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The Criminal Investigation Related to Paul Manafort Was (and May Still be) Ongoing–and Likely Pertains to Trump’s Ukraine Extortion

Robert Mueller was never able to determine whether Paul Manafort entered into a quid pro quo on August 2, 2016, trading — either on his own or with the approval of Trump — promises to help carve up Ukraine to Russia’s liking in exchange for help winning the election.

Mueller never made that determination, in part, because Manafort lied during the period he was purportedly cooperating with the investigation.

Here’s what Mueller did determine was reliable:

First, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed a plan to resolve the ongoing political problems in Ukraine by creating an autonomous republic in its more industrialized eastern region of Donbas,922 and having Yanukovych, the Ukrainian President ousted in 2014, elected to head that republic.923 That plan, Manafort later acknowledged, constituted a “backdoor” means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine.924 Manafort initially said that, if he had not cut off the discussion, Kilimnik would have asked Manafort in the August 2 meeting to convince Trump to come out in favor of the peace plan, and Yanukovych would have expected Manafort to use his connections in Europe and Ukraine to support the plan.925 Manafort also initially told the Office that he had said to Kilimnik that the plan was crazy, that the discussion ended, and that he did not recall Kilimnik asking Manafort to reconsider the plan after their August 2 meeting.926 Manafort said [redacted] that he reacted negatively to Yanukovych sending-years later-an “urgent” request when Yanukovych needed him.927 When confronted with an email written by Kilimnik on or about December 8, 2016, however, Manafort acknowledged Kilimnik raised the peace plan again in that email.928 Manafort ultimately acknowledged Kilimnik also raised the peace Ian in January 2017 meetings with Manafort [redacted — pertains to him admitting continuation of the plan into 2018] 929

Second, Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s plan to win the election.930 That briefing encompassed the Campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data. According to Gates, it also included discussion of “battleground” states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.931 Manafort did not refer explicitly to “battleground” states in his telling of the August 2 discussion, [redacted]

Third, according to Gates and what Kilimnik told Patten, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed two sets of financial disputes related to Mana fort’s previous work in the region. Those consisted of the unresolved Deripaska lawsuit and the funds that the Opposition Bloc owed to Manafort for his political consulting work and how Manafort might be able to obtain payment.933

922 The Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, which are located in the Donbas region of Ukraine, declared themselves independent in response to the popular unrest in 2014 that removed President Yanukovych from power. Pro-Russian Ukrainian militia forces, with backing from the Russian military, have occupied the region since 2014. Under the Yanukovych-backed plan, Russia would assist in withdrawing the military, and Donbas would become an autonomous region within Ukraine with its own

Although Mueller included this significant summary of the issue in his Report (and a description of how Rick Gates kept sending polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, to be shared with Ukrainian oligarchs and Oleg Deripaska’s GRU-linked aide, Viktor Boyarkin), the government nevertheless refused to release the details regarding this dispute that were laid out in court filings and exhibits regarding his breach of his plea deal when WaPo tried to liberate them starting in March. The government explained that, “a number of matters [related to his lies that were referred] to other offices in the Department of Justice … remain ongoing,” and asked for any further matters in WaPo’s challenge be deferred until six months later, which happens to be Tuesday. Judge Amy Berman Jackson never ruled differently, so that’s where things have stood, at least on the public docket, since April, shortly after the Mueller Report was released.

That’s interesting because the government accused Manafort of lying about five different topics. Some are definitely related to each other, and some (as well as his underlying guilty verdicts) are also definitely related to recent events relating to Ukraine and Russia. Which is why it’s worth looking back to learn what Manafort worked hardest to obscure in September and October 2018. Doing so suggests that Trump’s Ukraine call — including the demand for election help and Volodymyr Zelensky implementation of the Steinmeier Formula since — may simply be one step in paying off his campaign debts from 2016. As such, Rudy Giuliani’s involvement with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman may just be the continuation of what Manafort was pursuing — also being paid by a cut-out system — even after he got sent to jail and then prison.

In this post, I’ll look specifically at how the lies Manafort told do and may relate to current events. In a follow-up, I hope to show how the issues for which he was prosecuted also relate to current events, well beyond Trump’s efforts to undermine Manafort’s prosecution to make a pardon easier. Taken together, such analysis will show that the Ukraine scandal is completely inseparable from the Russia one.

Manafort told five lies

Altogether, the government tried to hold Manafort accountable for five lies. Those were:

  1. How he got paid using a kick-back system involving a SuperPAC, Rebuilding America Now, which (on top of violating prohibitions on coordination with the campaign) may have accepted funds from foreigners. Mueller’s team never seemed to figure out how that scheme worked, in part because Manafort never settled on an explanation for the kickbacks. ABJ ruled that Manafort lied about this.
  2. Whether he tried to dissociate Konstantin Kilimnik from his own witness tampering to hide the true role of the Hapsburg Group, some former European leaders Manafort used to lobby for Viktor Yanukovych’s party. Effectively, the government accused Manafort of trying to suggest that Kilimnik wasn’t willfully part of what he was doing during a period that spanned from February (when the actual witness tampering happened) through April 2018 (when Manafort tried to tamper again). ABJ agreed in principle that Manafort had lied about this, but ruled the government did not present a preponderance of the evidence, so didn’t count this against him in sentencing.
  3. Whether he lied to adapt his story to a more exonerating one being told by a Trump flunkie — it’s not clear who — involved in doing something — it’s not clear what — to save Trump’s campaign in the last days during which Manafort managed the campaign. ABJ agreed he had.
  4. What the fuck he was doing on August 2, 2016, and (though this is always unstated) whether his lies to hide repeated discussions to support a Ukrainian “peace” plan between then and April 2018 were an attempt to hide an effort to pay off a quid pro quo tied to assistance winning the election.
  5. Whether Manafort spoke to the Administration after inauguration, either directly or indirectly. ABJ ruled that the government had not provided evidence that Manafort lied about his ongoing communications with the Administration.

Of these lies, the lies about another investigation (lie 3 above) seem to be unrelated to the rest. That’s because they involved, well before the Mueller investigation finished, another part of DOJ, and so almost certainly have nothing to do with Russia or Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, the Trump campaign may have been willing to cheat multiple ways to win the 2016.

The kickback system (lie 1 above) may or many not relate to the Russian and Ukraine questions. Mueller was never able to sort it out, so it’s not clear what to make of it. For my purposes, however, it’s relevant that Manafort’s claims of working for “free” may turn out to be false. Instead, Paul Manafort — who pled guilty a year ago to laundering money and refusing to register to hide how his influence campaigns in the US were being paid for by Ukrainian oligarchs — may have been paid to run Trump’s campaign by foreigners laundering those payments via various means. That’s significant because, last week, DOJ accused Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman of laundering money (from sources Russian, Ukrainian, and unknown) through various front companies, including one called Global Energy Production apparently created for the function, to engage in influence campaigns relating to Ukraine, effectively the same kind of scheme that Manafort engaged in for years. Particularly given that Rudy claims to be both working for and employing Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, it raises questions about whether his claims to be working for “free” are also bogus, just a lie to hide how the cut through works.

Kilimnik and Manafort’s efforts to push a Ukraine “peace” plan overlap with their witness tampering

Lies 2 and 4 are obviously related, because Konstantin Kilimnik — as Manafort’s tie to several Ukrainian oligarchs and Oleg Deripaska — is at the center of both of them. Manafort’s efforts to deny that Kiliminik was his co-conspirator may have been motivated by nothing more than a need to permit Kevin Downing to claim, falsely, that Manafort’s guilty plea affirmed no “collusion” between the President’s campaign manager and any Russians had occurred. Not only did ABJ affirmatively state that, whatever Kilimnik’s ties to GRU, his role did amount to a link to Russia.

So Manafort was both trying to lie that he had pled guilty to entering a conspiracy with a Russian suspected of ties to GRU, but he was lying to hide precisely what the nature of any conspiracy that may have tied assistance with the 2016 election to help implementing a Ukraine “peace” plan favored by Russia and Russian-aligned Ukrainian oligarchs.

Still, even within that context, there are details of the two Kilimnik lies that deserve more attention. Consider how the timeline of the two sets of lies intersect in 2018, months after Manafort was first charged, in the weeks and months after Trump had reportedly told allies that he was sure he would survive the Mueller investigation because Manafort would not flip on him.

In the weeks after that claim was published, from February 5 through 10, 2018, Manafort was still trying to deliver on his “New initiative for Peace” (PDF 82).

Later in February, after Mueller unveiled Rick Gates’ cooperation and made it clear he was pursuing another of the vehicles Manafort used to hide his influence operations, the Hapsburg Group, he and Kilimnik reached out to key players in that influence operation (who, unbeknownst to Manafort, had already been cooperating for some time) in an attempt to get them to lie about the influence operation. Those contacts, over Telegram and WhatsApp, took place between February 24 and 28.

But knowing that another part of his past influence operation was under scrutiny still didn’t dissuade Manafort from pursuing that “peace” plan Kilimnik first pitched him on August 2, 2016, amid a discussion of how to get Trump elected. On March 9, he was sending some unnamed person related documents from Kilimnik. (PDF 92ff) The breach hearing and other documents make it clear this was an effort to test the viability of a Ukrainian candidate, including his willingness to implement the “peace” plan.

He was doing it again on March 26. (PDF 97)

Manafort would try to dissociate this polling from the people who were really implementing, including, apparently, trying to pretend that Kilimnik didn’t know about it.

Then — included in the contacts that (the government says) were part of Manafort’s conspiracy to obstruct with Kilimnik, though it’s not clear how — there were more contacts with the Hapsburg Group flacks on April 4.

In fact, Manafort’s efforts to pursue this “peace” plan continued even further, with him hoping that some unnamed person would find documents valuable on May 4. (PDF 95)

There’s a lot more sealed evidence about how relentlessly Manafort pursued a Ukrainian “peace” plan between August 2, 2016 and at least the time he was jailed for bail violations in June 2018 (though remember, the government alleges he continued to communicate in incriminating ways even from jail, via laptops carried by his attorneys). Altogether, there are 38 exhibits documenting Manafort’s false denials of his actions on that front. Because the government says it has (or had) an ongoing investigation into such matters, we don’t get to see what the exhibits are. But Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing (who filled in at Parnas and Fruman’s bail hearing the other day) has seen them. And Downing, reportedly, was sharing details of Manafort’s cooperation with other lawyers in Manafort’s Joint Defense Agreement with the President, including Rudy Giuliani.

Trump “hired” his “free” defense attorney Rudy Giuliani on April 19, 2018, after current Parnas and Fruman attorney John Dowd quit. And once Manafort could no longer pursue  his Ukraine “peace” plan, Rudy got involved in efforts to press for certain concessions in Ukraine.

Manafort’s attempts to communicate with the Administration (excepting via counsel)

Finally, there’s the last alleged lie, the one ABJ said prosecutors did not prove.

It’s not really clear what prosecutors believed Manafort was communicating about, beyond hires (like Steve Calk) in the Administration, because the topic of interest (which in some redactions appears to be too short to refer to Ukraine or Russia) is redacted in the documents released. They only submitted six exhibits to substantiate their claim. But the two unredacted exhibits presented in support of their case are notable.

On May 15, Manafort drew up a document that (the government’s declaration makes clear) included a section titled “Targets,” along with notes indicating Manafort would reach out to people about those targets. (PDF 152)

It might be a coincidence, but Manafort draws up this document right at the beginning of Parnas and Fruman’s efforts to donate big money to key Republicans through their shell company.

And on May 25, someone asked Manafort via WhatsApp whether it was cool to invoke his name if he or she met with Trump the following week, one-on-one. (PDF 156)

In the breach hearing, ABJ summarizes this:

You say that what he said was false because he did in fact agree to have messages sent to the administration on his behalf. And you point to evidence in which he offered to have other people contact the [redacted] on behalf of Mr. [redacted], for example, or to press buttons. But that outreach appears to have been two people outside the administration who themselves would have contacts within. There is some evidence that Mr. Gates said that Mr. Manafort said he still had connections, and that another individual asked Mr. Manafort if he, that individual, could tell [redacted (the President)] he was still close to Manafort.

And you have his involvement in lobbing with respect to [redacted], and Exhibit 404 is this memo summarizing the group’s plan that say, somewhat ambiguously, [redacted] will find out if [redacted] did her bit and get her to call [redacted] And it’s not even crystal clear that he was supposed do that by calling her.

In explaining the lie, Greg Andres makes it clear that Manafort was also representing in March that he had the ability to send messages to someone (probably Trump) in the Administration.

Significantly, Manafort lawyer Richard Westling dismisses that anyone would value Manafort’s advice or support at a time when he was already under indictment.

he was already under indictment at this point and, you know, the idea that he was going to pass a message and it would have some value, frankly, no offense to Mr. Manafort, but I can’t see that.

It’s notable that Downing did not make that claim because — as recent reports make clear — Rudy continued to consult Manafort on these Ukraine issues even after he went to prison, through Downing.

Especially since, in all its representations about these ongoing communications, the government makes clear,

for the purposes of proving the falsity of Manafort’s assertions in this section, the government is not relying on communications that may have taken place, with Manafort’s consent, through his legal counsel. We previously so advised the defense.

It’s clear the government knew Manafort continued to communicate with Trump via Downing and Rudy; they just weren’t going to reveal that they had pierced privilege or what they had learned.

We still don’t know how SDNY came to be investigating Parnas and Fruman (and Rudy) for their influence peddling, whether it stemmed from the Campaign Legal Center FEC complaint, whether SDNY found it on their own, or whether it was among the 14 referrals Mueller made. If it’s the latter, it would suggest last week’s indictment was the continuation of the effort to figure out if there was a tie between Manafort’s August 2, 2016 conversation and Trump’s policy choices on Ukraine.

The Ukrainian grifters timeline

Now consider how the timelines of Manafort’s relentless of a “peace” deal, his witness tampering with Kilimnik, and his efforts to communicate with Trump overlap with the known timeline of the Ukrainian grifters (I’ll continue to update this). It suggests that Parnas and Fruman kicked in their influence operations just as Manafort’s legal problems made him unable to do so.

February 5-10, 2018: Manafort working on “a new Peace initiative”

February 19, 2018: Manafort email pertaining to “peace” plan

February 21, 2018: Manfort emails document pertaining to “peace” plan to undisclosed recipients

February 23, 2018: Mueller reveals Rick Gates’ plea deal

February 24-28, 2018: Kilimnik and Manafort attempt to script testimony of Hapsburg Group flacks

March 2, 2018: Pentagon issues final approval to send Javelin missiles to Ukraine

March 3, 2018: Fruman participates in high donor meeting at Mar-a-Lago

March 9, 2018: Manafort working on polling regarding Ukraine “peace” plan for potential client

March 26, 2018: Manafort working on Ukraine “peace” plan

April 4, 2018: Kilimnik again attempts to witness tamper with Hapsburg Group flacks

Early April, 2018: Reported halt to Ukraine’s cooperation with Mueller

April 11, 2018: Parnas and Fruman form Global Energy Producers

April 19, 2018: Trump “hires” “free” defense attorney Rudy Giuliani

April 29, 2018: Someone first solicits help creating a website for GEP

May 1, 2018: Parnas and Fruman meet with Trump and six other people “about preparations for victory in the midterm elections;” Fruman raises “America’s support for Israel and Ukraine,” topics about which “Trump … was absolutely positive”

May 2, 2018: NYT reports that Ukraine has stopped cooperating with Mueller probe

May 4, 2018: Manafort sends unnamed person information on Ukraine plan: “Maybe [XX] will see some value in this?”

May 15, 2018: Real estate lawyer Russell Jacobs deposits $1.26 million pass through funds into Aaron Investments LLC

May 15, 2018: Manafort document lists “Targets” and reflects commitment on his part to reach out to the Administration about them.

May 17, 2018: Parnas LLC Aaron Investments donates $325,000 to Trump PAC, America First Action in the name of GEP

May 21, 2018: Parnas has breakfast with Don Jr and Tommy Hicks Jr, head of America First

May 24, 2018: Someone again solicits help creating a website for GEP

June 8, 2018: Manafort charged with witness tampering; prosecutors more to revoke bail

June 21, 2018: GEP donates $50K to Ron DeSantis

September 14, 2018: Manafort enters into what would be a failed plea agreement, admitting he laundered money and influence on behalf of Ukrainian oligarchs, but entering into a five week process of learning what prosecutors know

Mid-to-late 2018: Rudy referred to Parnas and Fruman for work with “Fraud Guarantee”

Around November 2018: Rudy starts working for Parnas and Fruman

Late 2018: While Parnas and Rudy were eating together, “someone” approached Rudy and gave him information about Ukraine

January 8, 2019: Manafort lawyer’s redaction fail reveals that Manafort was asked about the Ukraine “peace” plan and that Manafort was lying about whether it got raised while working on the campaign and also that he was being asked about ongoing contacts with the Administration

Background

I have laid out the structure of Manafort’s lies in these posts:

The primary sources for them are these documents:

The President’s Joint Defense Agreement with the Russian Mob

If we survive Trump and there are still things called museums around that display artifacts that present things called facts about historic events, I suspect John Dowd’s October 3 letter to the House Intelligence Committee will be displayed there, in all its Comic Sans glory.

In it, Dowd memorializes a conversation he had with HPSCI Investigation Counsel Nicholas Mitchell on September 30, before he was officially the lawyer for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, now placed in writing because he had since officially become their lawyer. He describes that there is no way he and his clients can comply with an October 7 document request and even if he could — this is the key part — much of it would be covered by some kind of privilege.

Be advised  that Messrs. Parnas and Fruman assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman have also been represented by Mr. Giuliani in connection with their personal and business affairs. They also assisted Joseph DiGenova and Victoria Toensing in their law practice. Thus, certain information you seek in your September 30, 2019, letter is protected by the attorney-client, attorney work product and other privileges.

Once that letter was sent, under penalty of prosecution for false statements to Congress, it became fact: Parnas and Fruman do work for Rudy Giuliani in the service of the President of the United States covered by privilege, Rudy does work for them covered by privilege, and they also do work for Joseph Di Genova and Victoria Toensing about this matter that is covered by privilege.

Dowd might be forgiven if he immediately adopted the strategy that worked so well in guiding Trump through the Mueller investigation: just engage in a 37-person conspiracy to obstruct justice and name it a Joint Defense Agreement. Indeed, there are even similarities with current events. Then, John Dowd, Jay Sekulow, and Rudy Giuliani offered things of value to the others in the JDA — pardons — in exchange for their silence or even lies. Conspicuously, Toensing represented two people that — the Mueller Report seems to suggest — weren’t entirely candid in their testimony, Erik Prince (who managed to lose texts that explained why he was taking back channel meetings with Russians) and Sam Clovis (who sustained his lack of memory of being told that Russians were offering emails long enough for George Papadopoulos to change his mind on that front). Papadopoulos even managed to call Marc Kasowitz, when he still represented the President, to ask if he also wanted to represent a coffee boy with an inclination to lie to the FBI. The strategy all built to its successful crescendo when, instead of cooperating with prosecutors as he signed up to do, Paul Manafort instead figured out what they did and didn’t know, lied to keep them confused, and reported it all back through his own attorney, Kevin Downing, and Rudy to the President.

It was never really clear who was paying the lawyers (aside from the RNC paying Hope Hicks’ lawyers and some other key staffers). And as details of Manafort’s lies came out, it became clear there was some kind of kick-back system to keep the lawyers paid.

Still, Mueller never tied Manafort’s trading of campaign strategy for considerations on Ukraine and payment by Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs to the President. And so it may have seemed sensible for Dowd, in a bit of a pinch, to adopt the same strategy, with Rudy representing everyone, Dowd representing the Ukrainian grifters, and Kevin Downing even filling in in a pinch.

It all might have worked, too, if Parnas and Fruman hadn’t gotten arrested before they managed to flee the country, headed for what seems to have been a planned meeting a day later with their sometime attorney Rudy Giuliani in Vienna, just one day after a lunch meeting with him at Trump Hotel across the street from the Department of Justice that was busy inking an indictment against the Ukrainians even as they paid money to Trump Organization for their meal.

I mean, it still could work. Trump is still the President and DOJ, at least, will give some consideration to the attorney-client claims, so long as Rudy and Trump can maintain the illusion that Rudy is and was really doing legal work for the President.

But something that Dowd may not have considered, before he sent a letter to Congress laying out an incestuous nest of ethical atrocities, is that by the time he sent the letter, DiGenova and Toensing were on the record as representing Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who was named in some of the early search warrants targeting Paul Manafort. And in March, Rudy Giuliani went on the record to explain that Firtash was, “one of the close associates of [Semion] Mogilevich, who is the head of Russian organized crime, who is Putin’s best friend.” Yesterday, Reuters closed the circle, making it clear that Parnas and Fruman work for Firtash, the former as a translator for DiGenova and Toensing’s representation of Firtash.

Firtash, by the way, is in Vienna, where Parnas and Fruman attempted to flee and where the President’s lawyer was planning to meet them a day later.

Thus, when Dowd wrote Congress, explaining that Rudy worked for both Trump and the Ukrainian grifters, and the Ukrainian grifters worked for DiGenova and Toensing, he was asserting that the President is a participant in an ethical thicket of legal representation with a mob-linked Ukrainian oligarch fighting extradition (for bribery) to the United States. And all of that, Dowd helpfully made clear, related to this Ukraine scandal (otherwise he could not have invoked privilege for it).

In other words, the President’s former lawyer asserted to Congress that the President and his current lawyer are in some kind of JDA from hell with the Russian mob, almost certainly along with the President’s former campaign manager, who apparently gets consulted (via Kevin Downing) on these matters in prison.

If that weren’t all overwhelming enough, there’s one more twist.

The reason Rudy was emphasizing the mob ties of his current partner in crime lawyering, Dmitry Firtash, back in March is because the President’s former former lawyer, Michael Cohen, shared a lawyer at the time with Firtash, Lanny Davis. Davis, the Democratic version of Paul Manafort, is every bit as sleazy as him (which should have been a huge red flag when Davis was parading Cohen around as a big hero). Curiously, at a time when Davis was also representing Firtash and Cohen was furiously trying to come up with some incriminating evidence he could tell prosecutors that might keep him out of jail, Cohen apparently didn’t mention Ukraine at all. Now, the lawyer that Cohen used to but no longer shares with Firtash claims he has some insight onto these Ukrainian dealings. That’s likely just a desperate effort to stay relevant. But who knows?

Until then, John Dowd’s desperate attempt to make this scandal go away the same way he made the Russia scandal go away (if you pretend they’re not actually all the same scandal and thus even the past JDA strategy may end up failing) at the same time involved admitting, in a letter to Congress, that his former client and his then current not-yet-but-soon-to-be-indicted clients are in a Joint Defense Agreement with the Russian mob.

Don’t take my word for it. Take John Dowd’s legal representation to Congress.

The Problem with Letting the Client-in-Chief Rewrite Impeachment Strategy Mid-Week

Daily Beast confirms something I asserted in this post. Trump wrote the intemperate letter that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone signed his name to (with help from Rudy Giuliani, before Rudy started looking down the gun of indictment for conspiracy).

It was crafted, in large part, by President Donald Trump himself.

According to two people familiar with the process, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone had multiple meetings with President Trump in the days leading up to the issuance of the letter. During those meetings with Cipollone, the president would get especially animated when names such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee leading the probe into the whistleblower complaint, came up. The sources said that Trump enthusiastically suggested adding various jabs at Democratic lawmakers and would request that their “unfair” treatment of him be incorporated into the letter.

The result was what Bob Bauer, who served as President Obama’s White House counsel, called a “remarkable” and “extraordinarily political document.”

Trump had also privately consulted on the letter with Rudy Giuliani, his notably pugnacious personal lawyer who is at the center of the Ukraine and Biden-related scandal engulfing the administration. Trump talked to Giuliani about how he and the White House should proceed in fighting back and challenging the legitimacy of the impeachment probe, one of the sources noted.

The problem with this (well, one problem) is precisely the one I noted in my post.

The tell — for those teams of well-compensated journalists treating this as a factual document — might have been the addressees. While the letter got sent to Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel, and Elijah Cummings, it did not get sent to Jerry Nadler, who has been pursuing an impeachment inquiry of sorts since the Mueller Report came out. The White House knows Nadler is also part of the impeachment inquiry, because even as the White House was finalizing the letter, Trump’s DOJ was in DC Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s courtroom fighting a House Judiciary request for materials for the impeachment inquiry.

While Trump had Cipollone address the letter to all the Democratic Chairs he was furious at, at that moment, he did not address it to Jerry Nadler, who also has been pursuing impeachment. There’s perhaps good reason why Cipollone didn’t send it to Nadler: because none of the claims made about the Adam Schiff-led Ukraine-related impeachment inquiry are true of the Nadler-led Russia and other corruption led impeachment inquiry, which has tried accommodation, has allowed lawyers to cite White House equities in interviews, and included public hearings.

Indeed, even as Trump was writing this letter and making Cipollone sign it, Trump’s DOJ was arguing an entirely different strategy before DC’s Chief Judge Beryl Howell, effectively arguing that because Nadler was being so accommodating, DOJ could not be forced to turn over grand jury testimony.

The result is a rather significant whiplash to DOJ’s legal strategy with HJC. On Tuesday, in an apparent effort to convince Judge Howell that DOJ was not obstructing HJC’s requests for FBI 302s, which don’t have the protections of the grand jury, they (apparently for the first time) suggested that HJC was going to get most of the 302s they were asking for, including the 302s for two of the guys defending against turning them over, DAAG James Burnham and AAG Jody Hunt, both of whose names are on these filings.

The Department currently anticipates making the remaining FBI-302’s available under the agreed upon terms as processing is completed, so long as they do not adversely impact ongoing investigations and cases and subject to redaction and potential withholding in order to protect Executive Branch confidentiality interests. These include, in alphabetical order (1) Stephen Bannon; (2) Dana Boente; (3) James Burnham; (4) James Comey; (5) Annie Donaldson; (6) John Eisenberg; (7) Michael Flynn; (8) Rick Gates; (9) Hope Hicks; (10) Jody Hunt; (11) Andrew McCabe; (12) Don McGahn; (13) Reince Priebus; (14) James Rybicki; (15) Jeff Sessions. In addition, the Committee requested the FBI-302 for the counsel to Michael Flynn, which also has not yet been processed.

Last night, however, they submitted filings that suggested that because Congress is pursuing impeachment their prior offer for accommodation may no longer be valid.

Finally, as explained in the Department’s filing of October 8, 2019, and its September 13, 2019 response to the Committee’s Application, in early June, the Department agreed to provide to the Committee access to certain FBI-302s in order to accommodate its oversight responsibilities following the Committee’s issuance of a subpoena in April and subsequent letter in May. As further noted in paragraph two of the Department’s Tuesday filing, that agreement includes confidentiality provisions that significantly limit the use and dissemination of information that the Committee accesses. The Department has consistently viewed this agreement as part of the accommodation process in connection with the Committee’s oversight activities. As the Court is aware, subsequent to the filing of this application regarding Rule 6(e) materials, the Speaker of the House stated publicly that, in her view, the House of Representatives has now commenced an impeachment inquiry (in addition to its regular oversight responsibilities). To the extent the Committee now believes future productions in this process are part of that impeachment inquiry, that implicates very different issues for the Executive Branch as a whole–as set forth by the White House in its letter of Tuesday, October 8, 2019, to the Speaker and Chairmen of three committees. The Department and the Committee have not yet discussed whether they may need to amend the current agreement to ensure appropriate handing by the Committee in order for the accommodation process to continue as anticipated. The Department will work diligently with the Committee to resolve this issue and to continue a productive accommodation process.

Effectively, on Tuesday morning DOJ argued that HJC was wrong, their request was not part of an impeachment inquiry, in part because it was so accommodating, so it couldn’t have any grand jury material. Two days later, however, DOJ is saying the very same cooperative process has become an impeachment inquiry that — in spite of Jerry Nadler being excluded from the recipients of Cipollone’s letter — DOJ now considers an impeachment inquiry, and so DOJ won’t comply because other parts of Congress are playing hardball.

Heads I win and you can’t have grand jury materials, tails you lose and you can’t have grand jury materials, is effectively the argument here.

That, and (as noted) DOJ is now claiming that US v Nixon is not binding precedent.

This is what happens when you let the Client-in-Chief do all the lawyering.

Consider How Paul Manafort’s Fate May Have Affected Marie Yovanovitch

WaPo has published fired Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s prepared statement from her deposition today. It’s a powerful statement from a committed public servant — so go read it yourself.

But reporters have started focusing on a detail Yovanovitch included, but exclusively as it relates to yesterday’s events. When she asked Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan why she had been withdrawn with almost no notice, he told her Trump had been pressuring State to do so since Summer 2018.

Finally, after being asked by the Department in early March to extend my tour until 2020, I was then abruptly told in late April to come back to Washington from Ukraine “on the next plane.” You will understandably want to ask why my posting ended so suddenly. I wanted to learn that too, and I tried to find out. I met with the Deputy Secretary of State, who informed me of the curtailment of my term. He said that the President had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the Department had been under pressure from the President to remove me since the Summer of 2018. He also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause.

It is true that these events would have shortly followed the first efforts from Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman to cultivate Trump and his “free” lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, whom Trump “hired” (for free) in April.

At almost precisely that time, in April 2018, Ukraine stopped cooperating with Mueller on the Manafort prosecution, possibly in response to the approval of an export license for Javelin missiles, one of the same things Trump used again this summer to extort Ukraine.

Nevertheless, Trump’s efforts to fire Yovanovitch took place even while — in spite of Ukraine’s halt to their cooperation — things started going south for the President’s former campaign manager.

The government first moved to revoke Manafort’s bail because he was tampering with witnesses on June 4. Amy Berman Jackson sent him to jail (first club fed, then after his lawyers got cute, Alexandria jail) on June 15. Jurors in EDVA returned a guilty verdict on August 21. And on September 14, Manafort entered into what purported to be a cooperation agreement with Mueller’s prosecutors (but what, instead, turned out to be an intelligence gathering effort on what they knew and wanted to know, intelligence he shared with Trump). Throughout that period, Trump expressed real worry that Manafort would really flip on him.

As I will show, virtually everything we know about Manafort’s purported cooperation effort connects, in some way, to this Ukraine affair. Plus, we know that Rudy Giuliani was consulting with Manafort as he pursued his schemes. And Manafort’s lawyer Kevin Downing — the same one coordinating on these issues with Rudy — represented Parnas and Fruman in their EDVA appearance yesterday.

This Ukraine story is nothing more than the continuation of the Russian story, and much of it goes through Paul Manafort. Thus, it’s not surprising that as it looked increasingly likely that Manafort would pay for his crimes, and might implicate Trump in them, Trump tried to shut down one area of pressure.

Parnas and Fruman are likely just facilitators to make that happen.

Judicial Watch Reveals Reza Zarrab’s Lawyer May Have Pitched Rosenstein on Special Counsel Pick

I love when Judicial Watch liberates documents they think are damning but actually demonstrate that conspiracy theories are false, as they did when they liberated Bruce Ohr documents showing he actually helped the FBI vet the Steele dossier. Then there’s the recent release showing that current US Attorney George Terwilliger was pushing Bill Barr’s theory that Jim Comey deserved to be fired the weekend before Robert Mueller was hired.

But there’s something potentially more important in that batch.

The WaPo’s coverage of Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey’s efforts to pressure Rex Tillerson to push DOJ to release Turkish money launderer Reza Zarrab contextualizes the fall 2017 meeting by recalling that Trump and Erdogan met on May 16, 2017


The two leaders finished their first meeting and performed their ceremonial handshake at about 1PM.

Just half an hour earlier, at 12:30 PM, Andrew McCabe had explained to Rod Rosenstein that he had opened an investigation into Donald Trump. The two then discussed Rosenstein’s thoughts about appointing a special prosecutor. Rosenstein said he was choosing between two candidates, one (who must be Mueller) who could start immediately.

At 1:09, former Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip (and Bill Barr colleague) called Rosenstein from his Kirkland and Ellis phone, left a message, and asked Rosenstein to call him.

At 3:25, Rosenstein wrote back and told him “Mukasey might call.” It’s unclear whether this is Marc or Michael Mukasey, but it doesn’t much matter, because Michael was already representing Zarrab and Marc was very very close to Giuliani.

In other words, within hours after Erdogan met Trump at the White House and asked for Zarrab’s release, someone effectively representing Zarrab appeared to be in touch with Rosenstein, who then suggested that whichever Mukasey it was call Filip.

The thing is, by all appearances, this Mukasey call pertained to question about hiring a Special Counsel. That’s because shortly thereafter, Rosenstein writes Filip back and tells him he’s going with Mueller (which suggests Filip may have been his other candidate).

If all that’s right, it suggests one of Zarrab’s lawyers may have weighed in on the Special Counsel decision just minutes after Erdogan requested Trump release him and (simultaneously) a key McCabe-Rosenstein meeting.

That’s not all that surprising. After all, the Mike Flynn investigation had already developed to include at least two of four strands, the lies about Russia and the lies about Turkey.

But then Rosenstein chose to appoint Mueller, not his other choice (who may have been Filip).

From that moment, Republicans were pushing the Bill Barr line. And Bill Barr is now in charge (and was, for the closure of the Mueller investigation). And that push may have had as much to do with Turkey as it did Russia.

Rudy Giuliani Represents Fraud Guarantee Founder

Marcy has already hit the announced arrests of Rudy Giuliani clients Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman as they were about to leave the country. In reading the New York Times article about the arrests and indictment, I noticed that, at least at the time of that reading, David Correia,  one of the four men indicted, was still not in custody.

I hadn’t heard of Correia before, so I did some digging. It would appear that Correia’s Twitter handle is @DavidCorreia14. The account appears to have been taken down, but there was still a cached version on Google.

It would be easy to mistake his tweets for any standard Trump bot retweeting all of the usual conspiracy theories, rather than realizing he was in the middle of some of their more nefarious schemes.

A couple of weeks ago, the Miami Herald ran a story on Parnas and Fruman, where we see that they are basically con artists with a trail of lawsuits following them around. Most hilariously, Parnas had the gall to incorporate a company under the name Fraud Guarantee. Significantly, when I started searching around to find out more about David Correia, he turned out to be a co-founder of Fraud Guarantee:

Hmmm. Campaign finance indictment. Background in commercial mortgages. Founder of Fraud Guarantee. It’s not clear to me how Correia originally hooked up with Parnas and Fruman, but the commercial real estate angle and propensity for illegal activity sure seems like a good fit with the Trump organization.

It’s really hard to get over just how much outright gall it took for Parnas and Correia to name their company Fraud Guarantee. And for Parnas to be represented by Rudy Guiliani, who has been tasked with obtaining fraudulent dirt on the Biden family for Trump, the circle just keeps closing in on itself. (Note added as I was proofing the post: it appears that the Fraud Guarantee website has been scrubbed. Glad I got those screengrabs!)

As a postscript for those of us in Florida, it’s also especially juicy that the fraudulent shell company set up to funnel money to political campaigns, Global Energy Producers, also made a $50,000 contribution to the campaign to elect currentFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis.

DOJ Confirms that Trump’s Anti-Biden Propagandists Were in the Employ of a Russian

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested last night as they tried to flee the country in advance of Congressional subpoenas for their testimony. These are the men who, their recently hired attorney, former Trump personal attorney John Dowd, described how intertwined their actions were with the President’s in an effort to excuse them from testifying in the House impeachment inquiry.

Messrs. Parnas and Fruman assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman have also been represented by Mr. Giuliani in connection with their personal and business affairs. They also assisted Joseph DiGenova and Victoria Toensing in their law practice. Thus, certain information you seek in your September 30, 2019, letter is protected by the attorney-client, attorney work product and other privileges.

The indictment charging Parnas and Fruman with multiple counts of conspiracy lays out how they pursued policies pushed by a Ukrainian politician (and, not coincidentally, Trump), in part by getting Congressman Pete Sessions’ help.

[T]hese contributions were made for the purpose of gaining influence with politicians so as to advance their own personal financial interests and the political interests of Ukrainian government officials, including at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working. For example, in or about May and June 2018, PARNAS and FRUMAN committed to raise $20,000 or more for a then-sitting U.S. Congressman [Sessions], who had also been the beneficiary of approximately $3 million in independent expenditures by [one of the PACs they ran] during the 2018 election cycle. PARNAS and FRUMAN had met [Sessions] at an event sponsored by an independent expenditure committee to which FRUMAN had recently made substantial contribution. During the 2018 election cycle, [Sessions] had been the beneficiary of approximately $3 million in independent expenditures by [their PAC]. At and around the same time PARNAS and FRUMAN committed to raising those funds for [Sessions], PARNAS met with [Sessions] and sought [his] assistance in causing the U.S. Government to remove or recall the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine []. PARNAS’s efforts to remove the Ambassador were conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials.

This, of course, is the recall of Marie Yovanovitch, that Trump discussed in his quid pro quo call with Volodymyr Zelensky.

What the indictment is less clear about is who the Russian bankrolling all this is. A key part of Parnas and Fruman’s crime is that they were laundering funds for “a foreign national Russian citizen and businessman.”

From in or about June 2018 through April 2019, LEV PARNAS, IGOR FRUMAN, DAVID CORREIA, and ANDREY KUKUSHKIN, the defendants, and others known and unknown, conspired to make political donations — funded by Foreign National-1 [the Russian] — to politicians and candidates for federal and State office to gain influence with candidates as to policies that would benefit a future business venture.

Putting together the Dowd letter and the indictment, it becomes clear that the John Solomon propaganda that Trump was pushing (and which Rudy sent to Mike Pompeo’s State Department as part of the effort to get rid of Yovanovitch and which Lindsey Graham just invited Rudy to come present to the Senate Judiciary Committee) was funded by an as yet unnamed Russian.

It was only a matter of time before Trump was implicated in ConFraudUs with Russia.

Update: Now add this passage from Trump’s call to Zelensky, and it becomes hard to see how Trump is not implicated in the charged conspiracy.

President Zelenskyy: Yes it is. very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier. For me as a President, it is very important and we are open for any future cooperation. We are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine. For that purpose, I just recalled our ambassador from United States and he will be replaced by a very competent and very experienced ambassador who will work hard on making sure that our two nations are getting closer. I would also like and hope to see him having your trust and your confidence and  have personal relations with you so we can cooperate even more so. I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that you have nobody but friends around us. I will make sure that I surround myself with the best and most experienced people. I also wanted to tell you that we are friends. We are great friends and you Mr. President have friends in our country so we can continue our strategic partnership. I also plan to surround myself with great people and in addition to that investigation [into the source of the Russian investigation], I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you.

The Pre·sident: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York Ci:ty, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The otter thing, There’s a lot of. talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.

President Zelenskyy: I wanted to tell ·you about the prosecutor. First of all I understand and I’m knowledgable about the situation. Since we have won· the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one. who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.

The President: Well, she’s going to go through some things.

At a minimum, this makes it clear that the withdrawal of Yovanovitch — which was done with the involvement of Rudy and Parnas –was tied up in the quid pro quo extorted on that call. Indeed, Trump’s suggestion she was “going to go through some things” suggests far worse.

But it is also at least likely that one of the two prosecutors Rudy was pitching was the Ukrainian involved mentioned elsewhere in this indictment.

All of which provides substantial evidence that the quid pro quo Trump engaged in on July 24 — the day after Mueller testified before Congress — is just a continuation of the conspiracy charged in the Parnas and Fruman indictment.

The Press Gets Utterly Snookered on the White House Rebranding of the Same Old Unrelenting Obstruction of Congressional Prerogatives

Yesterday, the White House sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi and just some of the Committee Chairs conducting parts of an impeachment inquiry into the President, purporting to refuse to participate in that impeachment inquiry. Since then, there has been a lot of shocked coverage about how intemperate the letter is, with particular focus on the fact that White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, used to be considered a serious lawyer. There has been some attempt to analyze the letter as if it is a legal document and not instead the President’s rants packaged up in Times Roman and signed by one of his employees. A number of outlets have thrown entire reporting teams to do insipid horse race coverage of the letter, as if this is one giant game, maybe with nifty commercials on during halftime.

None I’ve seen have described the letter as what it is: an attempt to rebrand the same old outright obstruction that the White House has pursued since January.

The tell — for those teams of well-compensated journalists treating this as a factual document — might have been the addressees. While the letter got sent to Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel, and Elijah Cummings, it did not get sent to Jerry Nadler, who has been pursuing an impeachment inquiry of sorts since the Mueller Report came out. The White House knows Nadler is also part of the impeachment inquiry, because even as the White House was finalizing the letter, Trump’s DOJ was in DC Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s courtroom fighting a House Judiciary request for materials for the impeachment inquiry. In the hearing, DOJ literally argued that the Supreme Court’s 8-0 US v. Nixon was wrongly decided.

Howell picked up on that point by pressing DOJ to say whether then-U.S. District Court Chief Judge John Sirica was wrong in 1974 to let Congress access a detailed “road map” of the Watergate grand jury materials as it considered President Richard Nixon’s impeachment.

Shapiro argued that if the same Watergate road map arose today, there’d be a “different result” because the law has changed since 1974. She said the judge wouldn’t be able to do the same thing absent changes to the grand jury rules and statutes.

Howell sounded skeptical. “Wow. OK,” she replied.

DOJ also argued that Congress would have to pass a law to enshrine the principle that this binding Supreme Court precedent already made the law of the land.

In the HJC branch of the impeachment inquiry, the few credible claims made in yesterday’s letter — such as that Congress is conducting the inquiry in secret without the ability to cross-examine witnesses or have Executive Branch lawyers present — are proven utterly false. And with the claims made in yesterday’s hearing, the Executive demonstrated that they will obstruct even measured requests and negotiations for testimony.

The Trump White House obstructed normal Congressional oversight by absolutely refusing to cooperate.

The Trump White House obstructed an impeachment inquiry focused on requests and voluntary participation.

The Trump White House obstructed an impeachment inquiry where subpoenas were filed.

The Trump White House obstructed an impeachment inquiry relying on whistleblowers who aren’t parties to the White House omertà.

The Trump White House obstructed what numerous judges have made clear are reasonable requests from a co-equal branch of government.

Nothing in the White House’s conduct changed yesterday. Not a single thing. And any journalist who treats this as a new development should trade in her notebooks or maybe move to covering football where such reporting is appropriate.

It is, however, a rebranding of the same old unrelenting obstruction, an effort to relaunch the same policy of unremitting obstruction under an even more intransigent and extreme marketing pitch.

And that — the need to rebrand the same old obstruction — might be worthy topic of news coverage. Why the White House feels the need to scream louder and pound the table more aggressively is a subject for reporting. But to cover it, you’d go to people like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, who already seem to be preparing to explain votes against the President. You even go to people like Lindsey Graham, who is doing ridiculous things to sustain Rudy Giuliani’s hoaxes in the Senate Judiciary Committee — but who has condemned the principle of making the country dramatically less safe for whimsical personal benefit in Syria. Or you go to Richard Burr, who quietly released a report making it clear Russia took affirmative efforts to elect Trump in 2016.

This week, Trump looked at the first few Republicans getting weak in the knees and his response was to double down on the same old policies, while rolling out a campaign trying to persuade those weak-kneed members of Congress who are contemplating the import of our Constitution not to do so.

The President’s former lawyer testified earlier this year, under oath, that this has always been a branding opportunity to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the “greatest infomercial in political history.”

His latest attempt to cajole Republican loyalty is no different. It’s just a rebranding of the same intransigence. Treating it as anything but a rebranding is organized forgetting of what has taken place for the last nine months, and journalists should know better.

Bill Barr Risks becoming George Papadopoulos’ Coffee Boy

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. George Papadopoulos

First, I testified against both Downer and Mifsud a year ago to help launch Durham’s investigation. Now, the fruit of that accurate testimony is exposing the global nature of the attempt to set up the 2016 campaign and interfere in the democratic process. George Papadopoulos

There has only been one roadmap that clearly identifies what AG Barr and John Durham are investigating abroad, it’s all in my book. George Papadopoulos

In this post, I noted that Attorney General Bill Barr had put himself in the role of an FBI line Agent and flown to Italy not so he could interview Joseph Mifsud — and so obtain information that might be useful in assessing the credibility of his Russian-backed lawyer’s claim that Mifsud actually worked for Western, not Russian, intelligence — but instead to sit in a room and watch a movie, the taped deposition made by Mifsud’s Russian-linked lawyer.

Not only had Barr flown to Italy without obtaining the real ask, a face-to-face interview, but he did so chasing claims that were laundered through one of the frothy right’s stenographers into the mouth of George Papadopoulos for his October 24, 2018 Congressional testimony, provenance so unbelievably sketchy it would be shameful for Rudy Giuliani to chase the conspiracy theory, much less the Attorney General of the United States of America on the taxpayer dime.

As a reminder, to try to help him avoid prison for lying to the FBI, Papadopoulos’ lawyers explained that in 2016, “To say George was out of his depth would be a gross understatement” and described his pursuit of ties to Russia as part of his campaign work as an attempt to, ” be at the center of a globally significant event.” They explained that he “lied, minimized, and omitted material facts” about the Russian investigation, “Out of loyalty to the new president and his desire to be part of the administration.” This is not a man you’d think anyone in government would take seriously.

I think, because Papadopoulos has so little credibility outside of the frothy right, traditional journalists largely ignored the role of Papadoulos and his Congressional testimony until it had already taken hold of the entire frothy right. That’s changing. Vox has a good post on Papadopoulos’ centrality in Bill Barr’s treasure hunt, and NYT tried to debunk the Italian part of it pertaining to Mifsud.

But I’d like to look at one more detail, that makes Papadopoulos’ obvious lack of credibility even more non-existent.

Most of the conspiracy theories he floated in his testimony didn’t even come from his first-hand information. Rather, they’re stuff he read, often from known stenographers for the frothy right, relying on sources that are fairly obviously either close to the President and/or close to Russian and Ukrainian sources who shouldn’t be trusted; where he relied on credible journalists, he misrepresented it. Papadopoulos, then, serves not as witness. Instead, he’s just an empty vessel being used by others to carry a concocted story.

Papadopoulos obtained his beliefs about Joseph Mifsud from the Daily Caller, La Republica, Fox News, and other unsourced reports

One of the few exceptions is that Papadopoulos believes that Alexander Downer recorded the conversation in which Papadopoulos told the Australian that someone had told him Russia had dirt on Hillary they were going to release material on Hillary to help the Trump campaign because Downer holds his phone when he speaks.

You know, at that time, I’m like, Wow, all these, you know, very senior diplomats and people want to just meet this 28-year old young aid who just joined the campaign, I think, or month or so before. But why not, you know. They could send it back to the campaign that I just met with the Australian diplomat. What I’m going to tell you right now is what I remember telling special counsel directly to their face, too. One, I felt like Alexander Downer — first, I felt the meeting was completely controlled. That he was sent to meet me by some entity or some organization, and that he was recorded my conversation with him. And what do I mean by recording my conversation? If I had my phone I would show you of how strange this character was acting. I sat down with him and he pulls his phone out and he starts holding it like this towards me.

Mr. Meadows. Here.

Mr. Papadopoulos. Here, I’ll show you. And I told the special counsel this over a year ago. I’m sitting down within 5 or 6, 7 minutes of meeting this person, I’m talking and he goes like this to me, stone-faced, just holding his phone like this towards me. And I didn’t know what to think except do I tell him Will you stop recording me, or, What are you doing? Because it was just, it just left such an indelible memory of how this individual was acting that I never forgot it, and I felt that he was recording it and the meeting was controlled. So he held his phone up like this.

But Papadopoulos believes that Downer is a spy, not a diplomat, because of something he read (he doesn’t say what).

Mr. Meadows. That’s correct. And so following up on the question from my colleague here about transcripts. Was there any other time that you felt like that you might have been recorded or surveilled in a manner, as you’re looking back on it now? Obviously, at the time, you might not have been aware of it. Is there any time that you said, well, you know, this just doesn’t feel right? Can you share that with the committee?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Certainly, sir, and thank you for your kind words. I was — let’s go to the Alexander Downer meeting, this Australian person, who I’m —

Mr. Meadows. And for the record, this is the Australian diplomat as it has been reported, at least, the Australian diplomat, Mr. Downer.

Mr. Papadopoulos. Mr. Downer, that’s right, who, it’s my understanding, is probably the top diplomat in Australia, or was before he retired. He was the head of what I think is the equivalent of the CIA in Australia for around 17 years. I think that’s what I read about him. Anyway, he’s a very unknown person, this isn’t counselor at the Australian embassy in London, okay. [my emphasis]

As for the source of that information, Papadopoulos told Congress he held two incompatible beliefs, both beliefs he took from something he read. Most critically, the belief that got Bill Barr to fly to Italy — that Mifsud actually works for Western, not Russian, intelligence — Papadopoulos cited to a Daily Caller article which itself relayed claims Mifsud’s Russian-backed lawyer made he had read the day before.

Q Okay. So, and Mifsud, he presented himself as what? Who did he tell you he was?

A So looking back in my memory of this person, this is a mid-50’s person, describes himself as a former diplomat who is connected to the world, essentially. I remember he was even telling me that, you know, the Vietnamese prime minister is a good friend of mine. I mean, you have to understand this is the type of personality he was portraying himself as.

And, you know, I guess I took the bait because, you know, usually somebody who — at least in Washington, when somebody portrays themselves in a specific way and has credentials to back it, you believe them. But that’s how he portrayed himself. And then I can’t remember exactly the next thing that happened until he decided to introduce me to Putin’s fake niece in London, which we later found out is some sort of student. But I could get into those details of how that all started.

Q And what’s your — just to kind of jump way ahead, what’s your current understanding of who Mifsud is?

A My current understanding?

Q Yeah. 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 his 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]

Q And then at what point did you learn that, you know, he’s not who he said he was?

A Like I said, I don’t have the concrete proof of who this person is. I’m just going with reports. And all I can say is that I believe the day I was, my name was publicly released and Papadopoulos became this person that everyone now knows, Mifsud gave an interview to an Italian newspaper. And in this newspaper, he basically said, I’m not a Russian agent. I’m a Clinton supporter. I’m a Clinton Foundation donor, and that — something along those lines. I mean, don’t quote me exactly, you could look up the article yourself. It is in La Republica. And then all of a sudden, after that, he disappears off the face of the planet, which I always found as odd.

[snip]

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

Meanwhile, Papadopoulos explains away Joseph Mifsud’s mention of Hillary’s emails weeks later to a comment that Andrew Napolitano made on Fox News the day before (not, as he claimed to believe in the same testimony, that it was a big Deep State set-up), even though Papadopoulos believed Mifsud really believed in the emails at the time and didn’t know of the Napolitano link. Papadopoulos also mischaracterizes what he believed about Mifsud at that moment and even later, given his public emails from the time.

A Yeah. So my understanding, my current memory of this meeting was that he invited me to the Andaz Hotel in London by Liverpool Street Station, I guess on April 26, 2016. And at this meeting, he was giddy, you know, like he had something he wanted to get off his chest. And he tells me that the Russians have thousands of Hillary Clinton emails. I never heard the word DNC.

[snip]

A And I’ve said this on TV, and I’m saying it here, I never heard the words DNC, Podesta, anything like that. I just heard “the Russians have thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails.” And at that time, and we could look at the records, people were openly speculating about that, too. I think even Judge Napolitano on Fox News, the day before I met with Mifsud on April 25th was openly speculating the same thing. So my impression when he told me this information at the time was he is validating rumors. Because I didn’t feel that I heard something so different, like Democratic National Committee emails, WikiLeaks, I didn’t hear anything like that. So yeah, it was an interesting piece of information, but you know, by that point you have to understand, he had failed to introduce me to anyone of substance in the Russian Government. So he failed to do that, but now all of a sudden he has the keys to the kingdom about a massive potential conspiracy that Russia is involved in. So that was my mindset when he told me this.

[snip]

Q So to the best of your understanding now, you know, how do you believe Mr. Mifsud would have known about these — you know, the Russians having these Clinton emails?

A My understanding now?

Q Uh-huh. A Well, one —

Q Or at the time or now, but —

A Well — well, one, as I stated, but I don’t want to be exactly quoted, I believe the day before Joseph Mifsud told me about this issue, I believe April 25, 2016, Judge Andrew Napolitano was on Fox News openly speculating that the Russians have Hillary’s emails. I don’t know if that’s true or not. Somebody told me that that’s what happened. I’m not sure. That he might have heard it from there. He might have been telling the truth that he heard it from people in Russia. He might have been working for Western intelligence like the evidence now suggests he was. I don’t know. That’s not my job to figure it out.

[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.

So to sum up the source of Papadopoulos’ congressional testimony regarding his beliefs about his interactions with Mifsud and then Downer, he’s relying on:

  • Excuses relying on a Fox News host
  • A Daily Caller story that relies on a Russian backed lawyer
  • Some other unsourced claim
  • Downer’s posture and mannerisms

Papadopoulos obtained his beliefes about the Stephan Halper meetings from Twitter, NYT, and John Solomon

A similar pattern emerges regarding his interactions with Stephan Halper, the FBI informant sent with a presumed undercover Agent using the name Azra Turk to interview Papadopoulos about how he learned of the Hillary emails. Papadopoulos’ testimony to Congress is that he believes Azra Turk’s name is fake (it almost certainly was) because of something he read on Twitter

So I get there. I get to London. And he introduces — or he does not introduce me to, but I can’t remember exactly how I came into contact with his assistant, this young lady named Azra Turk, which I think is a fake name, by the way. My —

Mr. Meadows. Why do you believe it’s a fake name?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Reading — reading Twitter and people saying that Azra in Turkish means pure and then Turk. So unless she has the name of pure Turk.

He testified he believes Turk asked him about hacking because he read it in the NYT (the NYT actually shows Halper asked about this).

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.

And Papadopoulos believes (correctly) there is a transcript of these conversations and (falsely) that it is exonerating because of what John Solomon wrote days earlier.

Mr. Papadopoulos. I’m sure the transcript exists and you’ve probably read it, so I don’t want to be wrong on exactly what he said. But —

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.

Mr. Meadows. All right. Go ahead.

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

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

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

As I have noted, if the transcript reflects what Papadopoulos says it does, it shows that he lied about ongoing connections to Russia; he had been planning a secret meeting with Russia for precisely that date during the summer, and would boast of a pro-Russian interview to Mifsud some weeks later (which got him fired from the campaign). Plus, Papadopoulos’ claim an action — optimizing the WikiLeaks releases, which Roger Stone was doing even as Papadopoulos gave this answer — would amount to treason explains why he would lie to the FBI about any knowledge four months later. That is, the transcript, if it says what Papadopoulos says, shows the deceit of a guilty conscience, not exoneration.

Papadopolous cites an article quoting his lawyer saying his arrest was totally legal to claim it was rushed

In addition to citing his beliefs about the Israeli that almost got him charged with being a foreign agent of Israel to a misreading of a WikiLeaks cable, Papadopoulos does this most hysterically in attempting to respond to Mark Meadows’ clear demands that he claim the circumstances of his arrest (and a border search of his briefcase the likes of which happens all the time to brown people who aren’t even being arrested) was improper. At the beginning of a colloquy where Papadopoulos repeatedly stops short of using the inflammatory language Meadows tries to feed him,, the former campaign aide suggests a Politico story suggested a deviation from the norm on arrests.

So everything was done in a very — I had never been arrested before. I didn’t know that was a normal procedure. But reading certain articles about my arrest in Politico and other newspapers, it seems like there was some sort of rush to arrest me and —

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. So you didn’t say, Why are you arresting me?

Mr. Papadopoulos. The only thing I remember was something along the lines of — and I can’t remember if it was after I had the handcuffs on me that they told me this is what happens when you don’t tell us everything about your Russia contacts. But I don’t remember any formal charges, or them telling me You are under arrest for X, Y or Z. That, I don’t remember at all.

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.

Mr. Meadows. Right.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. So that’s your testimony. So they basically take your briefcase and they start searching it? Did they ask you permission to search it?

Mr. Papadopoulos. My memory is that they put me in the room at the airport, did not ask me for any permission whatsoever, and then they began to search through my briefcase in a very, quite violent manner.

Mr. Meadows. By “violent,” what do you mean, just ripping it —

Mr. Papadopoulos. Just opening it, like that, putting their hands and just digging around. That’s, I just didn’t understand what was going on.

Mr. Meadows. And they didn’t indicate what they were looking for?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember them indicating anything, no. And I don’t remember them actually formally, I guess, looking through my bag until I — I can’t remember — after we went in a car to another facility where I was processed. It was very strange.

Mr. Meadows. So did they show you a warrant to search those things?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I didn’t —

Mr. Meadows. Did they have a warrant to search your —

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember any warrant. In fact, the whole situation was very, it seemed very rushed and very chaotic.

Mr. Meadows. So you’re telling me that they searched your personal property without a warrant prior to you coming through Customs?

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

Here’s the Politico report. While reporting that the arrest was likely done in an attempt to shock Papadopolous, it also cites his own lawyer saying, “What they did was absolutely lawful,” [Thomas] Breen said. “If I had a complaint, you’d know about it. I’ve got a short fuse.”

Mark Meadows allowed Papadopoulos to tell a less damning fairy tale by neglecting to get backup emails from him first

This charade, letting a witness testify to Congress not about what he personally knows, but what he read about himself, often what he read in propaganda outlets relying on sketchy sources, would be bad enough. It was made far, far worse because of a simple fact about the hearing: the Republicans who set it up (and this appears to have been run almost entirely by Mark Meadows) did not, first, demand that Papadopoulos provide the backup documents that would make such questioning even remotely worthwhile.

As a result, Papadopoulos responded to question after question that went to the substance of his sustained interest in working with Russia with vague claims about what he did and did not remember and a offer, instead, to share the emails that might pinpoint what he really knew and did. Over and over, he happens to tell a story that is less damning.

Whether out of forgetfulness or deceit, for example, Papadopoulos foreshortens two things about the campaign: first, the claimed date when the campaign started covering up its ties to Russia, which was July, not May.

Q You said also that you continued to suggest this Trump-Putin summit, but eventually, you found out that the campaign just wasn’t interested. Can you tell me the process by which you came to understand that the campaign wasn’t interested in setting up a Trump-Putin meeting?

A Yes. As I remember it, by the time Manafort took the helm of the campaign, I just emailed him, Are we interested in this or not? I think I forwarded to him an email from Ivan Timofeev where he’s asking for a letter to be signed by the campaign if this is a serious proposal or not, something like that. And I don’t think I ever received a response from Manafort. And you just put two and two together, no one’s interested, so stop it.

He also foreshortens the time he was in contact with Mifsud, which extended even after the election.

Q When was the last time you remember communicating with Professor Misfud?

A Off the top of my memory I think it was the summer of 2016.

Perhaps the most glaring instance of this, however, pertains to whether Walid Phares was involved in pursuing a secret meeting with Russia that would have taken place at the precise time Papadopoulos was in London getting interviewed by Stefan Halper. Papadopoulos answered a question about whether he discussed the secret meeting with Phares not by answering, but by saying he wasn’t sure it was in the emails.

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.

As the Meuller Report makes clear, very very damning details about precisely this topic were in Papadopoulos’ emails.

Papadopoulos remembered discussing Russia and a foreign policy trip with Clovis and Phares during the event.484 Papadopoulos’s recollection is consistent with emails sent before and after the TAG summit. The pre-summit messages included a July 11, 2016 email in which Phares suggested meeting Papadopoulos the day after the summit to chat,485 and a July 12 message in the same chain in which Phares advised Papadopoulos that other summit attendees “are very nervous about Russia. So be aware.”486 Ten days after the summit, Papadopoulos sent an email to Mifsud listing Phares and Clovis as other “participants” in a potential meeting at the London Academy of Diplomacy.487

This is what any hearing with George Papadopoulos should be about, details that would make any allegation that his claim, in mid-September, that he had nothing to do with Russia would be inculpatory, not exculpatory. But that’s not the hearing Mark Meadows decided to stage.

According to someone familiar with the aftermath of this hearing, Papadopoulos never did supply the emails he promised, at least not in a way such that they got shared with Democratic staffers.

Papadopoulos tells Congress there is no substance behind allegations that the main source for his allegations made

The whole hearing was absurd, which is why it is all the more ridiculous that the Attorney General of the United States is running around the world treating these conspiracies as if they have merit.

But don’t take my word — or the public record — for it. Take the word of the hearing’s star witness, George Papadopoulos. He told Congress that there was no substance to the allegations that Stephan Roh, the Mifsud lawyer whose conspiracies Bill Barr is currently chasing, had made that he, Papadopoulos, was a western intelligence operative.

Q Are you aware that in a Daily Caller article, Mr. Roh has referred to you as a western intelligence operative?

A I wasn’t aware of that, but I was aware he wrote a book where he speculated that I could be that, but of course I don’t know this person beyond a couple of emails and phone calls, so, of course, he has no substance behind any allegations.

So on the one subject about which Papadopoulos claimed to have first hand knowledge here, he said Roh was making stuff up.

And yet, Bill Barr still treats Roh’s other allegations — the ones laundered through propaganda outlets — as true.

Hitting the Fan: Volker’s Text Messages Released

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! ~Rayne]

Around 10:00 p.m. last night, House Democrats released partial transcripts of text messages between former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker and other officials, including:

William B. “Bill” Taylor, Charge d’Affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine;
Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union;
Andrey Yermak, Aide to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky;
Rudy Giuliani, in his role as Trump’s agent;

and others.

The specific texts released had already been “leaked” out of context, according to the cover letter accompanying the partial transcripts sent to members of the Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs Committees, subsequently shared at the Foreign Affairs Committee’s website.

You can read the letter and transcript at this link.

The transcripts suggest the entire State Department knew about the quid pro quo — the release of delayed military and financial assistance in exchange for investigations intended to aid Trump’s personal political aims including re-election. The quid pro quo also looks obvious:

Only one person recognized this effort as problematic: Bill Taylor, who assumed some of the responsibilities of recalled ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

There’s more than one quid pro quo outlined in the transcripts, not readily acknowledged in the media. Less obvious is the trade-off of an agreement to a scripted statement in exchange for an invitation to visit the White House. Such a visit would be a validation of support for Zelensky’s young presidency and a thumb in the eye to Vladimir Putin, bolstering Zelensky’s image with Ukraine’s public.

Community member harpie pointed to a statement on camera at 8:28 AM on August 9 by Trump which fits in the middle of the negotiations, suggesting Trump was fully aware of the exchange.

TRUMP: I think he’s [Zelensky] going to make a deal with President Putin, and he will be invited to the White House, and we look forward to seeing him. He’s already been invited to the White House and he wants to come. And I think he will. He’s a very reasonable guy. He wants to see peace in Ukraine. And I think he will be coming very soon, actually.

(source: Aaron Rupar)

The transcripts suggest that Zelensky’s aide/adviser Yermak has been identified as ethically flexible — amenable to this quid pro quo and willing to present it to Zelensky. Yermak’s background is in film/TV production, similar to several of Zelensky’s administration. Only a couple of Zelensky’s team appear to be lawyers, one of which has been barred from holding public office (Andriy Bohdan, appointed to equivalent of Chief of Staff). In the text messages Yermak appears to keep Zelensky at arm’s length from the negotiations, but this may be due to the limited amount of texts released; Zelensky may have been wholly involved on a more direct basis.

~ ~ ~

Compounding the pressure on House Dems to act is Trump’s increasingly overt behavior, asking China yesterday on camera to investigate both of his 2020 political rivals, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

China has now issued a statement in response:

Now that we know how this works in Trumplandia, we can interpret the unexpressed portion of this statement: China will not interfere in U.S. domestic affairs and the U.S. should not interfere in China’s domestic affairs — including Hong Kong.

We can only wonder at what else was in the text transcripts not yet disclosed, and how Trump will react if yesterday was just the beginning act of this program.

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