Posts

The Roger Stone Prosecution Was One Step in an Ongoing Investigation

I’ve spent the last few days going through the warrants released the other day in detail. This post attempts to summarize what they show about the Stone investigation.

First, understand the scope of this release. According to a filing the government submitted a year ago, they considered the media request to apply to, “warrants to search Stone’s property and facilities [and] other warrants that were executed as part of the same line of investigation” obtained under both Rule 41 and Stored Communication Act.  It does not include warrants from other lines of investigation that happened to yield information on Stone. That said, there is good reason to believe there are either filings that were entirely withheld, or that DOJ’s interpretation of what constitutes the “same line of investigation” is fluid.

In his order to release the files, Judge Christopher Cooper said that the individual redactions hide, “the private information of non-parties, financial information, and non-public information concerning other pending criminal investigations.” In the hearing on the release, the media coalition suggested that people who had testified at Stone’s trial should not be protected under the guise of privacy, and that seems to have been the standard adopted on redactions of names. In general, then, this post assumes that the redaction of names (such as Ted Malloch) protects the privacy of people who did not testify at trial, but the redaction of entire paragraphs (such as 7 paragraphs of boilerplate describing why Malloch was suspected to be involved) was done to protect ongoing investigations. In the list of warrants below, I’ve marked with an asterisk those that — either because they weren’t for Stone’s property or because they didn’t yield evidence relevant to the the obstruction charges he was prosecuted for — were not provided to Stone in discovery; I’ve based that on the list in this order (see footnote 2).

This investigation may well have started as a box-checking exercise, effectively checking whether John Podesta’s allegations that Roger Stone had learned of the hack targeting Hillary’s campaign manager ahead of time. It appears that Mueller’s team slowly came to believe that Roger Stone had gotten advance notice — and possibly advanced possession — of the Podesta email drop. Along the way, it ruled out one after another theory of how he did so.

Two of the most fascinating applications — one pertaining to an Israeli contact and another regarding someone apparently introduced to Stone by Charles Ortel — seem to have fully (the Israeli lead) or partly (the Ortel one) fizzled. (I base that on whether communications described in the affidavits continue to show up in later applications and whether entire paragraphs remain redacted.)

But the government still seems to believe that Stone worked with Corsi and Malloch on these issues. The government is obviously still trying to figure out whether the rat-fuckers and hoaxsters managed to optimize the release of the Podesta emails on October 7, 2016 to drown out the Access Hollywood drop. Mueller’s uncertainty on this point is something explained in redacted sections of the Mueller Report.

Along the way, Mueller developed two side prongs to the investigation: an examination of how Stone used social media to advertise WikiLeaks documents (it’s likely that investigation came to include ads that may have replicated themes being pushed by Russia and may have involved improper collaboration with the campaign), and the obstruction and witness tampering investigation Stone was prosecuted for.

More interesting still, in fall 2018, Mueller’s team started pursuing several leads (including the Ortel one), most of which — if the rule that entirely redacted paragraphs reflect ongoing investigation — continue to be investigated. Indeed, it appears that the prosecution of Stone for obstruction served partly as a means to initiate a prosecution against him, possibly entice him to flip against Trump or others, but perhaps mainly to obtain Stone’s devices in an attempt to get texts from 2016 to 2017 he had deleted, as well as the content of the encrypted communications he had sent using those devices. That is, the search, arrest, and prosecution of Stone appears to have been just one step in an ongoing investigation, an investigation that may be targeting others (including Julian Assange).

Identify the Malloch and Corsi connection (May 2017 to July 2018)

From May (when Mueller’s team first obtained subscriber records on Stone’s Twitter account) until November 2017, the investigation may have been little more than an effort to assess the spat between Stone and John Podesta over Stone’s August 21, 2016 “time in the barrel tweet.” After the team obtained Stone’s Twitter accounts, they moved to obtain the email accounts on which he conducted conversations started on Twitter. In November, Mueller got a warrant for his own team to access Julian Assange’s Twitter accounts (though the government surely already had obtained that). By December, Stone’s email accounts would have led Mueller’s team to believe that Ted Malloch, who was in London, could have been the back channel Stone kept bragging about, and so got his Gmail account. Mueller gagged Google to prevent Malloch from learning that. As a result, Malloch was presumably surprised when he arrived at Logan airport in March and was searched — a search conducted to obtain his phones, partly in an attempt to get to his UK-hosted email.

After Steven Bannon was interviewed in February 2018, Mueller’s team used that to obtain Stone’s Apple account; while not indicated anywhere in these applications, that’s where they would discover Stone and Michael Caputo had responded to a Russian offering dirt on Hillary.

In July, Mueller’s team obtained Jerome Corsi’s email and Apple accounts (there’s no record of them obtaining his Gmail account, but Corsi’s description of Mueller’s knowledge of his August 2016 searches suggests they got it). These affidavits begin to include a 7-page redaction that may indicate ongoing investigation into whether Stone or Corsi optimized the October 7 Podesta email release.

In this phase, the crimes being investigated expanded from just hacking to conspiracy to aiding and abetting. When Mueller got the Assange warrant, he added the illegal  foreign contribution charge (one he declined to prosecute in a long redacted passage of the Mueller Report).

Collect materials on Stone’s overt social media campaigns (August 2018)

On May 18, 2018, Mueller’s team interviewed John Kakanis, who had worked on tech issues for Stone during the election. Afterwards, Mueller’s team obtained a series of warrants to collect the social media campaigns Stone had conducted on issues related to the Russian hack-and-leak. Those warrants included one for several Facebook accounts, a Gmail and Twitter account Stone used for such issues, and a Facebook and Gmail account under the Brazilian name Falo Memo Tio. Stone apparently did not receive the Facebook Falo Memo Tio account, and that warrant included a gag.

Track Stone’s efforts to obstruct the investigation (August 2018)

As Mueller’s team started interviewing people loyal to Stone, they became aware that Stone was communicating with witnesses. In May, Mueller obtained a pen register on Stone’s email accounts, allowing them to track with whom Stone was communicating. An August 3, 2018 warrant describes how investigators used those toll records to track such communications:

  • In the wake of Michael Caputo’s interview, he and Stone communicated via his Hotmail account (this would have been obvious from the story Stone seeded with the WaPo not long after)
  • After FBI Agents approached Andrew Miller, Stone emailed him via Gmail at least 10 times and a over a hundred times after he started challenging his subpoena
  • Stone emailed both Corsi and Credico in May 2018
  • Stone hired a private investigator to conduct a background investigation into someone who had done IT work for him during the campaign and research where he could serve Credico with legal process; in a June 2018 interview, the PI told investigators he and Stone primarily communicated via iPhone text messages

This affidavit included a section (¶¶64-77), based off texts with Credico stored in Stone’s iCloud account and texts published by the media, describing Stone’s threats to Credico.

In response to Stone’s overt efforts to thwart the investigation, Mueller obtained new warrants on Stone’s Hotmail, Gmail, and Apple accounts, which would yield a great deal of evidence for the obstruction and witness tampering charges against Stone. From this point forward, those charges would be included on warrants targeting Stone. In addition, from that point forward, the government appears to have sought to obtain Stone’s communications with those whose testimony he was obstructing (though the names of others besides Credico are redacted).

Starting with the next warrant, affidavits would include a section (¶¶87-89) comparing what Stone had told the House Intelligence Committee with what his own communication records showed, language that would form the backbone for the obstruction indictment.

Investigate the spooky stuff (May to August 2018)

There’s a number of things in these warrants that are difficult to assess. They didn’t show up in Stone’s trial, and it’s unclear whether they were leads that fizzled or reflect far more damning evidence. For example, the Israeli source who kept trying (and ultimately succeeded, once) to use Stone to get a meeting with Donald Trump doesn’t appear to have amounted to much, at least not with respect to the WikiLeaks releases.

A far more intriguing detail is the FBI claim — that lacks details that would be necessary to assess its accuracy — that Stone was searching for details of the Russian operation before those details were made public. The FBI made that claim twice. First, in a July 28, 2018 affidavit, they described that someone conducted searches on dcleaks and “guccifer june” using IP addresses that might be Stone, starting on May 17, 2016. The suggestion is that Stone may have had advance notice of those parts of the Russian operation. But some journalists learned of dcleaks after it got launched in early June and before it got more attention later in the summer. And the original Guccifer, Marcel Lazar, signed a plea agreement in late May 2016. Given Lazar’s claim to have hacked a Hillary server, it’s not unreasonable to think Stone would be researching him. A later warrant discusses someone — who again could be Stone — searching on Guccifer the day that the site would go up, but before it was public.

During the course of its investigation, the FBI has identified a series of searches that appear to relate to the persona Guccifer 2.0, which predate the public unveiling of that persona. In particular, on or about June 15, 2016 (prior to the publication of the Guccifer 2.0 WordPress blog), records from Google show that searches were conducted for the terms “guccifer” and “guccifer june,” from an IP address within the range 107. 77 .216.0/24.

The same rebuttal may be made — that this was about Marcel Lazar and not Guccifer 2.0. But evidence submitted at the trial suggests that Stone started anticipating the June 2016 dump on June 13, not June 15, making the claim more credible.

That July 28 warrant also describes several accounts that look like the FBI suspect Stone of sophisticated operational security. These include:

  • A Gmail account created on July 28, 2016 (right in the thick of Stone’s effort to find out what WikiLeaks had coming next) and used until July 5, 2017
  • A Gmail account created on October 26, 2016 and used until August 8, 2017
  • A Gmail account created on June 27, 2016 and used in conjunction with Craigslist to communicate

The latter effort may suggest some serious OpSec, a way for Stone to communicate publicly without using his own comms.

Finally, there are matching Gmail and Facebook accounts the government obtained warrants for on August 28, 2018. These were old accounts with the Brazilian name Falo Memo Tio. It appears the government was interested in activity on this account from the last four days before the election. They obtained a gag for the Facebook warrant.

Seal warrants investigating an Agent of Foreign Power (August to September 2018)

The government tried to obtain proof that it was Stone doing those searches on Guccifer — as well as evidence about whom he may have met with in early August 2016 when he told Sam Nunberg he had dined with Assange — by obtaining his cell site location for June 14 through November 15 of that year.

Minutes after FBI Agent Andrew Mitchell (who had been the primary affiant on Stone warrants starting in May 2018) obtained that cell site warrant, FBI Agent Patrick Myers obtained a warrant for a mail.com account that Guccifer 2.0 had created on July 23, 2016 and used until October 18, 2016 (the account kept receiving traffic until February 2017). There are several remarkable things about this warrant. While FBI Agents in San Francisco obtained a warrant for it in August 2016, and someone — possibly Mueller’s team — obtained the headers from the account in September 2017, the government had never before obtained a full warrant on the account for the entire span of its activity. So Myers, seven weeks after Mueller released an indictment against the GRU, obtained that information in hopes it would provide more information about how the Guccifer persona had shared files.

The other FBI Agents investigating Stone, to the extent they described such things, were located in either Washington Field Office or FBI Headquarters in DC. Myers, however, was stationed in Pittsburgh, where the investigation into GRU had been moved (they were also working on an indictment for GRU’s hacking of WADA).

Myers’ involvement with Stone extended beyond this curious warrant for Guccifer 2.0’s account. Over the course of the next month, he obtained warrants for:

  1. Stone’s Liquid Web server storing old communications
  2. A Twitter account obtained for redacted reasons
  3. Multiple Twitter accounts obtained for redacted reasons
  4. Multiple Facebook and Instagram accounts obtained for redacted reasons
  5. Multiple Microsoft and Skype accounts obtained for redacted reasons
  6. Multiple Google accounts obtained for redacted reasons
  7. A Twitter account for someone, probably referred by Charles Ortel, whose name ends in R and who traveled back and forth from the UK who Stone suggested, in October 2016, was his intermediary
  8. Multiple Google accounts obtained for redacted reasons

All those warrants, as well as the Guccifer 2.0 account one, included a gag. One of those gag requests — for a warrant for some Twitter accounts — explains,

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.

Almost all of the warrants (not the R Apple one or the last Google one, though the R Apple one lists perjury) list FARA and 18 USC 951 (Agent of a Foreign Power) as crimes under investigation somewhere in the warrant, though often only in the gag request. To be clear, that doesn’t mean the FBI was investigating Stone as an Agent of a Foreign Power. The Guccifer 2.0 gag says FBI “is investigating WikiLeaks and others” for the listed crimes.

And those gags say the complexity of the investigation means it may extend more than a year from late September 2018. That is, in September 2018, the government took steps in an investigation they expected to last until around the time that Stone would eventually be tried, in November 2019.

Use the obstruction charges to seize Stone’s phones (January to February 2019)

The existence of those mystery warrants, none of which were provided to Stone in discovery and all but the R Apple one which appear to be ongoing, puts what happened in January 2019 in a very different light. At a time when Bill Barr promised to shut down the Mueller investigation as soon as he was confirmed yet while Mueller was still pursuing Andrew Miller’s testimony, the government obtained warrants to search Stone’s two homes, his office, and three devices seized in those searches (the affiants for those warrants had filed for earlier warrants in the investigation).

Unlike all the other warrants, those 2019 warrants listed only the obstruction, false statements, and witness tampering charges against Stone, largely tracking the indictment against him.

Those warrants emphasize the government’s interest in obtaining texts that might be accessed only via a forensic search of Stone’s phone, including texts sent via Apple, but also Signal, Wickr, and WhatsApp texts, as well as ProtonMail emails.

Which is to say, in the context of the warrants released this week, the prosecution of Roger Stone appears to be just one step in a far more serious investigation, one that may well be ongoing.


The warrants

August 7, 2017: Stone’s Twitter Accounts

This warrant only lists CFAA as the suspected crime, and doesn’t allege that Stone was the suspect in it. It also relies on Stone’s own public comments about DMing with Guccifer 2.0 rather than materials already obtained from the account, just the first of an insane number of instances where Stone’s comments to the press formed the basis for probable cause.

September 11, 2017: Stone’s Hotmail Account

When people DMed Stone, he’d refer them to this Hotmail account for further discussion. This affidavit incorporates DMs to Assange (including the June 10, 2017 one discussing a pardon) obtained with the August 7 warrant. It also describes investigating information to be used in the Republican primary. This warrant extended the timeframe of the Stone investigation back to January 1, 2015.

October 17, 2017: Stone’s Gmail

This warrant builds on emails between Corsi and Stone about getting the WikiLeaks releases — including Stone’s “get to Assange” one — to establish the probable cause to get Stone’s Gmail account. Because Corsi would sometimes discuss Podesta related business via both Stone’s Hotmail and Gmail accounts, Mueller’s team was able to get Stone’s Gmail account. This warrant makes it clear the investigation focused on Corsi and Stone’s evolving attacks against John Podesta (which I’ve covered in real time from early on) from the beginning. It also includes a detail about Malloch — that he made a reference in January 2017 about phishing Podesta — that almost certainly remains in the redacted sections pertaining to Malloch.

*November 6, 2017: WikiLeaks and Assange’s Twitter Accounts

This affidavit uses Assange’s DMs with Stone — including another one about a pardon and migration from the WikiLeaks to the Assange account– as well as his sharing of a password with Don Jr to get Mueller his own copy of the WikiLeaks and Assange Twitter accounts, which the government surely already had. The affidavit includes new details on initial communications between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, some of which I laid out here. One detail that’s critical is WikiLeaks asked Guccifer 2.0 for Clinton Foundation documents from early on, meaning WikiLeaks and Trump’s people agreed about what they considered the best possible dirt.

*December 19, 2017: Ted Malloch’s Gmail

In addition to extra details about campaign communications (both between Stone and the campaign, and with Malloch and the campaign), this includes details of Turkish dirt Malloch was offering. It reveals that Stone got RNC credentials for Malloch (where, evidence suggests, Stone had meetings where upcoming releases may have been discussed). In addition, because Stone’s order to Corsi to reach out to Malloch is so important, this affidavit has previously unknown details about those days. The affidavit describes Malloch writing Stone on November 13, 2016 while with Jerome Corsi, a detail that may get redacted in subsequent affidavits.

This warrant included a gag on the provider.

This is the first application that introduces Stone, Corsi, and Malloch at the beginning of each affidavit, a practice that would generally continue (though some of these changes reflect different FBI agents writing the affidavit).

March 14, 2018: Two Apple Accounts used by Stone

In February, Steve Bannon was interviewed for two long days. He was asked questions and shared texts with Stone. This application uses some of what he testified about to justify getting Stone’s Apple accounts. Stone had his iCloud account set to full backup, but later warrants would make clear that he had deleted some of his texts from 2016 and 2017. Stone would later blame Sam Nunberg for revealing that he had claimed to have “dined” with Julian Assange while visiting Los Angeles in early August 2016, but this application began to incorporate that email into boilerplate application language (a footnote on what Nunberg told investigators about this is redacted in later warrants).

This application added wire fraud to Stone’s potential charges; it’s not at all clear why.

*March 27, 2018: Malloch’s person and his baggage

This warrant allowed the FBI to search Malloch as he landed in Logan airport. It incorporated details from Malloch’s Gmail obtained in December and was at least in part an effort to get to his UK-based email.

*May 4, 2018: Mystery Israeli Gmail

Over the course of the year, an Israeli exploited a seeming pre-existing relationship with Jerome Corsi to get close to Stone and through him to Trump. The person appeared to offer Stone dirt to save Trump (this story provides some background on potential players). Stone seems to have been reluctant to meet at multiple times, as when he said, in May 2016, “I am uncomfortable meeting without Jerry,” claimed, in June, “to have been poisoned,” in July, came down “with a nasty cold and too ill to travel,” followed later with, “I have pneumonia and may be hospitalized later today,” claimed, “Matters complicated” in August. When, in early November, they tried again, the Israeli deferred claiming, “HAVING a TIA. Early Stroke. … Blury Virson.” These exchanges never show up in later filings, so it’s quite likely Mueller determined they were nothing (or at least, that Stone and Corsi had done nothing wrong) after obtaining the emails. Alternately, a redaction in the affidavit may suggest the Israeli in question got referred and some kind of investigation is ongoing. This warrant included a gag on the provider.

*July 12, 2018: Jerome Corsi’s CSC Holdings, Windstream, and Apple accounts (second version)

This adds language about Russian hacking after the initial compromise (including the September hack of the AWS server). It includes 7 paragraphs of language from after the election that is redacted, possibly because it remains under investigation. This Stone filing describes four of those paragraphs as pertaining to Corsi taking credit for optimizing the Podesta release and Malloch introducing Corsi to Assange after the election (see this post). Some of the redactions (probably the Malloch introduction) repeats the “phishing Podesta” quip. This warrant included a gag on the provider. It limited the scope of the warrant to June 15 through November 10, 2016 and included only CFAA and conspiracy in the crimes being investigated.

July 27, 2018: Roger Stone’s OpSec emails

This warrant obtains the search histories for 3 Gmail accounts Roger Stone set up, possibly for OpSec purposes. They include:

  • Target Account 1 created on July 28, 2016 and used until July 5, 2017
  • Target Account 2 created on October 26, 2016 and used until August 8, 2017
  • Swash Buckler Account created on June 27, 2016 and used to communicate via Craigslist ads

Between May 17, 2016 and June 15, 2016, the affidavit suggests, Stone may have conducted Google searches for DCLeaks and Guccifer (which could be 1 or 2) prior to the publication of the Guccifer 2.0 blog. The FBI connected them to Stone via the IP addresses he used to access Twitter and Facebook, something they would continue to investigate. The affidavit also reveals that Stone deleted the search history for a different Google account between January 18 and July 23, 2016.

August 2, 2018: Roger Stone marketing Facebook accounts

This warrant gets three of Stone’s Facebook accounts, two of which include advertisements pertaining to WikiLeaks or Russia (the description of the third is redacted). Stone used this warrant when signaling to his co-conspirators what was in his warrants, so redacted details are available here. The biggest redaction for an ongoing investigation pertains to whether Corsi and Stone affected the release of the Podesta emails and Malloch offering to set Corsi up with Assange after the election.

August 3, 2018: Renewed warrants for Apple, Hotmail, and Gmail

Partly because the way Stone worked the press and aired the threats he had made against Randy Credico, it became clear he was tampering or comparing notes with witnesses (also including Jerome Corsi, Michael Caputo, and Andrew Miller, as well as one other witness that Stone hired a private investigator to investigate). That gave Mueller the excuse to get new warrants on Stone’s main email and text accounts to get those conversations. This request expanded the focus to include Credico and others (the names of the others are redacted but are likely those with whom Stone was trying to tamper). This warrant also adds obstruction and witness tampering to the crimes being investigated.

August 8: Warrants for a Gmail and Twitter account Stone used for social media campaigns (Twitter)

On May 18, 2018, Mueller’s team interviewed John Kakanis about work he did for Stone during the campaign. He described how Stone conducted social media campaigns — including materials relating to WikiLeaks and the Russian investigation — which both of these accounts played a role in.

August 20, 2018: Warrant for Stone’s cell site information from June 15 to November 15, 2016

Citing the searches probably made by Stone for Guccifer and dcleaks information before those accounts were made public, the government obtained cell site information for the period from the day that the Guccifer 2.0 account first started to a day the week after the election. The affidavit also explained wanting to know if Stone was with the Trump campaign at various times and where he was in Los Angeles when he told Sam Nunberg he had dined with Assange. Note, this affidavit suggests Stone did a Google search on “Guccifer” on June 15, 2016 before the site went up.

*August 20, 2018: Warrant for Guccifer 2.0’s second email account

The same day the government got a warrant to find out where Stone had been when during the election, they got a renewed warrant for one of the email accounts associated with the Guccifer 2.0 site. They had previously gotten everything from that email account in “approximately” August 2016, and then gotten headers for any emails sent in “approximately” September 2017. Getting the full content would give it additional details on any activity with the account between the original warrant — August 2016 — and the final login on October 18, 2016, as well as any email traffic subsequent to that. The stated purpose for obtaining this information was to “assist in identifying additional means by which Guccifer 2.0 shared stolen documents with WikiLeaks and others.” Patrick Myers, an FBI agent located in Pittsburgh (and therefore presumably someone more closely involved in the GRU investigation) obtained this warrant. This warrant included a gag on the provider. Parts of this warrant invoke 18 USC 951 — agent of a foreign power charges — in addition to the other crimes under investigation.

*August 28, 2018: Warrant for Stone’s Falo Memo Tio Facebook account

August 28, 2018: Warrant for Stone’s Falo Memo Gmail account

This incorporates details about Stone’s Facebook accounts used to push the hack-and-leak, found in the earlier August Facebook warrants. It seeks to obtain an old Stone Facebook account that got advertising traffic right before the election. These were Stone-specific warrants that was not turned over in discovery, suggesting it returned nothing pertaining to his prosecution. The Facebook warrant, but not the Gmail one, included a gag on the provider; it also was not included in the warrants provided to Stone in discovery.

August 28, 2018: Warrant for Stone’s [email protected] account

This email account–and the fact that he had been using it to tell his cover story about WikiLeaks–showed up in his Gmail account.

*September 24, 2018: Warrant for Stone’s Liquid Web server

This was a server Stone used to encrypt and back up his data in case the government seized his computers. It was not provided to Stone in discovery so may not have revealed any interesting information. This is the first of these affidavits written by Patrick Myers, an FBI agent located in Pittsburgh.

*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

On September 26 and 27, Mueller’s team obtained a bunch of new warrants. All were obtained by Myers, the Pittsburgh FBI agent. All included gags on the provider. Most entirely redact the description of why the FBI needed the accounts, suggesting these investigations are ongoing. They also invoke 951 and FARA in the sealing request.

*September 27, 2018: Mystery Twitter Accounts 2

Like the other warrants obtained on September 27, the explanation for targeting these Twitter accounts is sealed. Like them, Myers obtained the warrant. Like those, it includes a request for sealing that lists 18 USC 951 — acting as an unregistered foreign agent — and FARA. Unlike the other warrants from that day, the justification for sealing this one explains that “It does not appear that Stone is fully aware of the full scope of the ongoing FBI investigation.”

*September 27, 2018: Mystery Apple ends in R

Then there’s another odd September 27 warrant application. Like the other warrants obtained on September 27, Myers wrote the affidavit for this one, and it included a gag. Unlike the others, however, the explanation for targeting this account is not entirely redacted. The affidavit explains that,

  • On August 17, 2016, someone (Charles Ortel?) introduced Stone and R
  • Between that introduction and November 3, 2016, Stone and R were in contact 60 times
  • On October 7, R and Stone spoke during the time between when WaPo alerted him to the Access Hollywood Video and the time it dropped
  • On October 10, R and Stone probably met for pizza on the Upper East Side
  • On October 12, Stone claimed that he had met his intermediary, who traveled back and forth to London, on October 10

The list of information targeted includes an additional name, probably that of Charles Ortel.

*October 5, 2018: Mystery Multiple Googles

Like the September 27 warrants, the explanation for targeting these accounts remains entirely redacted. Like them, the affidavit was written by Myers and sealed under a Kyle Freeny request. Unlike those, however, this one does not list 951 and FARA in the request to seal. This affidavit also does not include the contacts with “R” in the narrative about October 7, suggesting that lead may have fizzled.

January 24, 2019: Stone’s NY property

January 24, 2019: Stone’s FL property

January 24, 2019: Stone’s FL office

February 13, 2019: Three of Stone’s devices

The warrants for the searches in conjunction with Stone’s arrest on January 24 are fairly similar (one agent wrote the one in NY, another did the two in FL), except for the descriptions of the premises, facilitated by how much media Stone has done at these locations.

The affidavits themselves largely track the indictment, though showing where the government had sourced the evidence that ultimately got introduced at evidence at trial. The affidavits add people named in the indictment — Rick Gates, Steve Bannon, and Erik Prince (whose description is redacted) — premised on the import of proving that Stone had lied about telling these people about his purported link to WikiLeaks. As compared to the earlier warrants, these affidavits have a closer focus on the release (and reliance, exclusively, on the Crowdstrike and GRU indictment attribution, which is something Stone litigated and which I may return to).

These warrants make it clear that one of the things the government was doing was searching Stone’s homes for all his electronic devices in hopes of getting texts from 2016 to 2017 he deleted and his encrypted communications, which include:

  • WhatsApp, downloaded on October 5, 2016 to talk to Erik Prince
  • Signal and ProtonMail downloaded on August 18, 2016; Stone used Signal to talk to Margaret Kunstler
  • Wickr downloaded on August 5, 2017

Update: One detail I forgot to add about the 2019 search warrants: They explain that Stone responded to a grand jury subpoena in November 2018 asking for the texts he had with Credico, after he told the press — specifically, Chuck Ross, for a credulous story that spun Stone’s like — that his attorney had them. It’s one of the most hilarious ways that Stone’s blathering to the press hurt him.

Update: One more detail about the 2019 search warrants. The FBI was specifically looking for a “file booklet” recording a meeting Stone had with Trump at Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

60. On or about May 8, 2018, a law enforcement interview of [redacted] was conducted. [redacted] was an employee of Stone’s from approximately June 2016 through approximately December 2016 and resided in Stone’s previous New York apartment for a period of time. [redacted] provided information technology support for Stone but was not formally trained to do so. [redacted] was aware that Stone communicated with Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, and afterward, both in person and by telephone. [redacted] provided information about a meeting at Trump Tower between Trump and Stone during the time [redacted] worked for him, to which Stone carried a “file booklet” with him. Stone told [redacted] the file booklet was important and no one should touch it. [redacted] also said Stone maintained the file booklet in his closet.

61. On or about December 3,2018, law enforcement conducted an interview of an individual (“Person 2”) who previously had a professional relationship with a reporter who provided Person 2 with information about Stone. The reporter relayed to Person 2 that in or around January and February 2016, Stone and Trump were in constant communication and that Stone kept contemporaneous notes of the conversations. Stone’s purpose in keeping notes was to later provide a “post mortem of what went wrong.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s up with Jerome Corsi?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judge Amy Berman Jackson summed up this change this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Narrating Donald Trump: “Shoot me like I’m shot on ‘The Apprentice'”


Pretty much everyone I know is recommending this New Yorker profile describing how Mark Burnett created Donald Trump’s current image (and with it his electoral prospects).

Along with describing how both Trump and Burnett came to turn the popularity of the show into a marketing vehicle and a Trump’s telling claim that he initially hesitated before signing onto reality teevee because the, “contractors, politicians, mobsters, and everyone else I have to deal with in my business … don’t like, as they’re talking to me, having cameras all over the room,” the piece describes how the show depicted not reality, but a heavily edited narrative trying to retroactively justify Trump’s capricious firing decisions each week.

The result created the illusion that a serially bankrupt joker was, instead, a king.

Burnett has often boasted that, for each televised hour of “The Apprentice,” his crews shot as many as three hundred hours of footage. The real alchemy of reality television is the editing—sifting through a compost heap of clips and piecing together an absorbing story. Jonathon Braun, an editor who started working with Burnett on “Survivor” and then worked on the first six seasons of “The Apprentice,” told me, “You don’t make anything up. But you accentuate things that you see as themes.” He readily conceded how distorting this process can be. Much of reality TV consists of reaction shots: one participant says something outrageous, and the camera cuts away to another participant rolling her eyes. Often, Braun said, editors lift an eye roll from an entirely different part of the conversation.

At the end of each episode, Trump determined which competitor should be “fired.” But, as Braun explained, Trump was frequently unprepared for these sessions, with little grasp of who had performed well. Sometimes a candidate distinguished herself during the contest only to get fired, on a whim, by Trump. When this happened, Braun said, the editors were often obliged to “reverse engineer” the episode, scouring hundreds of hours of footage to emphasize the few moments when the exemplary candidate might have slipped up, in an attempt to assemble an artificial version of history in which Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip decision made sense. During the making of “The Apprentice,” Burnett conceded that the stories were constructed in this way, saying, “We know each week who has been fired, and, therefore, you’re editing in reverse.” Braun noted that President Trump’s staff seems to have been similarly forced to learn the art of retroactive narrative construction, adding, “I find it strangely validating to hear that they’re doing the same thing in the White House.”

Such sleight of hand is the industry standard in reality television. But the entire premise of “The Apprentice” was also something of a con. When Trump and Burnett told the story of their partnership, both suggested that Trump was initially wary of committing to a TV show, because he was so busy running his flourishing real-estate empire. During a 2004 panel at the Museum of Television and Radio, in Los Angeles, Trump claimed that “every network” had tried to get him to do a reality show, but he wasn’t interested: “I don’t want to have cameras all over my office, dealing with contractors, politicians, mobsters, and everyone else I have to deal with in my business. You know, mobsters don’t like, as they’re talking to me, having cameras all over the room. It would play well on television, but it doesn’t play well with them.”

“The Apprentice” portrayed Trump not as a skeezy hustler who huddles with local mobsters but as a plutocrat with impeccable business instincts and unparalleled wealth—a titan who always seemed to be climbing out of helicopters or into limousines. “Most of us knew he was a fake,” Braun told me. “He had just gone through I don’t know how many bankruptcies. But we made him out to be the most important person in the world. It was like making the court jester the king.” Bill Pruitt, another producer, recalled, “We walked through the offices and saw chipped furniture. We saw a crumbling empire at every turn. Our job was to make it seem otherwise.

[snip]

Trump took to his part more nimbly than anyone might have predicted. He wouldn’t read a script—he stumbled over the words and got the enunciation all wrong. But off the cuff he delivered the kind of zesty banter that is the lifeblood of reality television. He barked at one contestant, “Sam, you’re sort of a disaster. Don’t take offense, but everyone hates you.” Katherine Walker told me that producers often struggled to make Trump seem coherent, editing out garbled syntax and malapropisms. “We cleaned it up so that he was his best self,” she said, adding, “I’m sure Donald thinks that he was never edited.” [my emphasis]

Throughout, the piece both implicitly and explicitly suggests that the White House is adopting techniques from the show in burnishing Trump’s power. Or, at least, Trump is asking that his handlers replicate the same frames of power that Burnett used.

The show’s camera operators often shot Trump from low angles, as you would a basketball pro, or Mt. Rushmore. Trump loomed over the viewer, his face in a jowly glower, his hair darker than it is now, the metallic auburn of a new penny. (“Apprentice” employees were instructed not to fiddle with Trump’s hair, which he dyed and styled himself.) Trump’s entrances were choreographed for maximum impact, and often set to a moody accompaniment of synthesized drums and cymbals. The “boardroom”—a stage set where Trump determined which candidate should be fired—had the menacing gloom of a “Godfather” movie. In one scene, Trump ushered contestants through his rococo Trump Tower aerie, and said, “I show this apartment to very few people. Presidents. Kings.” In the tabloid ecosystem in which he had long languished, Trump was always Donald, or the Donald. On “The Apprentice,” he finally became Mr. Trump.

[snip]

Trump has succeeded in politics, in part, by borrowing the tropes of the show. Jonathon Braun pointed out to me that when Trump announced his candidacy, in 2015, he did so in the atrium of Trump Tower, and made his entrance by descending the gold-colored escalator—choreography that Burnett and his team had repeatedly used on the show. After Trump’s announcement, reports suggested that people who had filled the space and cheered during his speech had been hired to do so, like TV extras, for a day rate of fifty dollars. Earlier this year, the White House started issuing brief video monologues from the President that strongly evoke his appearances on Burnett’s show. Justin McConney, a former director of new media for the Trump Organization, told New York that, whenever Trump works with camera people, he instructs them, “Shoot me like I’m shot on ‘The Apprentice.’ ” [my emphasis]

One of the most interesting details in the piece is that Democrats actively (and successfully) lobbied musical talent to blow off Trump’s inauguration, themselves performing a kind of script-writing that has haunted Trump since.

A Democratic political operative who was involved in a back-channel campaign to dissuade big-name stars from appearing at the event told me that Burnett had tried to enlist musicians to perform. “Mark was somebody we were actively working against,” the operative said. Trump’s wish list included Elton John, Aretha Franklin, and Paul Anka—who, he hoped, would sing “My Way”—but they all claimed to be otherwise engaged. The event ended up with sparse crowds and a feeble roster of performers.

Because I dawdled before reading the piece, I was reading it at the same time as reading coverage of the shutdown. That coverage highlights the results of running a Reality Teevee star as President. There’s NYT report that the reason why Trump has shut down the government to get Congress to fund him a wall is because Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone (and Steve Bannon) used the wall as a mnemonic device to get Trump to repeat his lines.

“How do we get him to continue to talk about immigration?” Sam Nunberg, one of Mr. Trump’s early political advisers, recalled telling Roger J. Stone Jr., another adviser. “We’re going to get him to talk about he’s going to build a wall.”

[snip]

“As a messaging strategy, it was pretty successful,” [anti-immigration activist Mark] Krikorian said. “The problem is, you got elected; now what do you do? Having made it his signature issue, Trump handed the Democrats a weapon against him.”

We’ve shut down the entire government because an entertainment professional always refused to memorize his lines (or as someone on Twitter noted, use a teleprompter), and so the unstable hacks who managed him early on invented a policy promise that not even hardline anti-immigration experts want.

And Trump seems to be judging the advice on the shutdown he receives based on how sycophantically his interlocutors judge his “performance” trying to ratchet up pressure for a wall.

Trump spent much of Saturday on the phone with allies, talking through his positioning on the shutdown and hearing their reviews of his Rose Garden performance, according to a person close to him. Two people regularly on his call list — Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — have encouraged Trump to take a hard line and refuse to agree to reopen the government unless wall funding is secured, the person said.

Trump, who doesn’t understand the successful tycoon that starred in The Apprentice was the product of heavy editing, has now taken to editing himself, trying to fulfill the things the Campaign Reality Teevee star said over and over, based off what Mark Meadows and Lindsey Graham  tell him.

The New Yorker profile, however, offers scant solutions to the problem that Burnett created — just his ex-wife imploring him to tell Trump he’s not actually living a reality show, as if that will fix the problem.

One day this past fall, Burnett got a call from his first wife, Kym Gold, with whom he remains friendly. Gold was upset about what was happening in the country, and asked Burnett to intervene with Trump. “We had it out,” she told me. “I said, ‘You’ve got to help our children, for the future and safety of this country.’ ” Gold implored Burnett, “Tell him this is not a reality show. This is real life. You’re the President. You’re saying things you cannot say—to reporters, to other world leaders.”

But that wouldn’t fix it even if Burnett were willing to risk losing access to Trump by telling him.

The problem, and any potential solutions, is something I’ve been thinking about for some time. No one is going to cure Trump of his addiction to being framed to look powerful. If he doesn’t get that high from his White House handlers, he will continue to fire them and look elsewhere, to people who are even better trained at flattery than Burnett. Trump now believes he can produce himself, based largely on the feedback of nutjobs like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity.

I’m not actually advocating letting Trump frame himself as a king. But I also think that much of Democrats’ response involves trying to fact check Trump rather than reframe him. Your typical Trump voter isn’t going to give a damn that Trump is lying until some policy he has bragged about (up to and including the shutdown, but also his trade wars) ends up making them feel personally betrayed.

Mind you, I think Nancy Pelosi understands all this. She understands (like that other great female politician, Angela Merkel) that Trump will lose more if he is shown looking weak next to a woman than if someone proves his 100,000th lie.

That last of the self-imagined productive sycophants left with John Kelly. Trump now has a temporary Chief of Staff, one who will be gone once Trump decides to internalize Mick Mulvaney’s labeling of Trump’s position on the wall as “childish.” That creates a vacuum in the function of framing Trump’s image.

Update, January 12: This important op-ed from an OLC veteran describes how lawyers there do much the same as what editors on The Apprentice does.

But when I was at OLC, I saw again and again how the decision to trust the president failed the office’s attorneys, the Justice Department and the American people. The failure took different forms. Sometimes, we just wouldn’t look that closely at the claims the president was making about the state of the world. When we did look closely, we could give only nudges. For example, if I identified a claim by the president that was provably false, I would ask the White House to supply a fig leaf of supporting evidence. Or if the White House’s justification for taking an action reeked of unconstitutional animus, I would suggest a less pungent framing or better tailoring of the actions described in the order.

I often wondered, though, whether my attempts to remove the most basic inaccuracies from the face of a presidential order meant that I was myself failing to carry out my oath to protect and defend the Constitution. After all, the president had already submitted, through his early drafts or via Twitter, his reasons for issuing a particular order. I sometimes felt that, rather than engaging in professionally responsible advocacy, my OLC colleagues and I were using the law to legitimize lies.

I felt more than a twinge of recognition this month when reading a New Yorker article about Trump and the reality-TV show “The Apprentice.” Jonathan Braun, an editor on “The Apprentice,” described how editors would “reverse engineer” episodes after Trump made impulsive decisions about firing a contestant. The article described editors “scouring hundreds of hours of footage . . . in an attempt to assemble an artificial version of history in which Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip decision made sense.” Like a staff member at “The Apprentice,” I occasionally caught myself fashioning a pretext, building an alibi.

Stone v NYT: The Treachery of Dueling Incomplete Stories

Both Roger Stone and the NYT have dueling stories out, both falling far short of what they need to tell us about a set of emails sent the first week of October 2016 between Breitbart editor Matthew Boyle, his former boss turned Trump campaign chair Steve Bannon, and Roger Stone.

Neither outlet shows the email addresses or tells us what domains Bannon and Stone were using (Boyle seems to have sent at least one of these emails from his Breitbart account). That’s a huge part of the story given that, earlier this week, Stone denied to the WaPo discussing WikiLeaks with Trump campaign officials.

Stone denied discussing WikiLeaks with Trump campaign officials.

“There are no such communications, and if Bannon says there are he would be dissembling,” he said.

Plus, if Bannon used a non-campaign address to communicate with Boyle and/or Stone, it would suggest an effort to distance his ties to the two from the official campaign business (and might suggest Mueller had to have gone through extra effort to obtain these emails).

The NYT doesn’t provide times for the emails it presents (which is especially problematic because it bolloxes the timing of Stone’s tweets, most notably by using the UTC time for them and therefore showing a tweet he sent late the night of October 1 as being sent on October 2).

And while Stone at least provided the times of the emails he published, he somehow put London’s time zone behind the US (which I’ll treat as an editing error and note he was surely rushing to beat the NYT to press, which he did).

Assange held a press event Oct. 2 (Oct. 3 U.S. time) and did not release any documents that day as had been widely expected, Bannon e-mailed me asking why.

Plus, both ignore a key part of events of early October, the first reports that Mueller witness Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone wrote up from the Podesta emails leaked that week, which was based off a story that Bannon himself had originated. NYT’s accompanying story which details that Mueller has raised questions about Stone’s dark money funds, doesn’t address Stone’s Stop the Steal fund, which engaged in voter suppression, meaning Stone may be deliberately misdirecting again.

Mueller’s investigators have also delved into the operations of Mr. Stone’s political organizations. Mr. Stone has said investigators are examining a nonprofit educational fund called the Committee for American Sovereignty Education Fund, which he said produced a film alleging that former President Bill Clinton fathered an illegitimate child, a favorite theme of Mr. Stone’s.

The organization bills itself as a nonprofit social welfare organization that has been designated by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(4) group. But there is no indication in I.R.S. records that it has that status.

Mr. Stone’s Oct. 4, 2016, email to Mr. Bannon suggested another reason prosecutors might be interested in the fund. Asking the campaign to promote his theory of an illegitimate son of Mr. Clinton, he wrote: “I’ve raised $150K for the targeted black digital campaign through a C-4,” he wrote.

“Tell Rebecca to send us some $$$,” Mr. Stone added, apparently referring to Rebekah Mercer, a wealthy Republican donor close to Mr. Bannon. There is no indication that Mr. Bannon replied to him or sought out Ms. Mercer, and it is unclear whether Mr. Stone’s solicitation, alone, violated federal election laws. Mr. Stone said he was referring to a campaign targeting African-American voters.

In short, the stories, sourced to Bannon and maybe Sam Nunberg on one side and Stone on the other, really don’t tell us what Mueller’s after here. But they do provide a bunch of shitholes an opportunity to explain away a suspicious exchange without addressing known issues with them.

What these stories do show is that on October 3 (it appears to be after Stone’s tweet claiming “total confidence” that Julian Assange would educate the American people soon) Boyle asked Stone what Assange had coming. “Hope it’s good.”

Stone used that opportunity to try to get to Bannon, by promising that Assange had something good while noting that Bannon “doesn’t call me back” (it’s unclear whether that was in that immediate time period or more generally). “I’ve got important stuff to worry about,” Bannon replied. But Boyle persisted, suggesting it was important for Bannon to know what Assange had coming.

That day, Bannon wrote Stone, “What was that this morning???” Stone explained it as a “Serious security concern,” which reflects what WikiLeaks was playing up in real time, partly exploiting a Hillary comment claimed by True Pundit about droning Assange.

And Stone said WikiLeaks would release something each week, which also parrots what Assange had said.

These competing stories may in fact be an attempt to explain away this email, which includes at least a reference to whether or not Assange had been bribed to stop by Clinton’s people, and a reference to Stone’s efforts to slur Clinton with an accusation of an illegitimate child. (Remember, in this period Michael Cohen was busy paying off a bunch of women to prevent them from going public with stories of their affairs with Trump.)

But that last bit — the “targeted black digital campaign” — is only explained by the NYT as either Stone’s Committee for American Sovereignty Education Fund (he also worked on a RAPE PAC with one of his dark money people, which had a similar goal), which is what Stone claimed it was, or to his PAC, Committee to Restore America’s Greatness.

The other big outlay Stone was making at the time was for his Stop the Steal voter suppression effort (largely via money raised through CRAG and not kept separate from the dark money group). When Stone got in trouble for those voter suppression efforts, Don McGahn helped bail him out, so whether or not the campaign planned to, they did ultimately associate with Stone’s efforts.

In other words, the most damning connotation of that request would pertain to voter suppression, not WikiLeaks.

And, as mentioned, none of this discussion examines the way that Jerome Corsi (before the Podesta emails started coming out) and Stone (relying on the newly released emails but perhaps having had an advance peek at them) recycled Bannon and Rebekah Mercer’s own August attack on Hillary using the newly released emails.

I don’t know what to make of these emails, except to say that a bunch of shitholes are trying to tell stories about them that leave key holes in the story.

Mueller Had Learned by February 22 that Roger Stone Was Pushing an Assange Pardon in January

Mother Jones has a story describing Roger Stone claiming to Randy Credico in January that President Trump was about to pardon Julian Assange.

In early January, Roger Stone, the longtime Republican operative and adviser to Donald Trump, sent a text message to an associate stating that he was actively seeking a presidential pardon for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange—and felt optimistic about his chances. “I am working with others to get JA a blanket pardon,” Stone wrote, in a January 6 exchange of text messages obtained by Mother Jones. “It’s very real and very possible. Don’t fuck it up.” Thirty-five minutes later Stone added: “Something very big about to go down.”

As the story notes, this is the third known effort by Assange supporters (the other two being an early 2017 effort by lobbyist Adam Waldman and an August 2017 effort by Dana Rohrabacher) to get him a pardon, and would have come in the immediate wake of a Christmas Eve 2017 plan to sneak him out of the Ecuadorian Embassy to get him to Ecuador or Russia.

As interesting as I find the story that Stone was working for an Assange pardon is how quickly Mueller found out about it. Sam Nunberg says he was asked if he knew anything about it.

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide who once worked closely with Stone, told Mother Jones that prosecutors asked him during a February interview if Stone “ever discussed pardons and Assange.” Nunberg said he had not heard Stone discuss such an effort, and prosecutors did not raise the subject during his subsequent testimony before a grand jury.

His interview was on February 22.

That would say that Mueller’s team had learned about the effort less than two months later (and before the March 9 warrant for multiple cell phones I’ve long speculated might have included one of Stone’s).

Obviously, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies have to be tracking all of Assange’s accessible communications closely. So Mueller’s knowledge of the pardon effort may have come from Assange himself. If it came from Stone’s side, though, it would suggest he learned about it pretty quickly.

In any case, in the interim, Mueller would presumably have obtained a lot more information on this effort, including whatever durable communications Stone had with people close to Trump on the effort. Which means a question about pre-emptively pardoning Assange likely got added to the Mueller questions to Trump about his efforts to pre-emptively pardon Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort.

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

On the Roger Stone Investigation: Talking to Guccifer 2.0 or WikiLeaks Is Not a Crime

Before I get further in my series on the known universe of hacked and leaked emails from 2016, I want to explain something about Roger Stone, especially given this WaPo story that provides interesting details but claims Mueller is pursuing them in hopes of answering this question:

Did longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone — or any other associate of the president — have advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked Democratic emails in 2016?

While I don’t claim to understand much more than the rest of the world about what the Mueller probe is doing, I say with a fair degree of certainty that Mueller has not had three prosecutors chasing leads on Roger Stone since February because he wants to know if Stone had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans on releasing emails. Knowing that WikiLeaks planned on releasing emails is not a crime.

Indeed, Assange at times (most notably on June 12) telegraphed what he was up to. There were WikiLeaks volunteers and some journalists who knew what WikiLeaks was up to. None of that, by itself, is a crime.

With that in mind, consider the following:

It matters what emails Stone claimed to know would be released

At the risk of spoiling my series, let me explain the significance of it. While knowing that WikiLeaks would release emails is not by itself a crime, advance knowledge becomes more interesting based on what Stone might have done with that knowledge. Here’s why:

  • DNC emails: Mueller has presumably tracked whether and to whom George Papadopoulos shared advance knowledge of the tip he got on April 26 that the Russians would release emails to help Trump. That’s important because if he can show meeting participants knew those emails had been offered, then June 9 meeting becomes an overt act in a conspiracy. While there’s no public allegation Stone knew that WikiLeaks would be releasing Hillary emails before Julian Assange stated that publicly on June 12 (after the Trump Tower meeting and therefore at most a response to the meeting), if Stone knew that WikiLeaks would be part of the delivery method it adds to evidence of a conspiracy.
  • Podesta emails: The Democrats’ focus on Stone has always been on his seeming advance knowledge that WikiLeaks would release the Podesta emails, though the public case that he did is in no way definitive. Even assuming he did learn in advance, there are multiple channels via which Stone might have learned the Podesta emails were coming (just as an example, Democrats have necessarily always been obfuscating about how much they knew). But any presumed advance knowledge is still only a crime if Stone in some way coordinated with it or encouraged ongoing hacking.
  • Deleted Hillary emails: While the evidence that Roger Stone knew that WikiLeaks would release Podesta’s emails is inconclusive, the evidence that he “knew” WikiLeaks had Hillary’s deleted emails is not. Stone made that claim over and over. It’s actually not public whether and when WikiLeaks obtained files purporting to be Hillary’s deleted emails, though we should assume they got at least some sets of purported emails via the Peter Smith effort. If Stone had involvement in that effort, it might be criminal (because operatives were soliciting stolen emails from criminal hackers, not just making use of what got released), though Stone says he was unaware of it.
  • DCCC emails: The DCCC files, which offered more operational data about downstream campaigns, might raise other problems under criminal law. That’s because the data offered was generally more operational than the DNC and Podesta emails offered, meaning operatives could use the stolen data to tweak their campaign efforts. And Guccifer 2.0 was sharing that data specifically with operatives, providing something of value to campaigns. Guccifer 2.0 tried to do the same with Stone. The text messages between Stone and Guccifer 2.0 show the persona trying to get Stone interested in some of the DCCC files pertaining to FL. But at least on those DMs, Stone demurred. That said, if Stone received and operationalized DCCC data in some of his rat-fucking, then it might raise criminal issues.

It matters from whom Stone learned (if he did) of WikiLeaks’ plans

A big part of Mueller’s focus seems to be on testing Stone’s public claims that his go-between with WikiLeaks was Randy Credico, who had ties to Assange but was not conspiring to help Trump win via those channels.

There are other possible go-betweens that would be of greater interest. For example, the public discussion of Stone’s potential advance knowledge seems to have forgotten the suspected role of Nigel Farage, with whom Stone dined at the RNC and later met at Trump’s inauguration. That would be of heightened interest, particularly given the way Stone suggested the vote had been rigged against Brexit and Trump when in reality Russians were rigging the vote for both.

It matters whether Stone lied about the whom or the what

Stone’s testimony to the House, in which he offered explanations about any advance knowledge and his Podesta comment, was sworn. If Mueller can show he lied in his sworn testimony, that is certainly technically a crime (indeed, Sam Patten got referred to Mueller based on on his false statements to the Senate Intelligence Committee). But it’s unlikely Mueller would charge, much less investigate, Stone for 8 months solely to prove whether he lied to Congress.

But if Stone did lie — claiming he learned of WikiLeaks’ plans from Credico when in fact he learned from someone also conspiring with the Russians — then those lies would lay out the import of Stone’s role, in what he was hypothetically trying to cover up.

Stone’s flip-flop on blaming the Russians at the moment he claimed to have knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans is of likely interest

There’s a data point that seems very important in the Roger Stone story. On or around August 3, the very same day Stone told Sam Nunberg that he had dined with Julian Assange, Stone flip-flopped on his public statements about whether Russia had hacked Hillary or some 400 pound hacker in a basement had. During that period, he went from NY (where he met with Trump) to LA to coordinate with his dark money allies, then went home to Florida to write a column that became the first entry in Stone’s effort to obfuscate the Russian role in the hack. That flip-flop occurred just before Stone started making public claims about what WikiLeaks had.

I suspect that flip-flop is a real point of interest, and as such may involve some other kind of coordination that the press has no public visibility on (particularly given that his claimed meeting with Assange happened while he was meeting with his dark money people).

Mueller may have had probable cause Roger Stone broke the law by March

In the wake of Michael Caputo’s testimony, Roger Stone briefly claimed that he must have been targeted under FISA, apparently based on the fact that Mueller had (possibly encrypted) texts he didn’t provide himself showing that he and Caputo had had contact with a presumed Russian dangle they had hidden in prior sworn testimony. A more likely explanation is that Stone’s was one of the at-least five phones Mueller got a warrant for on March 9, in the wake of Rick Gates’ cooperation. But if that’s the case, then it means that Mueller already had shown probable cause Stone had committed some crime by the time he got this phone.

Mueller is scrutinizing Stone for more than just knowledge of WikiLeaks

Even the public reporting on Mueller’s investigative actions make it clear that he is scrutinizing Stone for more than just a hypothetical knowledge of, much less coordination with, WikiLeaks. He seems to have interest in the two incarnations of Stone’s Stop the Steal dark money group, which worked to intimidate Cruz supporters around the RNC and worked to suppress Democratic voters in the fall. There’s reason to suspect that the ways in which Stone and his people sloshed that money around did not follow campaign finance rules (in which case Don McGahn might have played a role). Certainly, Andrew Miller seems to worry that his own role in that sloshing might lead to criminal exposure. But Jerome Corsi has also suggested that Stone might have pitched some legally suspect actions to him, and those would constitute rat-fuckery, not campaign finance violations in the service of rat-fuckery.

Now, those other potential crimes might just be the gravy that Mueller has repeatedly used, charging people with unrelated crimes (like Mike Flynn’s Turkish influence peddling or Michael Cohen’s Stormy Daniel payoffs) to get their cooperation in the case in chief. Or they might be something that more closely ties to conspiracy with Russians.

The larger point, however, is that isolated details from Stone-friendly witnesses (and from Stone himself) may not be the most reliable way to understand where Mueller is going with his investigation of Stone. Certainly not witnesses who say Mueller has spent 8 months scrutinizing whether Stone lied about his foreknowledge of WikiLeaks’ actions.

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

Paul Manafort Is One of 37 People in an Omertà with the President

Apparently, Bob Woodward committed some journalism along with canonizing racist John Kelly and wife-beater Rob Porter in his book: he got a number for how many people are included the Joint Defense Agreement that gives Rudy Giuliani such confidence the President is not at risk: 37.

And Politico committed still more journalism and answered the question we’ve all been asking: yes, Paul Manafort is among those 37.

Giuliani also confirmed that Trump’s lawyers and Manafort’s have been in regular contact and that they are part of a joint defense agreement that allows confidential information sharing.

“All during the investigation we have an open communication with them,” he said. “Defense lawyers talk to each other all the time where as long as our clients authorize it therefore we have a better idea of what’s going to happen. That’s very common.”

Giuliani confirmed he spoke with Manafort’s lead defense lawyer Kevin Downing shortly before and after the verdicts were returned in the Virginia trial, but the former mayor wouldn’t say what he discusses with the Manafort team. “It’d all be attorney-client privilege not just from our point of view but from theirs,” he said.

That means when John Dowd complained that the raid of Manafort’s condo (where his eight iPods were seized), that was based on privileged conversations between lawyers. And when, in January, Trump confidently said he was sure Manafort would protect him, that was based on privileged conversations between lawyers.  And when, just before the EDVA trial, Kevin Downing was ostentatiously saying there was no way Manafort was flipping, and when he was balking on a plea with Mueller immediately after the trial, he was also talking to Rudy Giuliani.

Mind you, Rudy G will learn right away if Manafort starts considering cooperating, rather than just pleading, because Manafort will have to (finally!) drop out of the JDA before those discussions start.

And while I suspect Mueller has slowly been peeling away people like Sam Patten, that the JDA is so big likely means some or most of the following people are part of the omertà (and Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, and Mike Flynn were part of it):

  • Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik
  • Jared Kushner
  • The Trump Org defendants: Don Jr, Rhonna Graff
  • Bill Burck’s clients: Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Don McGahn (and up to three more)
  • Victoria Toensing’s clients: Mark Corallo, Erik Prince, Sam Clovis
  • The hush payment recipients: Hope Hicks, Brad Parscale, Keith Schiller
  • Roger Stone and his buddies: Stone, Michael Caputo, Sam Nunberg, Andrew Miller, plus some (probably)

That’s 20. Some other likely (and enticing) JDA members are: Devin Nunes, Jeff Sessions, Tom Barrack, Keith Kellogg, John Mashburn, KT McFarland, JD Gordon, Walid Phares, Stephen Miller, Sean Spicer, Rob Porter, Corey Lewandowski, John Kelly. Heck, it’s not even clear that George Papadopoulos is not part of the JDA.

But that still leaves space in the JDA for people who were already comparing notes with known members of the JDA, including Rinat Akhmetshin, Rob Goldstone, and Ike Kaveladze (along with Emin and Aras Agalarov, who are all represented by Scott Balber).

No wonder Rudy thinks he knows everything that Mueller has.

That’s why the collective panic on the discovery that Stone’s phone was likely among the ~10 or so that Mueller got warrants for in the wake of Rick Gates’ cooperation agreement is so interesting, and also why Manafort, playing his part as point, tried so hard to find out who the other four AT&T users whose phones were obtained with his own.

These guys may be good at omertà. But every single one we’ve seen so far has shitty OpSec; they’ve been saying their co-conspiracy communications on their phones and on iCloud. Plus there are people like Omarosa wandering among them, dismissed as irrelevant even while they record everything they hear. And meanwhile, Mueller is chipping away at the edges, people they haven’t considered (like Patten). And all the while he’s been building his case against Stone and Don Jr.

Andrew Miller’s Five Month Stall Leads to a Six Month Investigation of Roger Stone

The DC Circuit has just released its briefing schedule for Andrew Miller’s appeal of his subpoena to appear before Mueller’s grand jury. The hearing in that appeal will be sometime after the matter is fully briefed on October 9. Altogether, Miller will have stalled his testimony for five months by then.

That means Mueller will have been pursuing evidence against Roger Stone, as the most visible evidence of the ongoing investigation, for six months.

As a reminder, here are some things that Mueller appears to be investigating, and here’s what we can learn about the investigation from Stone’s latest lies.

  • February 22: Sam Nunberg questioned by Mueller’s team
  • March 9: Mueller obtains a warrant for 5 AT&T phones (and probably a similar number of Verizon ones)
  • March 9: Sam Nunberg appears before grand jury
  • March 27: Ted Malloch stopped at Logan airport, questioned about Stone and Wikileaks, devices seized, subpoenaed to appear before grand jury on April 13 (the grand jury appearance was rescheduled or canceled)
  • May 2: Michael Caputo interviewed by Mueller team; among the topics discussed was outreach by “Henry Greenberg” to deal dirt on Hillary Clinton to Stone
  • May 9: FBI interviews Andrew Miller at his home for 2 hours, then hand him subpoena
  • May 10: Mueller subpoenas Andrew Miller for documents and testimony, Miller agrees to meet voluntarily with Mueller’s team
  • May 11: Alicia Dearn contacts Mueller and says Miller is no longer willing to appear
  • May 14: Mueller’s team contacts Dearn to inquire about her representation of Miller; she does not return the call
  • May 18: John Kakanis reportedly subpoenaed after having been interviewed by Mueller’s team
  • May 18: Miller blows off a May 18 appearance before the grand jury; Dearn’s employee says Dearn will contact Mueller’s team on May 21
  • May 21: Dearn blows off promised call to Mueller’s team
  • May 23: Mueller’s team emails Dearn a second set of subpoenas, to appear on June 1
  • May 25: Stone says 8 associates have been asked for testimony
  • May 25: Mueller’s team follows up on subpoenas; Dearn asks for more time to comply “given the volume of responsive documents;” Mueller agrees to adjourn document production to June 5 and appearance to Jun 8
  • May 31: Mueller contacts Dearn to confirm appearance; Dearn complains about “patently irrelevant” responsive materials; Mueller agrees to exclude those materials
  • June 1: Jason Sullivan appears before grand jury
  • June 5: Mueller emails new subpoenas reflecting the June 5 production date and June 8 appearance
  • June 6: Mueller emails Dearn to confirm appearance and arrange for travel
  • June 8: Miller blows off grand jury appearance
  • June 11, 8:50AM and 2:15PM: Mueller emails Dearn and asks for immediate contact, warning that Special Counsel would move towards contempt
  • June 12, 9:07AM and 2:15PM: Dearn twice says she’ll provide correspondence within an hour but does not
  • June 13: Mueller moves to compel
  • June 14: Miller filed opposition purporting to be a motion to quash
  • June 18: At hearing on motion to quash, court orders Miller to provide limited set of documents and to appear on June 29
  • June 28: Miller retains Paul Kamenar, paid by the National Legal and Policy Center, who challenges subpoenas as challenge to Appointments Clause, borrowing argument from Concord Management motion
  • June 29: At status hearing in Miller challenge, Kamenar adds another challenge, that Mueller was appointed by “Head of Department”
  • July 18: Hearing on Miller challenge, attended by 5 Mueller lawyers, with follow-up briefing
  • July 31: Chief Judge Beryl Howell rules that Miller must testify ASAP
  • August 1: Kristin Davis interviewed by Mueller team; investigators express an interest in having her appear before grand jury
  • August 3: Dabney Friedrich entertains ignoring DC Circuit and SCOTUS precedent to rule for Concord Management’s challenge of Mueller’s authority, with Kamenar watching; Concord lawyer Eric Dubelier suggests conspiracy in the timing of Howell’s ruling
  • August 9: Miller moves to be held in contempt
  • August 10: Kristin Davis appearance before grand jury
  • September 7: Scheduled grand jury appearance of Randy Credico; Andrew Miller brief due before DC Circuit
  • September 14: Jerome Corsi grand jury appearance
  • September 28: Government brief due in DC Circuit appeal of Andrew Miller subpoena
  • October 9: Miller reply due in DC Circuit

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

Like a Rat-Fucking Stone: Russians and Roger Reading from the Same Voter Suppression Script

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

In my post outlining all the investigative steps the Mueller team has taken with Roger Stone since Rick Gates flipped, I pointed to some things that seem to relate to questions Mueller has asked.

That’s one reason why the circumstances of Stone’s flip-flop in early August 2016, in which Stone went from admitting that the DNC hack was done by Russia to claiming it was not seemly in one day in which he was in Southern California is so important: because he established a contemporaneous claim he has relied on to excuse any coordination with Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks. Given the import of Stone’s flip-flop, I find it interesting that so much of the funding for his SuperPAC came from Southern California, especially from John Powers Middleton. Did he meet with his donors when he orchestrated the flip-flop that makes it harder to argue his discussions and foreknowledge of Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks events count as entering into a conspiracy to break one or several laws?

Whatever the circumstances of that flip-flop, from that point forward, Stone pushed several lines — notably the Seth Rich conspiracy — that would be key to Russian disinformation. A big chunk of his SuperPAC funds also spent on “Stop the Steal,” which may also tie to Russian disinformation to discredit the election.

One of the complexities Mueller may have spent months digging through may be whether and how to hold Stone accountable for willfully participation in disinformation supporting Russia’s larger efforts to swing the election to Donald Trump.

Last week, I started to look more closely at how Stone’s PAC may relate to this. There are, in my opinion, a number of really interesting details about his PAC (which admittedly isn’t dealing with that much money).

That was before, last week, materials in Andrew Miller’s challenge to the subpoena were unsealed, which first revealed Miller wanted a grant of immunity to testify about things pertaining to work he did for Stone’s PAC.

A hearing transcript from June 18 shows that Miller was subpoenaed for information about Stone, as well as key figures in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the public release of Democrats’ emails. According to that transcript, the subpoena seeks information from Miller about WikiLeaks and Assange. WikiLeaks published large volumes of Democrats’ hacked emails during the campaign.

The subpoena also seeks information about Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks. Investigators say both were online fronts invented by Russian intelligence operatives to spread the hacked documents. DCLeaks was a website that posted hacked emails of current and former U.S. officials and political aides, while Guccifer 2.0 claimed to be a Romanian hacker.

Miller had asked for “some grant of immunity” regarding financial transactions involving political action committees for which he assisted Stone, according to Alicia Dearn, an attorney for Miller.

On that issue, Miller “would be asserting” his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions, Dearn said.

As for the hacking and WikiLeaks questions, Dearn said at the hearing, “We don’t believe he has any information” about those topics.

Along with Miller, Kristin Davis also got paid by one of Stone’s PACs. Neither was paid enough to pay for the legal fees they’ve incurred covering their testimony (though a conservative group has paid for Miller’s challenge to his subpoena). Citroen Associate owner John Kakanis, who also testified, got paid more, though maybe not enough to pay for legal representation.

There are a number of notable things about Stone’s PACs that — at least on their face — are not unusual. There is one detail — that the bulk of the expenditures paid a personal injury law firm, one whose family members appear to have served as treasurers of the PACs — that is unusual. Most interesting of all, however, is how Stone’s Stop the Steal PAC’s voter suppression efforts before the election so closely paralleled Russian efforts.

Guy with the Nixon tattoo’s SoCal funding

First, remember the mysterious funding from SoCal aspect to the Watergate scandal?  There was good reason for that for Nixon; after all, he was from SoCal. Maybe Stone’s just doing most of his fundraising there for old time’s sake, because more than half the funding of Stone’s Committee to Restore American Greatness PAC (referred as CRAG below) comes in serial donations from John Powers Middleton, the son of the Philadelphia Phillies’ owner, who makes shitty movies. A good number of the other substantial donations come from SoCal too. And two PACs Stone operated in 2016 were run out of a UPS store in Santa Ana, CA.

That Middleton largely bankrolled this PAC is in no way unique or legally problematic (indeed, the numbers involved are much smaller than other such PACs). It is notable, however, that contributions to Stone’s PAC were Middleton’s only contributions in 2015-2016, and (apparently) his only recent FEC tracked political contributions, though Middleton played a big role in a youngish Republican group in his 20s. It’s also odd how he gave installments, including two smaller ones, in the same time period or even on the same day as other more sizable ones.

Robert Shillman’s pass through

The timing of the donations make it clear that the sole campaign contribution Stone’s PAC made — $16,000 in two donations to Trump, which paid for Clear Channel billboards — were pass throughs of San Diego County executive Robert Shillman donations. He’s a big donor to GOP causes, but spent much bigger money on PACs supporting Carly Fiorina ($25,000) and Marco Rubio ($75,000) in the primary. Interestingly, he also maxed out in direct donations to Ron DeSantis in 2015-2016, and is backing Devin Nunes this cycle. For some reason I don’t understand, the FEC recorded the first of those donations, made in August, as a primary donation (that’s true of a number of other smaller donations made in the fall as well). Shillman has also donated to Islamophobic fearmongering in the past.

This pass through is also not unusual, but it is notable for how obvious it is and because the pass through is the only donation to a political campaign in this PAC.

The Personal Injury lawyers in bed with Stone

What is unusual is the centrality of the Costa Mesa office of personal injury lawyers Jensen & Associates in all this. One of the firm’s only lawyers, Erin Boeck, may be the spouse of Brad Boeck, who served as treasurer for two of Stone’s PACs. The principal, Paul Jensen, may be related to Pamela Jensen, who set up Stone’s Women v Hillary PAC.

Jensen & Associates made two loans to CRAG of very specific amounts: 2398.87 and 2610, which were repaid less than a week after the second one was made. And in 2016, CRAG paid the firm almost $100,000, including $20,000 in April when Stop the Steal was set up, $23,700 in four different payments in July 2016, and a $9,500  payment on August 3, when Stone was out in LA claiming to Sam Nunberg to be dining with Julian Assange.

According to its website, Jensen & Associates does things like sue for dog bites, not set up political rat-fucking PACs.

The personal injury lawyers cohabiting with the Clinton dirt CPA

While the Women v Clinton 527 would not be registered by Pamela Jensen until June 2, 2016, the effort to dig up the women at the center of Bill Clinton’s scandals actually started much earlier, on February 1, 2016, when Pamela Jensen CPA would send out a fundraising letter to fund Kathleen Wiley’s mortgage. Pamela Jensen’s CPA address is the same as for Jensen & Associates law firm (though her license expired on December 31, ,2016).

On February 19, 2016, Roger Stone told Alex Jones that Trump himself had donated to the Willey fund, even though it had never raised anywhere close to the $80,000 it listed as a goal.

STONE: Or, short circuit this. Go right to HelpWilley.com. Help Willey, W-i-l-e-e-y (sic). Now the good news is —

JONES: We’re going to tweet that, we’re going to Facebook it right now. We haven’t really done that yet, so we’re going to do that right now. Go ahead, sir.

STONE: I appreciate it. We have raised a substantial amount of money. Trump is himself a contributor — I’m not ready to disclose what he has given. And many, many other people.

JONES: Oh OK, so that GoFundMe is only one thing.

STONE: That is only receptacle and there are –

JONES: OK so the best place to go again is, again —

STONE: HelpWilley.com. Willey spelled W-i-l-l-e-y. HelpWilley.com will take you right to one of our pages. We have numerous receptacles, we have raised substantially more than 3,970, we’re haggling with the mortgage company even as we speak, and I am still hopeful that we can save Kathleen’s home so she can go out on the road and take the fight right to the Clintons.

There are actually two entities here. The STOP RAPE PAC was registered on October 1, 2015. The Women v Clinton 527 was registered in June 2016. Both only ever had enough money to pay the mailbox used for its official address.

The revolving door between Stone’s rat-fucking PACs

Which brings us to another detail that is typical of many PACs.

Stone and his buddies were shifting money back and forth between a 527 named Stop the Steal and CRAG.

CRAG was set up in 2015 (though it didn’t file its FEC paperwork until July 2016). Stop the Steal was set up on April 6 2016, at a time when Trump was worried about knocking down a Convention rebellion (which is why Paul Manafort first got hired). The day it was set up, CRAG transferred $50,000 to Stop the Steal. Though by April 13, Stop the Steal was claiming to want to fundraise $262,000, money that never showed up in Stop the Steal’s IRS filings, if it did raise that kind of money.

Among the things Mueller questioned Michael Caputo about were meetings he and Rick Gates had with Stone. One of those meetings, to discuss the effort to ensure the loyalty of GOP delegates, took place in the weeks after Stop the Steal was first set up.

“I only have a record of one dinner with Rick Gates,” he said, adding that the guest list included two other political operatives: Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide who was recently interviewed by Mr. Mueller’s investigators, and Paul Manafort, who soon after took over as chairman of Mr. Trump’s campaign. But Mr. Manafort canceled at the last minute, and Mr. Gates, his deputy, attended in his place.

Mr. Stone said the conversation during the dinner, which fell soon after the New York primary in April 2016, was about the New York State delegate selection for the Republican National Convention. The operatives expressed concern about whether delegates, at a time of deep division among Republicans, would be loyal to Mr. Trump’s vision for the party, Mr. Stone said.

Stop the Steal’s 527 filings show two expenditures for rallies in this earlier incarnation.

On July 12, 2016, Stop the Steal transferred $63,000 to CRAG. Its IRS paperwork doesn’t appear to show how, having made expenditures and raised negligible money in the interim period, it had that much money to return to CRAG, suggesting it may not have reported all its donations.

In the fall, Stop the Steal was repurposed to conduct Stone’s voter suppression efforts, including an effort to register “exit pollers” based on the inflammatory rhetoric about rigging the election that Trump had been pushing for some time, with an added focus on the voting machines.

Help us to reveal the TRUTH! Be an Exit Poller!  Register Now!

Donald Trump thinks Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are going to steal the next election. “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest,” he told a campaign rally last week.

The issue is both voter-fraud and election theft through manipulation of the computerized voting machines. The truth is both parties have used these DIEBOLD/ PES voting machines to rig results of elections at the state and federal election. The party in power in a given state controls the programming of the voting machines.

Here is how easy it is to rig these machines:

We now know, thanks to the hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee that the Clintons had to cheat and rig the system to steal the Democratic nomination from Bernie Sanders. Why wouldn’t they try to steal the election from Donald Trump?If this election is close, THEY WILL STEAL IT.

The Washington Post even ran an editorial saying it was “impossible” to steal an election. Then, incredibly, Barrack Obama called Donald Trump’s concerns about a rigged election “ridiculous.”

Plus they intend to flood the polls with illegals. Liberal enclaves already let illegals vote in their local and state elections and now they want them to vote in the Presidential election.

What can we do to stop this outrageous steal? We must step up to the plate and do this vital job? That’s why I am working with a staticians attorneys and computer experts to find and make public any result which has been rigged

We at THE EMERGENCY COMMITTEE TO STOP THE STEAL WILL:

– Demand inspection of the software used to program the voting machines in every jurisdiction prior to the beginning of voting by an independent and truly non-partisan third party.

– Conduct targeted EXIT-POLLING in targeted states and targeted localities that we believe the Democrats could manipulate based on their local control,  to  determine if the results of the vote have been skewed by manipulation.

– Retain the countries foremost experts on voting machine fraud to help us both prevent and detect voting machine manipulation by putting in a place to monitor polling, review the results and compare them to EXIT POLLS we must conduct.

– Recruit trained poll watchers for the key precincts in key states to monitor voting for fraud.  Between the Trump campaign and our efforts we believe we can cover every precinct in the crucial states.

The effort also included a fundraising aspect, with a stated goal of raising $1 million. Stop the Steal reported $20,894 in small donations for the period covering the election, with $32932 reported for the year-to-date.

The Democratic Party sued Stone, Trump, and the state Republican parties in four swing states to get a Temporary Restraining Order against these activities.

The revolving door was actually a mislabeled front door

Now that I’m looking at the saved versions of Stone’s various websites, it’s clear he wasn’t segregating the fundraising for them, and I wonder whether some of his email fundraising involved other possible campaign finance violations. For example, here’s the Stop the Steal site as it existed on March 10, 2016. It was clearly trying to track fundraising, carefully instructing people to respond to emails if they received one. But it claimed to be TCTRAG (what I call CRAG), even though the incoming URL was for Stop the Steal.

That remained true even after Stop the Steal was formally created, on April 10. Even after the website changed language to disavow Stop the Steal being a PAC by April 23, the fundraising form still went to TCTRAG (what I call CRAG), a PAC.

And that remained true on May 12, when the site was aiming to raise $262,000. When the campaign had shifted to voter suppression targeted Democrats (this is October 16), the entire site redirected to a TCTRAG nation-builder site. Though it appears the Stop the Steal URL was returning both a direct site and a redirect (and it appears it was either hammered, or pretending to be hacked, on election day).

Here are the results of Stone’s “citizen exit polls” on November 9, a totally unscientific data point to “prove” that Hillary had stolen the election.

The parallel Russian and rat-fucker effort to suppress the vote

Stone’s voter suppression effort is not surprising. It’s the kind of thing the rat-fucker has been doing his entire life.

Except it’s of particular interest in 2016 because of the specific form it took. That’s because two aspects of Stone’s voter suppression efforts paralleled Russian efforts. For example, even as Stone was recruiting thousands of “exit pollers” to intimidate people of color, Guccifer 2.0 was promising to register as an election observer, in part because of the “holes and vulnerabilities” in the software of the machines.

INFO FROM INSIDE THE FEC: THE DEMOCRATS MAY RIG THE ELECTIONS

I’d like to warn you that the Democrats may rig the elections on November 8. This may be possible because of the software installed in the FEC networks by the large IT companies.

As I’ve already said, their software is of poor quality, with many holes and vulnerabilities.

I have registered in the FEC electronic system as an independent election observer; so I will monitor that the elections are held honestly.

I also call on other hackers to join me, monitor the elections from inside and inform the U.S. society about the facts of electoral fraud.

More interesting still, the GRU indictment makes it clear that GRU’s information operation hackers were probing county electoral websites in swing states as late as October 28.

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.

Whether or not GRU ever intended to alter the vote, Russia’s propagandists were providing the digital “proof” that Republicans might point to to sustain their claims that Democrats had rigged the election.

This is a line that Wikileaks also parroted, DMing Don Jr that if Hillary won his pop should not concede.

Hi Don if your father ‘loses’ we think it is much more interesting if he DOES NOT conceed [sic] and spends time CHALLENGING the media and other types of rigging that occurred—as he has implied that he might do.

Does Mueller have the proof this parallel effort was coordination?

As I noted, the public record makes it clear these are, at the least, complementary parallel efforts. But Mueller’s relentless focus on Stone — and his inclusion of Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0 in the subpoena to Andrew Miller (whose research on voter fraud is one of the things Mueller wants to present to the grand jury) — suggests he thinks this is not so much a parallel effort, but a coordinated one.

h/t to Susan Simpson and Adam Bonin for help with understanding the numbers here.

Update: TC notes that there are 14 instances of known Russian troll accounts hashtagging Stop the Steal. The examples are most interesting for the date range: the earliest is September 10, 2016; the most recent is February 24, 2017. And they certainly were prepped to go on election day and the day after.

Update: You can pull up the times where Roger Stone’s twitter account hashtagged Stop the Steal in the Trump Twitter archive. Of note, the first instance in the fall campaign was August 4, when Stone was out in LA claiming he was dining with Assange. Two of the earlier incarnations @ Manafort. Also of note are the differing platforms the tweets come from — including Twitter’s web client, TweetDeck, Twitter for iPhone, and Mobile Web — as that may suggest some of the associates who’ve been interviewed did the tweeting.

Update: MS notes that Stone was talking about rigged voting machines as early as July 29.

Update: Added section dedicated to Pamela Jensen’s Bill Clinton focused organizations and moved Stone website details into body of text. H/t Liberty_42 for the former.

Timeline

September 2, 2011: Pamela Jensen registers Should Trump Run 527 with Michael D Cohen listed as President

October 1, 2015: Pamela Jensen registers STOP RAPE PAC by loaning it enough money to pay for a mailbox

November 10, 2015: Jensen & Associates loans $2,398.87 to CRAG

November 10, 2015: CRAG pays Entkesis 2373.87

December 24, 2015: CRAG pays Newsmax 10803.55

December 31, 2015: CRAG pays Newsmax 1585.76

February 1, 2016: Pamela Jensen sends out fundraising letter to World Net Daily pushing Kathleen Wiley’s mortgage fundraiser

February 4, 2016: Jensen & Associates loans $2,610 to CRAG

February 10, 2016: Loans from Jensen & Associates repaid

February 19, 2016: Roger Stone tells Alex Jones that Donald Trump has donated to the Kathleen Willey fundraiser, even though it had raised less than $4,000 at that time

March 1, 2016: John Powers Middleton Company donates $150,000 to CRAG

March 6, 2016: First tweet in spring Stop the Steal campaign

March 9, 2016: John Powers Middleton donates $50,000 to CRAG

March 11, 2016: John Powers Middleton donates $25,000 to CRAG

March 14, 2016: John Powers Middleton donates $25,000 to CRAG

April 6, 2016: Stone (Sarah Rollins) establishes Stop the Steal in same UPS post box as CRAG

April 6, 2016: CRAG gives $50,000 to Stop the Steal

April 6, 2016: CRAG pays Jensen & Associates $11,000

April 6, 2016: CRAG pays Jensen & Associates $9,000

April 6, 2016: Stone tweets Stop the Steal toll free line to “report voter fraud in Wisconsin” primary

April 12, 2016: John Powers Middleton donates $60,000 to CRAG

April 13, 2016: Stop the Steal pays Sarah Rollins $386.72

April 14, 2016: CRAG pays Tim Yale $9,000

April 14, 2016: Stop the Steal pays Jim Baker $1,500 in “expense reimbursements for rally”

April 15, 2016: Stop the Steal pays Sarah Rollins $500

April 15, 2016: John Powers Middleton donates $15,000 to CRAG

April 15, 2016: John Powers Middleton donates $2,000 to CRAG

April 15, 2016: $1,000 refunded to John Powers Middleton

April 18, 2016: John Powers Middleton donates $1,000 to CRAG

April 18, 2016: CRAG pays Citroen Associates $40,000

April 25, 2016: CRAG pays Paul Nagy $2,500

April 25, 2016: CRAG pays Sarah Rollins $500 plus $41.66 in expenses

April 29, 2016: John Powers Middleton donates $50,000 to CRAG

May 1, 2016: Last Stone tweet in spring Stop the Steal campaign

May 2, 2016: CRAG pays Sarah Rollins $800

May 4, 2016: CRAG pays Jensen & Associates $5,000

May 13, 2016: CRAG pays Sarah Rollins 93.50

May 15, 2016: Stop the Steal pays Sarah Rollins $500

May 16, CRAG pays Andrew Miller $2,000

May 16, 2016: CRAG pays Citroen Associates $10,000

May 16, 2016: CRAG pays Sarah Rollins $400

May 16, 2016: CRAG pays Kathy Shelton $2,500

May 24, 2016: Stone PAC RAPE PAC, aka Women v Hillary, announced

June 2, 2016: Pamela Jensen sets up Women v Hillary PAC out of a different mailboxes location in Costa Mesa (again, this only ever showed enough money to pay for the mailbox used as its address)

June 7, 2016: FEC informs CRAG it must submit filings by July 12, 2016

June 7, 2016: CRAG pays Jensen & Associates $4,790

June 8, 2016: Stop the Steal pays Paul Nagy $800 in “expense reimbursements for rally”

June 17, 2016: CRAG pays Andrew Miller $3,000

July 5, 2016: CRAG pays Jensen & Associates $14,500

July 6, 2016: CRAG pays Michelle Selaty $10,000

July 6, 2016: CRAG pays Drake Ventures $12,000

July 11, 2016: CRAG pays Cheryl Smith $4,900

July 12, 2016: Stop the Steal gives $63,000 to CRAG

July 12, 2016: CRAG pays Jensen & Associates $7,200

July 15, 2016: CRAG pays Jason Sullivan $1,500

July 18, 2016: CRAG pays Jensen & Associates $7,500

July 20, 2016: CRAG pays Jensen & Associates $3,000

July 29, 2016: CRAG pays Jensen & Associates $6,000

August 1, 2016: CRAG pays Andrew Miller $4,000; Stone flies from JFK to LAX

August 2, 2016: Stone dines with Middleton at Dan Tanas in West Hollywood (h/t Laura Rozen)

August 3, 2016: CRAG pays Jensen & Associates $9,500

August 3, 2016: CRAG pays Josi & Company $2,500

August 3-4, 2016: Stone takes a red-eye from LAX to Miami

August 4, 2016: Stone flip-flops on whether the Russians or a 400 pound hacker are behind the DNC hack and also tells Sam Nunberg he dined with Julian Assange; first tweet in the fall StopTheSteal campaign

August 5, 2016: Stone column in Breitbart claiming Guccifer 2.0 is individual hacker

August 9, 2016: CRAG pays Jason Sullivan $1,500

August 15, 2016: CRAG pays Jensen & Associates $19,500

August 29, 2016: CRAG pays Law Offices of Michael Becker $3,500

August 31, 2016: Robert Shillman gives $8,000 to CRAG

September 12, 2016: CRAG gives $8,000 to Donald Trump

September 14, 2016: CRAG pays $3,000 to Citroen Associates

September 21, 2016: Robert Shillman gives $8,000 to CRAG

September 22, 2016: CRAG gives $8,000 to Donald Trump

October 4, 2016: Stone tells Bannon to get Rebekah Mercer to send money for his “the targeted black digital campaign thru a C-4”

Following October 5, 2016: Mariia Butina and Aleksandr Torshin discuss whether she should serve as a US election observer; Torshin suggests “the risk of provocation is too high and the ‘media hype’ which comes after it,” but Butina suggests she would do it “Only incognito! Right now everything has to be quiet and careful.”

October 13, 2016: Stop the Steal pays Andrew Miller $5,000

October 23, 2016: Stone tweets out message saying Clinton supporters can “VOTE the NEW way on Tues. Nov 8th by texting HILLARY to 8888”

October 28, 2016: GRU officer Anatoliy Kovalev and co-conspirators visit websites of counties in GA, IA, and FL to identify vulnerabilities

October 30, 2016: Ohio Democratic Party sues Ohio Republican Party to prevent Stop the Steal voter suppression; Democrats also sue in NV, AZ, and PA

November 3, 2016: Filings in ODP lawsuit describing Stop the Steal (declaration, exhibits)

November 4, 2016: Judge James Gwyn issues Temporary Restraining Order against Trump, Stone, and Stop the Steal

November 4, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 post claiming Democrats may rig the elections

November 7, 2016: Sixth Circuit issues a stay in OH TRO

December 14, 2016: Women versus Hillary gives $158.97 to CRAG

December 19, 2016: Stop the Steal pays $5,000 to Alejandro Vidal for “fundraising expenses”

December 19, 2016: Stop the Steal pays $3,500 to C Josi and Co.

December 21, 2016: Stop the Steal pays $1,500 to The Townsend Group

December 27, 2016: Stop the Steal pays $3,500 to Kristen [sic] Davis

December 28, 2016: Stop the Steal gives $94 to CRAG

December 29, 2016: Stop the Steal pays Jerry Steven Gray $4,000 for “fundraising expenses”

December 30, 2016: Stop the Steal pays 2,692 total to unnamed recipients

January 19, 2017: Stop the Steal pays $5,000 for fundraising expenses to Alejandro Vidal

February 8, 2017: Stop the Steal pays Kristen [sic] Davis $3,500 for “fundraising expenses”

February 15, 2017: Stop Steal pays Brad Boeck $862 for sales consultant consulting fee

On the Apparent Complexities of Charging Roger Stone

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

Last night, Sam Nunberg reportedly told Ari Melber he thought Roger Stone would be indicted on “broad charges of conspiring against America … backed up by some financial charges.” That has led to some Tweet lawyering suggesting that such ConFraudUS charges would arise naturally from Stone’s known interactions with WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0.

I’m certain things are not as simple as that. If they were, Mueller would not have spent much of the last five months focusing on testimony relating to Stone, including (this list doesn’t include at least one other person whose Stone-related testimony is not public):

  • February 22: Sam Nunberg questioned by Mueller’s team
  • March 9: Mueller obtains a warrant for 5 AT&T phones (and probably a similar number of Verizon ones)
  • March 9: Sam Nunberg appears before grand jury
  • March 27: Ted Malloch stopped at Logan airport, questioned about Stone and Wikileaks, devices seized, subpoenaed to appear before grand jury on April 13 (the grand jury appearance was rescheduled or canceled)
  • May 2: Michael Caputo interviewed by Mueller team; among the topics discussed was outreach by “Henry Greenberg” to deal dirt on Hillary Clinton to Stone
  • May 10: Mueller subpoenas Andrew Miller for documents and testimony, Miller agrees to meet voluntarily with Mueller’s team
  • May 11: Alicia Dearn contacts Mueller and says Miller is no longer willing to appear
  • May 14: Mueller’s team contacts Dearn to inquire about her representation of Miller; she does not return the call
  • May 18: John Kakanis reportedly subpoenaed after having been interviewed by Mueller’s team
  • May 18: Miller blows off a May 18 appearance before the grand jury; Dearn’s employee says Dearn will contact Mueller’s team on May 21
  • May 21: Dearn blows off promised call to Mueller’s team
  • May 23: Mueller’s team emails Dearn a second set of subpoenas, to appear on June 1
  • May 25: Stone says 8 associates have been asked for testimony
  • May 25: Mueller’s team follows up on subpoenas; Dearn asks for more time to comply “given the volume of responsive documents;” Mueller agrees to adjourn document production to June 5 and appearance to Jun 8
  • May 31: Mueller contacts Dearn to confirm appearance; Dearn complains about “patently irrelevant” responsive materials; Mueller agrees to exclude those materials
  • June 1: Jason Sullivan appears before grand jury
  • June 5: Mueller emails new subpoenas reflecting the June 5 production date and June 8 appearance
  • June 6: Mueller emails Dearn to confirm appearance and arrange for travel
  • June 8: Miller blows off grand jury appearance
  • June 11, 8:50AM and 2:15PM: Mueller emails Dearn and asks for immediate contact, warning that Special Counsel would move towards contempt
  • June 12, 9:07AM and 2:15PM: Dearn twice says she’ll provide correspondence within an hour but does not
  • June 13: Mueller moves to compel
  • June 14: Miller filed opposition purporting to be a motion to quash
  • June 18: At hearing on motion to quash, court orders Miller to appear on June 28
  • June 28: Miller retains Paul Kamenar, paid by the National Legal and Policy Center, who challenges subpoenas as challenge to Appointments Clause, borrowing argument from Concord Management motion
  • June 29: At status hearing in Miller challenge, Kamenar adds another challenge, that Mueller was appointed by “Head of Department”
  • July 18: Hearing on Miller challenge, attended by 5 Mueller lawyers, with follow-up briefing
  • July 31: Chief Judge Beryl Howell rules that Miller must testify ASAP
  • August 1: Kristin Davis interviewed by Mueller team; investigators express an interest in having her appear before grand jury
  • August 3: Dabney Friedrich entertains ignoring DC Circuit and SCOTUS precedent to rule for Concord Management’s challenge of Mueller’s authority, with Kamenar watching; Concord lawyer Eric Dubelier suggests conspiracy in the timing of Howell’s ruling
  • August 10: Kristin Davis appearance before grand jury

While some of these witnesses were clearly asked about Wikileaks, others were reportedly asked about meetings involving Rick Gates, Stone’s finances, and even whether he fathered Davis’ two year old child. And while Stone’s buddies claim Mueller is generally investigating his finances, Mueller’s focus seems to be on the recipients of expenditures from Stone’s SuperPAC.

Clearly, whatever question Mueller is investigating (and whatever potential crimes he showed probable cause of, if he indeed seized the contents of Stone’s phone back in March) is more complex than just chatting up Assange or Guccifer 2.0. Indeed, even the discussions we know of show Stone involved in — or at least entertaining — more than that. That said, Mueller will need to prove that whatever Stone did involved the understanding that he was accepting things of value (or even, soliciting the active help) from foreigners or other illegal actions.

That’s one reason why the circumstances of Stone’s flip-flop in early August 2016, in which Stone went from admitting that the DNC hack was done by Russia to claiming it was not seemly in one day in which he was in Southern California is so important: because he established a contemporaneous claim he has relied on to excuse any coordination with Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks. Given the import of Stone’s flip-flop, I find it interesting that so much of the funding for his SuperPAC came from Southern California, especially from John Powers Middleton. Did he meet with his donors when he orchestrated the flip-flop that makes it harder to argue his discussions and foreknowledge of Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks events count as entering into a conspiracy to break one or several laws?

Whatever the circumstances of that flip-flop, from that point forward, Stone pushed several lines — notably the Seth Rich conspiracy — that would be key to Russian disinformation. A big chunk of his SuperPAC funds also spent on “Stop the Steal,” which may also tie to Russian disinformation to discredit the election.

One of the complexities Mueller may have spent months digging through may be whether and how to hold Stone accountable for willfully participation in disinformation supporting Russia’s larger efforts to swing the election to Donald Trump.

In March, when this focused pursuit started, Mueller wanted to know what the President knew about communication between Stone, his associates, Julian Assange, and Wikileaks. Since then, it appears the question has gotten more complex.

And along the way, a key Roger Stone aide has managed to stall three months on providing testimony.

Update: Fixed spelling of Miller’s attorney’s last name to Dearn.