6 Conspiracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update; Corrected Pelosi timing, per Nadezhda.

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

Trump Subpoena: The Revolution Will Not Be Signaled

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

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

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

The witness tampering one reads:

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

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

The Trump associates named in the subpoena include:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. Yes.

Q. You were upset about that?

A. I was.

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

A. I did.

Q. And you disagreed with that decision?

A. I did.

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

A. Yes.

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

A. Yes.

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

A. I did.

[snip]

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

A. They did.

[snip]

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

A. Correct.

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

A. Correct.

[snip]

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

[snip]

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

A. Correct.

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

A. Correct.

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

A. Correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

No One Puts Roger Stone in a Box

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

I’ve updated my nifty graphic accordingly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll come back to that number, 33.

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

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

Those over 100 break down this way, by location:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The word “pardon.”

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

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

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

Here’s what he said to Patrick Leahy.

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

Barr: No, that would be a crime.

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Barr Performed the Corruption He Was Trying To Deny

Perhaps I have a perverse sense of humor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barr should,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Barr Memo Relied on Covering Up the Ongoing Roger Stone Conspiracy Investigation

DOJ has released the memo that Ed O’Callaghan and Steven Engel used to claim there wasn’t evidence to charge Trump with obstruction.

A key part of it is a claim that the evidence in Volume I was “conclusive” that there wasn’t evidence to charge any of Trump’s flunkies with conspiring with Russia.

Only at least O’Callaghan knew that the evidence wasn’t conclusive. On Page 178, the Mueller Report they claimed was conclusive revealed that they had referred Stone for further investigation into whether he had conspired with Russian to hack.

The Office determined that it could not pursue a Section 1030 conspiracy charge against Stone for some of the same legal reasons. The most fundamental hurdles, though, are factual ones.1279

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

DOJ covered that footnote up for another 20 months, releasing it only the day before the 2020 election.

From that point forward, Barr had to make sure that DOJ wouldn’t pursue that investigation into Stone, because it would expose the lie at the core of his cover-up.

A Roger Stone Pardon for MacronLeaks Isn’t As Crazy as It Sounds

In April 2020, DOJ released the warrants from the Roger Stone investigation. With six of those, DOJ redacted broad swaths of the justifications behind the warrants, none of which were shared with him as part of his obstruction prosecution.

September 26, 2018: Mystery Twitter Account

September 27, 2018: Mystery Facebook and Instagram Accounts

September 27, 2018: Mystery Microsoft include Skype

September 27, 2018: Mystery Google

September 27, 2018: Mystery Twitter Accounts 2

October 5, 2018: Mystery Multiple Googles

All six were obtained by Patrick Myers, an FBI agent located in Pittsburgh, whereas almost all the warrants obtained before that were signed by agents located in DC (in earlier weeks, Myers had also obtained a warrant targeting a second account used by the GRU persona, Guccifer 2.0).

In his order releasing the warrants, Judge Christopher Cooper explained that all the redacted information (and so the information justifying these warrants) was redacted to protect, “the private information of non-parties, financial information, and non-public information concerning other pending criminal investigations.”

One of those warrants explicitly said that the government requested a gag on the provider involved (in that case, Twitter) because Roger Stone seemed not to understand the full extent of the investigation into him.

It does not appear that Stone is currently aware of the full nature and scope of the ongoing FBI investigation. Disclosure of this warrant to Stone could lead him to destroy evidence or notify others who may delete information relevant to the investigation.

In addition to the crimes for which Mueller declined to charge Stone (foreign donations) or of which he was convicted (witness tampering and obstructing an investigation), the warrant sought evidence of conspiracy (18 USC 371), two foreign agent laws (18 USC 951 and 22 USC 611), and computer hacking (18 USC 1030).

These warrants strongly suggest that in April 2020, as Bill Barr was making unprecedented efforts to limit Stone’s punishment for the crimes of which he had been convicted, DOJ continued to investigate whether Stone conspired with foreign entities — and given that a Guccifer 2.0 warrant is among this series, Russia would be that foreign entity — to engage in computer hacking.

That’s important background to the seizure from Trump’s office of document reflecting Executive Clemency for Stone that appears to have a link to a French President, possibly Emmanuel Macron.

If Stone were involved with the MacronLeaks operation on which the GRU teamed up with alt-Right figures in Stone’s orbit, it’s conceivable Trump secretly pardoned him to prevent him from being included in the indictment covering that operation.

Based on the FOIA exemptions in various versions of the Mueller Report released, the Stone investigation that continued after Mueller closed up shop appears to have been closed between September 18, 2020 and November 2, 2020. On the latter date — literally the day before the 2020 election — DOJ provided Jason Leopold a version of the Mueller Report with newly-unsealed passages. It revealed for the first time that, on page 178, a footnote modified the discussion in the body of the Report about whether Stone could be prosecuted for conspiring with Russia on computer hacking by explaining that Mueller had referred the issue to DC US Attorney’s Office for further investigation.

The Office determined that it could not pursue a Section 1030 conspiracy charge against Stone for some of the same legal reasons. The most fundamental hurdles, though, are factual ones.1279

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

A version of the report released to Leopold on June 3, 2019 redacted that footnote because of an ongoing investigation. And a spreadsheet justifying all continued redactions released on September 18, 2020 seems to have redacted it too. The unredacted publication of it on November 2, 2020 suggests whatever investigation in Stone DOJ had been pursuing had been closed.

Stone’s wasn’t the only investigation that got shut down in the months before Donald Trump would lose the presidency. In that period, previously redacted references to investigations into two of Paul Manafort’s businesses, and an investigation into a suspected $10 million cash infusion during the 2016 election from an Egyptian state-owned bank were unsealed — though both were unsealed by the time of that September filing. There was even reference to a warrant for Erik Prince’s phone, suggesting any investigation into him had similarly been shut down.

What made Stone’s case different, however, is that DOJ never told us what the investigation was about (indeed, two referrals that likely pertain to Stone were redacted in that November 2020 release, which they shouldn’t have been if the cases were really closed).

The most important referral from the Mueller investigation, then — the one that Billy Barr was hired to make go away — simply got deep-sixed sometime in the months when it looked like Trump would lose the election, with no explanation as to what the investigation even was. And, again, it appears to have happened between September 18 and November 2, 2020.

As it happens, DOJ rolled out an indictment against GRU on October 19, just 15 days before the election (and just 14 days before DOJ released the language pertaining to Stone). It covered six GRU attacks, though focused especially on the 2018 Olympic Destroyer attack on the Pyeongchang Olympics.

But it included, almost as a throwaway, GRU’s role in the 2017 MacronLeaks campaign. By description, it held just one of the charged individuals accountable for the spearphishing part of the MacronLeaks campaign: Anatoliy Kovalev, the one guy (as noted) also charged in the DNC hack.

Defendant ANATOLIY SERGEYEVICH KOVALEV was a Russian military intelligence officer assigned to Military Unit 74455. KOVALEV sent spearphishing emails targeting a wide variety of entities and individuals, including those associated with French local government entities, political parties, and campaigns; the 2018 Winter Olympics; the DSTL; and a Georgian media entity. KOVALEV also engaged in spearphishing campaigns for apparent personal profit, including campaigns targeting large Russian real estate companies, auto dealers, and cryptocurrency miners, as well as cryptocurrency exchanges located outside of Russia. KOVALEV is a charged defendant in federal indictment number 18-CR-215 in the District of Columbia. [my emphasis]

In the Mueller indictment of the GRU, Kovalev is described as the guy responsible for the hacking that targeted voting infrastructure — the kind of stuff that really could have affected the outcome, especially in North Carolina.

72. In or around July 2016, KOVALEV and his co-conspirators hacked the website of a state board of elections (“SBOE 1”) and stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth, and driver’s license numbers.

[snip]

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

76. In or around November 2016 and prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, KOVALEV and his co-conspirators used an email account designed to look like a Vendor 1 email address to send over 100 spearphishing emails to organizations and personnel involved in administering elections in numerous Florida counties. The spearphishing emails contained malware that the Conspirators embedded into Word documents bearing Vendor 1’s logo.

The Olympic Destroyer indictment obtained weeks before the election held Kovalev (and the GRU) accountable for the spearphish and communications with some French participants.

27. From on or about April 3, 2017, through on or about May 3, 2017 (during the days leading up to the May 7, 201 7, presidential election in France), the Conspirators conducted seven spearphishing campaigns targeting more than 100 individuals who were members of now-President Macron’s “La Republique En Marche!” (“En Marche!”) political party, other French politicians and high-profile individuals, and several email addresses associated with local French governments. The topics of these campaigns included public security announcements regarding terrorist attacks, email account lockouts, software updates for voting machines, journalist scoops on political scandals, En Marche! press relationships, and En Marchel internal cybersecurity recommendations.

28. KOVALEV participated in some of these campaigns. For example, on or about April 21, 2017, KOVALEV developed and tested a technique for sending spearphishing emails themed around file sharing through Google Docs. KOVALEV then crafted a malware-laced document entitled “Qui_peut_parler_ aux journalists.docx” (which translates to “Who can talk to journalists”) that purported to list nine En Marche! staff members who could talk to journalists about the previous day’s terrorist attack on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Later that day, the Conspirators used an email account that mimicked the name of then-candidate Macron’s press secretary to send a Google Docs-themed spearphishing email to approximately 30 En Marche! staff members or advisors, which purported to share this document.

29. From on or about April 12, 2017, until on or about April 26, 2017, a GRU-controlled social media account communicated with various French individuals offering to provide them with internal documents from En Marche! that the user(s) of the account claimed to possess.

But it professed utter and complete ignorance about how the stolen documents started to get leaked.

30. On or about May 3 and May 5, 2017, unidentified individuals began to leak documents purporting to be from the En Marche! campaign’s email accounts.

But they weren’t unidentified, at least not all of them! As a DFIR report released 15-months before this indictment laid out, while there was a Latvian IP address that hadn’t been publicly identified at that point (one the FBI surely had some ability to unpack), the American alt-right, including Stone associate Jack Posobiec, made the campaign go viral, all in conjunction with WikiLeaks.

First there was a rumor spread from that Latvian IP to 4Chan to William Craddick to Jack Posobiec.

Last but not least came the “#MacronGate” rumor. Two hours before the final televised debate between Macron and Le Pen, on Wednesday, May 3, at 7:00 p.m.,41 a user with a Latvian IP address posted two fake documents on 4chan. The documents suggested that Macron had a company registered in Nevis, a small Caribbean island, and a secret offshore bank account at the First Caribbean Bank, based in the Cayman Islands. Again, the rumor itself was not entirely new. Macron himself had seen it coming. More than two weeks earlier on TV he warned that this type of rumor was likely to appear: “This week, you will hear ‘Mr. Macron has a hidden account in a tax haven, he has money hidden at this or that place.’ This is totally false, I always paid all my taxes in France and I always had my accounts in France.”42 What was new this time, however, was the release of two documents supposedly proving this rumor. The user who posted the two documents on 4chan did it purposefully on the evening on the final televised debate to attract more attention, and even suggested a French hashtag: “If we can get #MacronCacheCash trending in France for the debates tonight, it might discourage French voters from voting Macron”43.

Then the rumor spread on Twitter. The 4chan link was first posted by Nathan Damigo, founder of the American neo-Nazi and white-supremacist group Identity Evropa, and was further circulated by William Craddick, founder of Disobedient Media and notorious for his contribution to the Pizzagate conspiracy theory that targeted the US Democratic Party during the 2016 American presidential campaign. The first real amplifier was Jack Posobiec—an American alt-right and pro-Trump activist with 111,000 followers at the time: his tweet was retweeted almost 3,000 times. Only after 10:00 p.m. did the rumor begin to spread in French, mostly through far-right accounts using the #MacronCacheCash hashtag. The first tweets in French seemed to have been automatically translated from English.44

[snip]

The same user with the Latvian IP address who posted the fake documents on Wednesday announced on Friday morning that more were coming, promising, “We will soon have swiftnet logs going back months and will eventually decode Macron’s web of corruption.”49 Those responsible for #MacronGate thereby provided evidence that they were the same people responsible for the #MacronLeaks that were released later that day.

Then there were the leaked files themselves, which followed the same pattern: an anonymous leak to Craddick to Posobiec to WikiLeaks.

The files were initially posted on Archive.org, an online library site, supposedly in the morning63 (the time of first release on the website cannot be determined, as these original threads have since been deleted). At 7:59 p.m., the links to the threads were posted on PasteBin, a file-sharing site, under the name “EMLEAKS.” At 8:35 p.m., they were shared on 4chan. Then came their appearance on Twitter: Craddick was again the first to share the link to the PasteBin dump at 8:47 p.m., quickly followed by Jack Posobiec at 8:49 p.m., who provided a link to the 4chan thread with, for the first time, the hashtag #MacronLeaks.64 Contrary to what would later become a widespread misconception, Posobiec was not the first to tweet, Craddick was. However, Posobiec was the first to use the hashtag that would lend its name to the entire operation, hence the confusion. Posobiec’s tweet and hashtag was retweeted eighty-seven times within five minutes. He later said he had been alerted to the incoming dump by the user with a Latvian IP address who had posted the #MacronGate fake documents two days prior: “The same poster of the financial documents said to stay tuned tomorrow for a bigger story–so I pretty much spent the next 24 hours hitting refresh on the site.”65

So far, this conversation was exclusively Anglophone. This makes it clear that the hashtag #MacronLeaks was launched and spread in the United States, by the American alt-right. It was WikiLeaks that internationalized the spread, at 9:31 p.m., by tweeting: “#MacronLeaks: A significant leak. It is not economically feasible to fabricate the whole. We are now checking parts,” with a link to the files on PasteBin. Only then came the first French amplifiers, who happened to be Le Pen supporters

MacronLeaks was, openly and proudly, a joint venture between the GRU, far right influencers in Stone’s immediate orbit, and WikiLeaks. It was an attempt to repeat the 2016 miracle that elected Donald Trump, by supporting the Russian-supporting Marine Le Pen by damaging Macron.

There’s something unusual about the indictment, too. Alone among the indictments obtained by the Pittsburgh US Attorney’s office that month (October 2020), it was the single one signed in wet blue ink by the US Attorney, Scott Brady. Both the copy released by DOJ and the one docketed in PACER also lacked a jury foreperson’s signature.

Admittedly, most of the indictments WDPA obtained that month were fairly podunk crimes that wouldn’t need heightened security: a fentanyl dealer, a cocaine dealer, two unhoused men charged with theft, an aggravated assault, manufacturing a controlled substance, Social Security fraud, VA benefit fraud, all were signed in black ink, at least some of them electronically. But a child sexual trafficking indictment and a CSAM possession indictment, both originally filed under seal, also bear the foreperson’s signature and that black ink signature. Even a ransomware indictment rolled out nationally on October 15 — which would have the same kind of international sensitivities and national coordination as the GRU indictment — had a normal jury foreperson’s signature.

While Brady was not a surprising choice for US Attorney in Pittsburgh (he had previously been an AUSA), he was perhaps the most politicized of Trump’s US Attorneys. He’s the guy whom Barr put in charge of ingesting the dirt on Hunter Biden that Rudy Giuliani was getting from suspected Russian agents.

To be clear: There’s no public allegation that Stone had anything to do with MacronLeaks, though HateWatch places him at a Milo Yiannopoulos party where MacronLeaks appears to have come up, after the leaks but before the French election. I’m not saying that Stone was involved in the MacronLeaks operation.

But the response to the Stone reference in the subpoena receipt has assumed that the Stone reference cannot be related to the French President reference, all assumptions made by journalists that never covered the ongoing aspects into whether Stone conspired with Russia on a hack. If Trump did issue his rat-fucker a secret pardon for follow-on cooperation with Russian hackers, though, it would explain a number of things about the aftermath of the Mueller investigation, including what happened to the investigation into whether Stone conspired with Russia on hacking campaigns.

For his part, Trump included a bit of a tirade about the Stone reference in his motion for a Special Master last night.

In addition, did the affiant to the warrant fairly disclose any pretextual “dual” purpose at work in obtaining the warrant? For example, the Receipt for Property largely fails to identify seized documents with particularity, but it does refer to the seizure of an item labelled “Executive Grant of Clemency re: Roger Jason Stone, Jr.” Aside from demonstrating that this was an unlawful general search, it also suggests that DOJ simply wanted the camel’s nose under the tent so they could rummage for either politically helpful documents or support other efforts to thwart President Trump from running again, such as the January 6 investigation.

This is legally and politically nonsensical. If the pardon is the known pardon, then it’s not politically damaging at all. If it’s a real pardon of any kind — as a pardon written on a cocktail napkin arguably would be — then it’s a Presidential Record and squarely within the scope of the warrant (which permits seizure of any Presidential record created during Trump’s term). If the information about the French President is part of the document and appears to be sensitive, then it would qualify as a likely classified document. If the pardon were found in Trump’s safe next to his leatherbound box of TS/SCI documents, then it would be covered by the proximal search protocol laid out in the warrant. The pardon was legally seized.

Trump’s claims are nonsensical. But they’re also the the kind of squealing that invites further attention to what the clemency document really is.

Maggie Haberman: Heads It’s Only Obstruction, Tails It’s Not Obstruction

Maggie Haberman had a column last week that pissed a lot of people off, in which she wrote 1,600 words presenting what she claimed were “the main possibilities” for why oh why Trump might have stolen Presidential documents.

The only reasons she could come up with were:

  • He gets his rocks off looking at important documents
  • He thinks he’s Louis XIV
  • He has a compulsion to rip up paper
  • He was collecting information about friends and foes

It was facile analysis and in two respects probably erroneous.

But it pissed me off less than it did others (at least at first) because I think it is important to remember that Trump’s narcissism explains a significant part of his theft.

Maggie’s an expert of Trump’s narcissism.

Still, at one level the document is a remarkable confession on Maggie’s part of her own inconsistencies as a Trump enabler (and as I said, in two ways, it may be factually wrong).

That’s because Maggie, who has covered this search for the same two weeks I have, doesn’t even mention the possibility laid out explicitly in search warrant: Obstruction.

To obtain this warrant, the government showed probable cause that Trump ripped up, flushed, and hid documents to obstruct investigations. But having (presumably) read that warrant, Maggie instead claims that Trump rips up documents just for shits and giggles.

Ripping up paper

Although Trump White House officials were warned about the proper handling of sensitive material, aides said Mr. Trump had little interest in the security of government documents or protocols to keep them protected.

Early on, Mr. Trump became known among his staff as a hoarder who threw all manner of paper — sensitive material, news clips and various other items — into cardboard boxes that a valet or other personal aide would cart around with him wherever he went.

Mr. Trump repeatedly had material sent up to the White House residence, and it was not always clear what happened to it. He sometimes asked to keep material after his intelligence briefings, but aides said he was so uninterested in the paperwork during the briefings themselves that they never understood what he wanted it for.

He also had a habit of ripping up paper, from routine documents to classified material, and leaving the pieces strewn around the floor or in a trash can. Officials would have to rummage through the shreds and tape them back together to recreate the documents in order to store them as required under the Presidential Records Act.

On some occasions, Mr. Trump would rip up documents — some with his handwriting on them — and throw the pieces in a toilet, which occasionally clogged the pipes in the White House. He did the same thing on at least two foreign trips, former officials said.

The government has told us all that they have shown probable cause that some of this ripping, flushing, and hiding was designed to withhold evidence from a, or multiple, investigations. But Maggie, apparently, either doesn’t understand that or decided without seeing the evidence that the government simply misunderstands Trump’s quirky ripping, flushing, and hiding fetish.

Where this column struck me as particularly ridiculous, however, is the way it’s a perfect mirror for Maggie’s Mueller investigation coverage.

With Mike Schmidt, after all, Maggie largely set the narrative that Mueller was only investigating Trump for obstructing the investigation. In July 2018 they reported as breaking news that Mueller was just investigating Trump for tweets, not what they called “collusion.” In August 2018, they kept repeating that word — obstruct obstruct obstruct obstruct obstruct obstruct obstruct obstruct obstruct obstruct obstruct obstruct obstruct obstruct — as if the only thing being investigated was obstruction. In February 2019, Maggie (with Peter Baker that time) spun Trump describing a bribe and not answering questions about the Stone indictment as the opposite. Last October, when Maggie complained about my piece quoting Roger Stone and Rick Gates describing how they used her and Ken Vogel, she claimed I had predicted Mueller would go further than he had — when the reality is that she has still uncorrected errors about the Manafort investigation, never reported on the investigation into whether Stone conspired with Russia that continued even after Mueller finished, and missed the bribery prong of the investigation. I’m also not aware that she ever matched the WaPo’s reporting that Mueller told Trump’s lawyers that the President was at risk, himself, of prosecution in the CFAA conspiracy with Russia, the same part of the Stone investigation she missed.

During the Mueller investigation, Maggie spent years reporting — falsely, the records unsealed since prove — that an investigation into whether Trump conspired with Russia was really just an obstruction investigation.

This time around the government told us — explicitly!! — that Trump is under investigation for obstructing investigation(s) by ripping and flushing and hiding documents, and Maggie’s “analysis” concludes that all that ripping and flushing and hiding is instead just a quirk.

Which brings me to her second possible error, on top of ignoring the obstruction investigation: here’s how Maggie explains the mention of a French President in the warrant receipt.

Other advisers wondered if Mr. Trump kept some documents because they contained details about people he knew.

Among the items that presidents are given on overseas trips are biographies of foreign leaders, a former administration official said. One version is unclassified and fairly routine. But the other is classified and can contain numerous personal details.

One of the files the F.B.I. seized at Mar-a-Lago was marked “info re: President of France,” about Emmanuel Macron.

It’s hard to tell whether Maggie is reporting here — confirming what most of us have assumed, that the reference to a French President was most likely a reference to Macron. To substantiate that, she cites only the same warrant that mentions the obstruction investigation she somehow missed. If she has confirmed that’s about Macron, this error may be all the more remarkable.

But for the reasons I laid out here, the most obvious reading of that reference is that the information about a French President is linked in some way to Executive Clemency for Maggie’s old BFF, Roger Stone.

The reference to a French President — Maggie tells us it is Macron — may well be contained in an Executive Grant of Clemency for Stone.

If that’s the case, then it’s in Trump’s files not because he saw a scrap of gossip about Macron and stuck it in a box or hoarded a classified pre-trip biography from years ago, which Maggie says are the best explanations, but because he wrote something down about Macron (or whichever President), quite possibly in conjunction with clemency for his rat-fucker.

To be sure, Maggie is not the only reporter covering this search who has entirely ignored the obstruction prong of the investigation. Many reporters have. But for a reporter publishing the book on Trump’s ripping, flushing, and hiding that seems to be at the core of that investigation, it seems a significant oversight.

Update: In an article Saturday that appears, in significant part, to be an attempt to underbus Mark Meadows, Maggie and others included this remarkable paragraph about an investigation into both Espionage Act violations and obstruction.

Where all of that material ended up is not clear. What is plain, though, is that Mr. Trump’s haphazard handling of government documents — a chronic problem — contributed to the chaos he created after he refused to accept his loss in November, unleashed a mob on Congress and set the stage for his second impeachment. His unwillingness to let go of power, including refusing to return government documents collected while he was in office, has led to a potentially damaging, and entirely avoidable, legal battle that threatens to engulf the former president and some of his aides.

This is another story that treats this all as one big misunderstanding and not an investigation into willful conduct designed to obstruct one or more investigations.

Maggie seems quite happy that this claim has been picked up.

The single source it relies on, described as “a person with knowledge of the situation,” speaks of their belief, not their certainty. And aside from people inside the investigation, there is no single person competent to make that claim, in part because only the family are reported to have known of the leather box in which Trump kept the Top Secret/SCI documents seized, and none of the family would know the full inventories of the boxes that were seized from storage closets.

emptywheel Trump Espionage coverage

Maggie Haberman: Heads It’s Only Obstruction, Tails It’s Not Obstruction

The French President May Be Contained Inside the Roger Stone Clemency

Which of the Many Investigations Trump Has Obstructed Is DOJ Investigating?

The Known and Likely Content of Trump’s Search Warrant

The ABCs (and Provisions e, f, and g) of the Espionage Act

Trump’s Latest Tirade Proves Any Temporary Restraining Order May Come Too Late

How Trump’s Search Worked, with Nifty Graphic

Pat Philbin Knows Why the Bodies Are Buried

Trump’s Timid (Non-Legal) Complaints about Attorney-Client Privilege

18 USC 793e in the Time of Shadow Brokers and Donald Trump

[from Rayne] Other Possible Classified Materials in Trump’s Safe

Trump’s Stolen Documents

John Solomon and Kash Patel May Be Implicated in the FBI’s Trump-Related Espionage Act Investigation

[from Peterr] Merrick Garland Preaches to an Overseas Audience

Three Ways Merrick Garland and DOJ Spoke of Trump as if He Might Be Indicted

The Legal and Political Significance of Nuclear Document[s] Trump Is Suspected to Have Stolen

Merrick Garland Calls Trump’s Bluff

Trump Keeps Using the Word “Cooperate.” I Do Not Think That Word Means What Trump Wants the Press To Think It Means

[from Rayne] Expected Response is Expected: Trump and Right-Wing DARVO

DOJ’s June Mar-a-Lago Trip Helps Prove 18 USC 793e

The Likely Content of a Trump Search Affidavit

All Republican Gang of Eight Members Condone Large-Scale Theft of Classified Information, Press Yawns

Some Likely Exacerbating Factors that Would Contribute to a Trump Search

FBI Executes a Search Warrant at 1100 S Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL 33480