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Sedition Is the Foundation on Which the Trump Associate Investigation Builds

As I laid out in this post, I’m impatient with those who claim the government has taken a new direction in the January 6 investigation with subpoenas to people like — most audibly — Ali Alexander. Alexander got a number of journalists who know better to repeat his claim that he was “cooperating” with the investigation rather than merely “complying” with a subpoena. Few of those journalists pointed out real holes in his cover story — including his silence about Roger Stone and Alex Jones, his disavowal of communications with militias before he arrived at the Capitol, his use of cover organizations to get his permits, and his seeming message to co-conspirators that if he once had evidence, it is no longer in his possession.

In his statement, Alexander sought to separate himself from the substance of the investigation, saying he did not coordinate with the Proud Boys and suggesting his contact with the Oath Keepers was limited to accepting an offer for them to act as ushers at an event that never took place: his own permitted event near the Capitol, which didn’t occur because of the mob attack on the Capitol. The Oath Keepers are the subject of conspiracy charges for their roles in breaching the Capitol that day.

“I did not finance the Ellipse equipment. I did not ever talk with the White House about security groups. Any militia working security at the Ellipse belonged to “Women for America First,” not us,” Alexander said. “I did not coordinate any movements with the Proud Boys or even see them that day. I did take Oath Keepers offer to act as ushers for the Area 8 event but all of that was lost in the chaos. I wasn’t in communication with any of the aforementioned groups while I was near the Capitol working to get people away from the building. Lastly, I’m not willing to presume anyone’s guilt.”

“I did nothing wrong and I am not in possession of evidence that anyone else had plans to commit unlawful acts,” Alexander said. “I denounce anyone who planned to subvert my permitted event and the other permitted events of that day on Capitol grounds to stage any counterproductive activities.”

This is classic Roger Stone-schooled disinformation and should be treated as such.

Reporters have, undoubtedly based on really good sourcing, emphasized the existence of a new grand jury focusing on Trump’s associates, and from that, argued it’s a new direction — though as I’ve documented, DOJ has availed themselves of at least six grand juries thus far in this investigation.

But how could an investigation of Alexander’s actions be new if DOJ successfully debunked much of his current cover story — that he was “working to get people away from the building” — last November? Alexander co-traveler Owen Shroyer attempted to offer the same false claim in an attempt to throw out charges — filed in August — against him, but Judge Tim Kelly rejected that attempt on January 20. How could this be a totally new direction if prosecutors would have obtained Alexander’s Stop the Steal listserv as a result of Brandon Straka’s “cooperation” in early 2021? How could it be a new direction if DOJ has gotten guilty pleas from those who went first to the Capitol, then to the East front, and finally breached the building in response to lies about Alexander’s rally permits told by Alex Jones? DOJ has, demonstrably, been laying the groundwork for a subpoena to Alexander for over year.

And it’s not just Alexander. Steps DOJ took over the past year were undoubtedly necessary preconditions to going after Trump’s close associates. Those include:

These are efforts that started in January 2021. Some of the most important — the way DOJ seized Rudy’s comms and got a privilege review without revealing a January 6 warrant — started on Lisa Monaco’s first day in office.

But there’s a more important thing that DOJ probably believed they needed before going after Trump and his close associates: compelling proof that Trump wielded the mob in his effort to obstruct the vote count, obtaining the proof in the yellow boxes, below. That was one of the things I was trying to lay out in this post.

While there are specific things Trump and his associates did that were illegal — the call to Brad Raffensperger, the fake elector certificates, the illegal demand of Mike Pence — many of the rest are only illegal (at least under the framework DOJ is using) if they are tied to Trump’s successful effort to target the mob at American democracy. You first have to prove that Trump fired the murder weapon, and once you’ve established that proof, you can investigate who helped Trump buy the weapon, who helped him aim it, who loaded the gun for him, who was standing behind him with four more weapons to fire if his own shot failed to work.

And this is why I’m interested in the apparent two month process it appears to have taken DOJ to shift its main focus from the work of the January 8, 2021 grand jury, whose work culminated in the January 12, 2022 seditious conspiracy indictment against Stewart Rhodes, and the February 14, 2022 grand jury, the foundational overt act of which was the March 7 conspiracy charge against Enrique Tarrio.

The first grand jury proved that the vast majority of the rioters, whether trespassers or assault defendants, got there via one of three methods:

  • Responding to Trump and Alex Jones’ lies about Trump accompanying the marchers and giving a second speech
  • Acting directly on Trump’s “orders,” especially his December 19 tweet, often bypassing the Ellipse rally altogether
  • Coordinating with one of the militias, especially the Proud Boys

Judge Amit Mehta also seems to believe that the grand jury developed proof that many of those who assaulted cops were aided and abetted by Donald Trump. The first grand jury also proved that of those who — having been led to believe false claims about vote fraud based on over three months of propaganda — had the intent of obstructing the vote count, a great number had the specific goal of pressuring or punishing Mike Pence. While the intent of pressuring Pence came, for some rioters, from militia hierarchies, for most others, it came directly from Trump.

This is my hypothesis about the seeming shift from using the January 8 grand jury as the primary investigative grand jury to launching a new one on February 14. The January 8 grand jury has largely completed its investigation into what caused the riot, how it was orchestrated, who participated; the remaining prosecutions that don’t require and affect the larger picture will be and have been charged via the November 10 grand jury. But by indicting Tarrio and showing, with Charles Donohoe’s cooperation, that everything the Proud Boys did emanated from Tarrio’s orders and, by association, from whatever understanding Tarrio had about the purpose of the riot from his communications with people close to Trump, DOJ and the Valentine’s Day grand jury will move onto the next level of the conspiracy to obstruct the vote count. Again, that’s just a hypothesis — we’ll see whether that’s an accurate read in the weeks ahead. But it’s not a new direction at all. It is the direction that the investigation has demonstrably been headed for over a year.

Update: In a statement pretending the stories about his cooperation were leaked by DOJ, Alexander insists he is not cooperating, but complying.

After consultation with counsel, we provided a statement that established that I was not a target of this grand jury; I haven’t been accused of any criminal wrongdoing; and that I was complying, as required by law, with their probe.

[snip]

Useful idiots on the right, clinging to a New York Times headline that sensationalizes my compliance with a subpoena, will empower the Deep State which planted these stories to give their political investigation more legs to hurt our election integrity movement and Trump’s 2024 prospects. [my emphasis]

The rest of the statement should convince anyone that this is a replay of the same bullshit we saw from Stone and Jerome Corsi in the Mueller investigation.

Where Was Doug Jensen Radicalized? Russia’s 2016 Election Tampering

Last May, I observed that QAnon had far more evident success in getting its adherents in places to obstruct the vote certification on January 6, 2021 than the organized militias did.

QAnon managed to get far more of their adherents to the Senate floor than either the Proud Boys (Joe Biggs and Arthur Jackman showed up after getting in with the help of people inside) or the Oath Keepers (Kelly Meggs and Joshua James showed up too late). QAnon held a prayer on the dais while the militias were still breaching doors.

While he didn’t make it to the Senate floor, that’s true, in part, because of the fervor with which QAnoner Doug Jensen sprinted up the stairs after Officer Eugene Goodman (though Jensen’s fervor was also one of the things that Goodman exploited to buy time to evacuate the Senate).

According to an FBI interview Jensen did just days after the insurrection (the transcript was released as part of a suppression motion that is unlikely to work), that was his stated intent.

He wanted QAnon to get credit for breaching the Capitol.

I wanted Q to get the attention.

Q. I see.

A. And that was my main intention basically —

Q. Um-hum.

A. — was to use my shirt. I basically intended on being the poster boy, and it really worked out.

The transcript is a tough read. It reveals (as the court filings associated with many of the January 6 defendants do) the urgency with which the US needs to address mental health treatment. It reveals how Trump’s propagandists won the allegiance of a blue collar union member who had previously voted Democratic.

But most vividly, it reveals how Jensen got radicalized into QAnon. And that started — as he repeatedly describes — from the files stolen from John Podesta released by WikiLeaks in advance of the 2016 election. He planned to vote for Hillary (!!!) until he came to believe the misrepresentations he read (pushed, in significant part, by accused Proud Boy leader Joe Biggs) of the Podesta files. When the flow of Podesta files ended, Jensen was left with a void, which Q drops filled shortly thereafter. After that, Jensen came to believe Trump’s lies that he had been shafted by the Deep State, by some guy (Peter Strzok) and his girlfriend whose name he couldn’t remember. Perhaps as a result, Jensen came to believe of Putin that, “this guy don’t seem so bad, you know.”

Also, Q said — Q has said things, okay, so like — and anonymous, okay. I follow that, Mayjan (ph.) and all that stuff, you know, because basically I was not into politics until the Wiki leaks dropped, and then when I realized about Haiti, and the Clinton Foundation, and the kidnappings all through the Clinton Foundation, and then I learned about Epstein Island and then I learned Mike Pence owns an island, right — or not Mike Pence, Joe Biden owns an island next door, and then I find that Hunter Biden and Bris Moldings (ph.) and all that, I knew about that a year or two ago.

[snip]

It all started with all the crap I found out about Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, you know, all of that stuff, and then so right before I was going to vote for Hillary, I was like, whoa, we’ve got to vote Trump in because we can’t have Hillary. And then I start finding things like we were supposed to be dead by now, and if Hillary would have won, we were going to be attacked by North Korea or Iran. We were going to go to war, and we would most likely — half of us wouldn’t be here right now if Trump wouldn’t have won that election is what I got from it.

[snip]

You guys have an FBI thing that you released all that Ben Swan who was on ABC years ago and he tried to expose pizza gate and he got fired that night from ABC, and he works for RT now.

[snip]

I am for America, and I feel like we are being taken over by communist China, you know, and the whole Russian collusion was fake. I don’t know what the deal with Russia is, but I don’t know, Vladimir Putin, he seems to be like a decent person, but I could be crazy, you know. But I think we were taught from a young age to hate Russia and all of this stuff. I’ve researched on Vladimir Putin. I was like this guy don’t seem so bad, you know, but I don’t know, you know.

[snip]

A. And all this information, and Trump’s taking down all these people, you know? And — well, firing them or whatever, you know? Like Brennan, Clapper, you know, that guy that I hate with his girlfriend, I can’t remember their names. Those texting back and forth. But they were all like top, you know, members, they’re high up and stuff.

Q. Yeah.

A. And you saw that they were out to destroy Trump, and they were members of our, you know, Central Intelligence or our FBI, you know?

[snip]

I did not preplan nothing. I am not a leader. I am just a hardcore patriot. I am a diehard — I believe all this stuff to be true, and I feel like Trump’s just got the absolute shaft from everything around, our own government, the media.

[snip]

So I voted both terms for Obama, and during the presidency, I thought he was a great president. The health thing. The health thing didn’t benefit me and my family because I had union health insurance. So I got no benefits from it, but I was happy that all those people got insurance, you know? And so I was happy with him. And then I was going to vote for Hillary because I’ve been a democrat my whole life.

Q. Yeah.

A. And then the WikiLeaks thing happened and I had to start questioning where I was getting my info from. And that’s when I realized, you know, holy cow, I can’t vote for this woman. And then it became — like I started telling everybody I know about WikiLeaks and everything else back then. And then that died off when Trump won. And then I didn’t really have anything. I was happy Trump won, you know? And then all of a sudden Q drops started. And it was just — that’s all I did —

Q. Yeah.

A. — was follow those Q drops. [my emphasis]

This is a narrative of how an information operation started by Russia six years ago continues to poison American politics, up to and including persuading Americans to affiliate with the architect of that information operation.

After that radicalization process — Jensen described to the FBI — he readily responded to the propagandists trying to help Trump steal an election: Lin Wood, Sidney Powell, and Rudy Giuliani, as well as the December 19, 2020 Trump tweet that arose out of their machinations. And so he drove all night from Iowa to answer Trump’s call.

Q. How’d you find out about the rally?

A. Well, I found out from the rally from all the different people I follow.

Q. I see.

A. Which — so like — I’m not saying it’s JFK, Jr., but one of the people I follow on Twitter, his name’s John F. Kennedy, Jr., and then Linwood. Linwood’s new. Like everything Linwood has dropped in the last couple weeks is old news, like that’s all old new to me, and so Linwood got me fired up, Sidney Powell got me fired up. Rudy Giuliani got me fired up, you know, and then I go to this Trump rally and I was just hoping it was show time basically, and then he gets done with this rally and I’m just kind of like — he’s like, oh, let’s all go march down peacefully, you know. He didn’t tell us to go storm the building, okay.

[snip]

A. Trump’s posts. Trump posted make sure you’re there, January 6 for the rally in Washington, D.C., I’ll have some great info, and so that to me was, oh, here it comes, because — and then, you know, all he said, well, where’s Hillary? Well, where? I already know that. Q said where’s Hillary four months ago, you know, so I was kind of like that’s all you got, where’s Hillary? You know, he — and then he got us all fired up to go to that White House, and then it just all happened so quick and I just wanted to make sure that I wanted to be in the front. Basically I wanted to get that Q shirt the attention —

Q. Right.

A. — is what my goal was. [my emphasis]

There are few better summaries of the damage done by the sustained information operations that both Russia and Trump pursued — with the Burisma attacks, at least, provably in coordination — over the last six years. The self-described poster boy for the insurrection got there as a result of a sustained series of information operations that started with Russia’s attempt to tamper in the 2016 election.

Only, Doug Jensen makes it clear: Russian didn’t just tamper in the election. It tampered with the American psyche.

The Guy Investigating the Claimed Politicized Hiring of a Special Counsel Insists that the Hiring of a Special Counsel Cannot Be Political

On Monday, both John Durham and Michael Sussmann submitted their motions in limine, which are filings to argue about what can be admitted at trial. They address a range of issues that I’ll cover in several posts:

Sussmann:

Durham wants to:

  • Admit witnesses’ contemporaneous notes of conversations with the FBI General Counsel
  • Admit emails referenced in the Indictment and other, similar emails (see this post)
  • Admit certain acts and statements (including the defendant’s February 2017 meeting with a government agency, his December 2017 Congressional testimony, and his former employer’s October 2018 statements to the media) as direct evidence or, alternatively, pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b)
  • Exclude evidence and preclude argument concerning allegations of political bias on the part of the Special Counsel (addressed in this post)
  • Admit an October 31, 2016 tweet by the Clinton Campaign

I will link my discussions in serial fashion.


Here’s how John Durham moved to exclude any evidence that his team was ordered to produce results in time for the 2020 election, bullied witnesses, or treated Hillary Clinton as a more dangerous adversary than Russia.

The Government expects that defense counsel may seek to present evidence at trial and make arguments that depict the Special Counsel as politically motived or biased based on his appointment by the prior administration. Notwithstanding the patently untrue nature of those allegations, such matters are irrelevant to this case and would create a substantial danger of unfair prejudice, confusion, and delay. In particular, the government seeks to preclude the defendant from introducing any evidence or making any argument concerning the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the Special Counsel and alleged political bias on the part of the Special Counsel’s Office. Indeed, the defendant has foreshadowed some of these arguments in correspondence with the Special Counsel and others, and their assertions lack any valid basis.

Only relevant evidence is admissible at trial. Fed. R. Evid. 402. The definition of relevance is inclusive, see Fed. R. Evid. 401(a), but depends on the possibility of establishing a fact that “is of consequence in determining the action,” Fed. R. Evid. 401(b). Evidence is therefore relevant only if it logically relates to matters that are at issue in the case. E.g., United States v. O’Neal, 844 F. 3d 271, 278 (D.C. Cir. 2016); see Sprint/United Management Co. v. Mendelsohn, 552 U.S. 379, 387 (2008). The party seeking to introduce evidence bears the burden of establishing relevancy. Dowling v. United States, 493 U.S. 342, 351 n.3 (1990).

Here, the defendant is charged with making a false statement to the FBI General Counsel in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. A jury will have to decide only whether the defendant knowingly and willfully made a materially false statement to the FBI General Counsel. Nothing more, nothing less. Baseless political allegations are irrelevant to the crime charged. See, e.g., United States v. Regan, 103 F. 3d 1072, 1082 (2d Cir. 1997) (claims of Government misconduct are “ultimately separate from the issue of [a defendant’s] factual guilt”); United States v. Washington, 705 F. 2d 489, 495 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (similar). Evidence or argument concerning these issues should therefore be excluded. See Fed. R. Evid. 402; see, e.g., O’Neal, 844 F,3d at 278; United States v. Stone, 19 CR 18 (D.D.C. Sept. 26, 2019) ECF Minute Order (granting the government’s motion in limine to exclude evidence or argument regarding alleged misconduct in the government’s investigation or prosecution of Roger Stone).

The only purpose in advancing these arguments would be to stir the pot of political polarization, garner public attention, and, most inappropriately, confuse jurors or encourage jury nullification. Put bluntly, the defense wishes to make the Special Counsel out to be a political actor when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.11 Injecting politics into the trial proceedings is in no way relevant and completely unjustified. See United States v. Gorham, 523 F. 2d 1088, 1097-1098 (D.C. Cir. 1975) (upholding trial court’s decision to preclude evidence relevant only to jury nullification); see also United States v. Rushin, 844 F. 3d 933, 942 (11th Cir. 2016) (same); United States v. Castro, 411 Fed. App’x 415, 420 (2d Cir. 2011) (same); United States v. Funches, 135 F.3d 1405, 1408-1409 (11th Cir. 1998) (same); United States v. Cropp, 127 F.3d 354, 358-359 (4th Cir. 1997). With respect to concerns about jury nullification, this Circuit has opined:

[Defendant’s] argument is tantamount to the assertion that traditional principles concerning the admissibility of evidence should be disregarded, and that extraneous factors should be introduced at trial to become part of the jury’s deliberations. Of course a jury can render a verdict at odds with the evidence and the law in a given case, but it undermines the very basis of our legal system when it does so. The right to equal justice under law inures to the public as well as to individual parties to specific litigation, and that right is debased when juries at their caprice ignore the dictates of established precedent and procedure.

Gorham, 523 F.2d at 1098. Even if evidence related to the defendant’s anticipated allegations had “marginal relevance” to this case (which it does not), the “likely (and presumably intended) effect” would be “to shift the focus away from the relevant evidence of [the defendant’s] wrongdoing” to matters that are, at most, “tangentially related.” United States v. Malpeso, 115 F. 3d 155, 163 (2d Cir. 1997) (upholding exclusion of evidence of alleged misconduct by FBI agent). For the foregoing reasons, the defendant should not be permitted to introduce evidence or make arguments to the jury about the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the Special Counsel and alleged political bias on the part of the Special Counsel.

11 By point of fact, the Special Counsel has been appointed by both Democratic and Republican appointed Attorneys General to conduct investigations of highly-sensitive matters, including Attorneys General Janet Reno, Michael Mukasey, Eric Holder, Jeff Sessions and William Barr. [my emphasis]

Durham stuck the section between an extended section arguing that Judge Christopher Cooper should treat the interlinked investigations — by those working for the Hillary campaign and those, working independently of the campaign, who believed Donald Trump presented a grave risk to national security — into Trump’s ties to Russia as a unified conspiracy and another section asking that Clinton Campaign tweets magnifying the Alfa Bank allegations be admitted, even though the argument to include them is closely related.

Even ignoring how Durham pitches this issue, the placement of this argument — smack dab in the middle of an effort to treat protected political speech he admits is not criminal like a criminal conspiracy — seems like a deliberate joke. All the more so coming from prosecutors who, with their conflicts motion,

stir[red] the pot of political polarization, garner[ed] public attention, and, most inappropriately, confuse[d potential] jurors

It’s pure projection, presented in the middle of just that kind of deliberately polarizing argument. From the moment the Durham team — which relied heavily on an FBI Agent who reportedly sent pro-Trump texts on his FBI phone — tried to enhance Kevin Clinesmith’s punishment for altering documents because he sent anti-Trump texts on his FBI phone, Durham has criminalized opposition to Trump.

And Durham himself made his hiring an issue by claiming that the guy who misrepresented his conflicts motion by using it to suggest that Sussmann and Rodney Joffe should be executed, Donald Trump, is a mere third party and not the guy who made him a US Attorney.

But it’s also misleading, for multiple reasons.

The initial bias in question pertains to covering up for Russia, not helping Republicans

Sussmann’s likely complaints at trial have little to do with the fact that Durham was appointed by a Republican. Rather, a key complaint will likely have to do with the fact that Durham was appointed as part of a sustained campaign to misrepresent the entire set of events leading up to the appointment of his predecessor as Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, by a guy who auditioned for the job of Attorney General based on his claims — reflecting his warped Fox News understanding of the investigation — that the confirmed outcome of that investigation was false.

You cannot separate Durham’s appointment from Billy Barr’s primary goal in returning as Attorney General to undermine the evidence of improper Trump ties to Russia. You cannot separate Durham’s appointment, in the same days as Mueller acquired key evidence in two investigations (the Egyptian bank donation and Roger Stone) that Barr subsequently shut down, from Barr’s attempt to undermine the past and ongoing investigation. You cannot separate Durham’s appointment from what several other DC District judges (Reggie Walton, Emmet Sullivan, and Amy Berman Jacksonthe latter, twice) have said was Barr’s improper tampering in the Russian investigation.

That is, Durham was appointed to cover-up Trump’s confirmed relationship with Russia, not to attack Democrats. But in order to cover up for Russia, Durham will, and has, attacked the Democrats who were first victimized by Russia for viewing Russia as a threat (though I believe that Republicans were victimized, too).

That bias has exhibited in the following ways, among others:

  • Treating concern about Trump’s solicitation of further hacks by Russia and his confirmed ties to Russian money laundering as a partisan issue, and not a national security issue (something Durham continues with this filing)
  • Treatment, in the Danchenko case, of Charles Dolan’s involvement in the most accurate report in the Steele dossier as more damning that the likely involvement of Dmitri Peskov in the most inflammatory reports that paralleled the secret communications with Dmitry Peskov that Trump and Michael Cohen lied to cover up
  • Insinuations from Andrew DeFilippis to Manos Antonakakis that it was inappropriate for DARPA to ask researchers to investigate ongoing Russian hacks during an election
  • A prosecutorial decision that risks making sensitive FISA information available to Russia that will, at the same time, signal that the FBI won’t protect informants against Russia

There are other indications that Durham has taken probable Russian disinformation that implicates Roger Stone as instead reliable evidence against Hillary.

Durham’s investigation into an investigation during an election was a key prop during an investigation

Another thing Durham may be trying to stave off is Sussmann calling Nora Dannehy as a witness to explain why she quit the investigation just before the election. Even assuming Durham could spin concerns about pressure to bring charges before an election, that pressure again goes to Billy Barr’s project.

When Durham didn’t bring charges, some of the same documents Durham was reviewing got shared with Jeffrey Jensen, whose team then altered several of them, at least one of them misleadingly, to present a false narrative about Trump’s opponent’s role in the investigation. Suspected fraudster Sidney Powell seems to have shared that false narrative with Donald Trump, who then used it in a packaged attack in the first debate.

This is one of the reasons why Durham’s submission of Bill Priestap’s notes in such a way as to obscure whether those notes have some of the same indices of unreliability as the altered filings in the Mike Flynn case matters.

In other words, Durham is claiming that scrutinizing the same kind of questions that Durham himself has been scrutinizing for years is improper.

The bullying

I find it interesting that Durham claims that, “the defendant has foreshadowed some of these arguments in correspondence with the Special Counsel and others,” without citing any. That’s because the only thing in the record is that Sussmann asked for evidence of Durham bullying witnesses to alter their testimony — in response to which Durham provided communications with April Lorenzen’s attorneys.

On December 10, 2021, the defense requested, among other things, all of the prosecution team’s communications with counsel for witnesses or subjects in this investigation, including, “any records reflecting any consideration, concern, or threats from your office relating to those individuals’ or their counsels’ conduct. . . and all formal or informal complaints received by you or others” about the conduct of the Special Counsel’s Office.” Although communications with other counsel are rarely discoverable, especially this far in advance of trial, the Government expects to produce certain materials responsive to this request later this week. The Government notes that it is doing so despite the fact that certain counsel persistently have targeted prosecutors and investigators on the Special Counsel’s team with baseless and polemical attacks that unfairly malign and mischaracterize the conduct of this investigation. For example, certain counsel have falsely accused the Special Counsel’s Office of leaking information to the media and have mischaracterized efforts to warn witnesses of the consequences of false testimony or false statements as “threats” or “intimidation.”

And this set of filings reveals that Durham is still trying to force Rodney Joffe to testify against Sussmann, even though Joffe says his testimony will actually help Sussmann.

In other words, this may be a bid by Durham to prevent evidence of prosecutorial misconduct under the guise of maintaining a monopoly on the right to politicize the case.

Normally, arguments like this have great merit and are upheld.

But by making the argument, Durham is effectively arguing that the entire premise of his own investigation — an inquiry into imagined biases behind an investigation and later appointment of a Special Counsel — is illegitimate.

As we’ll see, what Judge Christopher Cooper is left with is nothing more than competing claims of conspiracy.

John Durham Is Hiding Evidence of Altered Notes

On Monday, both John Durham and Michael Sussmann submitted their motions in limine, which are filings to argue about what can be admitted at trial. They address a range of issues that I’ll cover in several posts:

Sussmann:

Durham wants to:

  • Admit witnesses’ contemporaneous notes of conversations with the FBI General Counsel
  • Admit emails referenced in the Indictment and other, similar emails (see this post)
  • Admit certain acts and statements (including the defendant’s February 2017 meeting with a government agency, his December 2017 Congressional testimony, and his former employer’s October 2018 statements to the media) as direct evidence or, alternatively, pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b)
  • Exclude evidence and preclude argument concerning allegations of political bias on the part of the Special Counsel (addressed in this post)
  • Admit an October 31, 2016 tweet by the Clinton Campaign

I will link my discussions in serial fashion.


In John Durham’s bid to introduce notes from Bill Priestap and Trisha Anderson, he presented a color scan of Anderson’s notes [red annotation added]:

But he presented a black and white scan of Priestap’s notes [red annotation added]:

That’s important for two reasons. First, because blue sticky tabs were implicated in altered documents submitted in the Mike Flynn case. There was a blue sticky tab on another page of Priestap notes submitted in Flynn’s case.

There were what appear to be blue and red stickies visible on the original version of some Peter Strzok notes submitted in that case.

When the government ultimately confessed to adding dates (affirmatively misleading, in at least one case) to both that set of Strzok notes

And some Andrew McCabe notes

… The government claimed that the date added to some Andrew McCabe notes was added via a blue sticky — what sounds like the same sticky we saw in the Priestap notes.

In response to the Court and counsel’s questions, the government has learned that, during the review of the Strzok notes, FBI agents assigned to the EDMO review placed a single yellow sticky note on each page of the Strzok notes with estimated dates (the notes themselves are undated). Those two sticky notes were inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters, before they were forwarded to our office for production. The government has also confirmed with Mr. Goelman and can represent that the content of the notes was not otherwise altered.

Similarly, the government has learned that, at some point during the review of the McCabe notes, someone placed a blue “flag” with clear adhesive to the McCabe notes with an estimated date (the notes themselves are also undated). Again, the flag was inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters, before they were forwarded to our office for production. Again, the content of the notes was not otherwise altered. [my emphasis]

If that’s right, then whoever altered the McCabe notes altered them with the same kind of blue sticky note that appears on the Priestap notes that Durham wants to submit at trial.

Whether that date was added via blue sticky note has never been publicly tested. Rather than submitting unaltered versions of McCabe’s notes in the Flynn docket, DOJ — metadata suggests that Jocelyn Ballantine did this — simply digitally removed the date and a footer, effectively submitting a realtered exhibit in place of an altered one. So one cannot rule out that that date was written right onto the notes themselves. McCabe was being specifically prevented by DOJ from reviewing his original notes in the period, not even to prepare for Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, so he hasn’t been able to test that either.

That, by itself, suggests some of the alterations that were an issue in the Flynn docket were altered before they were shared with Jeffrey Jensen.

But that’s all the more interesting given a detail that Michael Sussmann included in his bid to exclude these notes. In Priestap’s grand jury testimony in this case, he testified he didn’t know why he wrote the “no specific client” comment on a slant, or why those notes were, “perhaps darker or thicker than some of the other notes.”

The Indictment characterizes the Priestap Notes as a contemporaneous record of Mr. Priestap’s conversation with Mr. Baker. See id. But beyond offering that they “looked like his writing and organizational style,” Mem. of Special Counsel’s June 2, 2021 Interview of E.W. Priestap, SCO-3500U-018701, at -01, Mr. Priestap said he “[doesn’t] remember why [he] wrote them down and who gave [him] the information,” E.W. Priestap’s June 3, 2021 Grand Jury Test., SCO-3500U-018746, at -98. Not only that, but Mr. Priestap “[does] not recall actually writing these notes,” id. at SCO-3500U-018815, nor can he confirm that the notes actually reflect any conversation he had with Mr. Baker, as opposed to a conversation he had with someone else, id. Indeed, Mr. Priestap “advised he did not remember Baker conveying to him the information about Sussmann,” Mem. of Special Counsel’s June 2, 2021 Interview of E.W. Priestap at SCO-3500U 018702, and was “not certain whether th[e] conversation reflected in the notes . . . was with Mr. Baker or maybe with someone else,” E.W. Priestap’s June 3, 2021 Grand Jury Test. at SCO3500U-018815. Mr. Priestap also has “[n]o idea” why the phrase “said not doing this for any client”—written diagonally to the side of the main body of the notes—was written at all, and could offer no explanation for why those words were “perhaps darker or thicker than some of the other notes.” Id. at SCO-3500U-018816.

The date in the January 24, 2017 Priestap notes is even more irregular — at cross-direction from his other notes on the page, and with uneven ink — and I have always wondered whether that date was added too.

And lo and behold, the Anderson notes also appear to have a sticky note right by the date (as annotated), albeit apparently a red one, though some of the tags on the Strzok notes were of a similar color. She also found aspects of her notes surprising.

Ms. Anderson’s notes (the “Anderson Notes”) include, on top, “Deputies Mtg. 9/19/16,” and then, after a redaction and under a second heading reading “9/19[/]16,” go on to state: “Sussman[n] Mtg w/ Baker” and “No specific client but group of cyber academics talked w/ him abt research,” followed by the phrase, “article this Friday – NYT/WaPo/WSJ.” Anderson Notes at SCO-3500U-000018. The relevant sentence fragment contains no subject revealing who had “[n]o specific client,” nor any other context for that phrase. Ms. Anderson, who was first asked about these notes by the Special Counsel over five years after they were written, has no meaningful memory of the notes or their context: she has only a “vague recollection” of discussing this topic with Mr. Baker and cannot “recall specifics.” Mem. of Special Counsel’s Jan. 5, 2022 Interview of T. Anderson, SCO-3500U-000087, at -88, -96. When shown the notes, Ms. Anderson stated that she had been “surprised” to learn about the “no specific client” phrase, and she “d[id] not now recall hearing from Baker his use” of that phrase; she could only assume that she got that phrase from Mr. Baker “because her notes reflect[ed] it.” Id. at -88.

Durham has only provided a partial scan of theses notes, hiding that the date, 9/19/16, appears earlier on the page, describing a different kind of meeting. That’s consistent with what the added date and the redaction on the McCabe notes did: It served to suggest that McCabe briefed the Flynn case to SSCI the day after Jim Comey was fired. Here, the September 19 date that appears next to the sticky is necessary for Durham’s case to claim that Anderson took these notes the same day of the meeting and not some time after that.

But why would Anderson date her notes twice?

According to a discovery filing in this case, Sussmann has reviewed redacted versions of the originals of the Priestap notes, which were still in the notebook Priestap took them in.

On October 13, 2021, the defense requested, among other things, to inspect the original notes that a former FBI Assistant Director of Counterintelligence took reflecting the defendant’s alleged false statement. The original notes were contained in a hard-bound notebook located at FBI Headquarters and contained extremely sensitive and highly classified information on a variety of topics and unrelated investigative matters. The Government immediately agreed to make the original notebook available to the defense in redacted form, and the defense conducted its review of the notebook on October 20, 2021.

But to test why all these notes have post-it notes on them and why the dates are so unreliable (and affirmatively misleading, in the case of the alteration in the January 5, 2017 Strzok notes), Sussmann would need to review all the notes together, probably with the assistance of the original authors.

It’s still not clear who altered the notes submitted in the Flynn docket, the extent of those alterations, or why the government is submitting exhibits with investigative stickies on them as evidence at trial. DOJ’s filing in the Flynn case blamed the misleading date on the Strzok notes on an FBI agent associated with the Jeffrey Jensen investigation (which would suggest that alteration post-dated Durham’s access to it), but it did not say who altered the McCabe notes.

But by showing that the blue sticky notes existed in Durham’s copy of the exhibits, Durham makes it clear some of the alterations exhibited in the Flynn docket happened before he shared the documents with Jensen’s investigation, if that’s how the notes got shared around.

The misleading date added to the Strzok notes ultimately was part of a packaged Trump attack on Joe Biden at the first debate, one that Sidney Powell, who has since been sanctioned for making fraudulent claims in an attempt to keep Trump in office, appears to have had a part in.

President Donald J. Trump: (01:02:22)
We’ve caught them all. We’ve got it all on tape. We’ve caught them all. And by the way, you gave the idea for the Logan Act against General Flynn. You better take a look at that, because we caught you in a sense, and President Obama was sitting in the office.

Given that even Chuck Grassley recognized the alteration added to the Strzok notes was incorrect, it’s hard to believe that was an innocent mistake.

And yet, 18 months later, DOJ is still trying to submit notes with all these investigative sticky notes as exhibits, without explaining why or how they appeared there.

And Durham’s choice to present the Priestap notes — with what appear to be the same blue sticky as appeared on his earlier notes, as well was the the blue sticky described to have been used to alter the McCabe notes — in black-and-white suggests he may know that’s a problem.

The Evidence Needed for a Trump Prosecution

It would be easier to prosecute Trump for January 6 than Peter Navarro. I say that (in advance of today’s debate about referring Navarro and Dan Scavino for contempt) because it is far easier to tie Trump’s actions directly to the successful obstruction of the vote certification on January 6 than it would Navarro’s, and Navarro’s actions are fairly tangential to the proof that Trump’s actions met the elements of obstruction of the vote certification.

Months ago, I laid out how to prosecute Trump using the framework that DOJ has already used with hundreds of January 6 defendants. But in this post, I will show how much evidence DOJ has already collected proving the case against Trump by using the framework for Trump’s criminal exposure laid out by Judges Amit Mehta and David Carter, incorporating a key point made by Judge Reggie Walton.

In his opinion upholding the lawsuits against Trump, Amit Mehta found that it was plausible Trump conspired with the militias and also that he bore aid-and-abet liability for assaults at the Capitol (see this post and this post). He found that:

  • Trump and the militias jointly pursued an effort to disrupt the vote certification
  • Trump planned the unpermitted march to the Capitol
  • Trump encouraged the use of force and threats to thwart the certification from proceeding
  • Trump knew supporters would respond to his calls to come to DC and march on the Capitol
  • Trump called for collective action
  • Trump intended his “fight like hell” comment to be taken literally and rioters did take it literally
  • Trump ratified the riot

In his opinion finding that one email from John Eastman must be turned over to the January 6 Committee on a crime-fraud exception (see this post), Carter laid out the following proof that Trump obstructed the vote certification:

  • Trump tried to persuade Pence to disrupt the vote certification
  • He publicly appealed to Pence to do so
  • He called on his followers to walk to Congress to pressure Pence and Congress

Carter laid out this evidence that Trump had corrupt intent:

  • Proof that he had been told the vote fraud claims were false and his own request of Brad Raffensperger showed he knew he had lost
  • Trump had been told the Eastman’s plan was not legal

Carter laid out this evidence he had entered into a conspiracy:

  • Trump held lots of meetings to talk about plans to obstruct the vote count
  • Trump ratified Eastman’s plan in his Ellipse speech

To those two frameworks finding that Trump probably conspired to obstruct the vote certification, Judge Walton held that you cannot point to back-room plotting to get to the intentions of the actual rioters; you can only look at what the rioters themselves accessed, Trump’s public speech and Tweets (see this post).

This table (which is still very much a work in progress) lays out what evidence would be needed to prosecute Trump. The horizontal Elements of 1512(c)(2)/Relevant to Motive and Co-Conspirators sections show what is necessary given the elements of the offense as laid out by the judges and in DOJ filings, versus what might provide evidence of a broader conspiracy. The Must Have/Nice to Have columns show that for each kind of proof, there’s what is necessary and what would be really useful before indicting a former President.

In other words, the things in the yellow boxes are the things that would be necessary to show that Trump obstructed the vote certification. They basically amount to proof that things that Trump did brought the rioters to DC and to the Capitol and that he had the corrupt mens rea to charge with obstruction. I include there proof that Trump conspired with the militias, which I consider necessary because the Proud Boys, especially, took the bodies that Trump sent them and made those bodies tactically effective.

While prosecutors are still working on tying Roger Stone to both militias and tying Alex Jones and Ali Alexander into the crimes at the Capitol, much of the rest of this evidence has already been collected and rolled out in charging papers. For example, I showed some of the proof that rioters responded to Trump’s attacks on Pence by targeting their own attacks on Pence. There are a number of Trump comments that directly led hundreds of rioters to start making plans to come to DC, including arming themselves; NYT recently laid out the most central communication, a Tweet on December 19, 2020, though not only is that focus not new, it’s the tweet and response to which Arieh Kovler predicted the attack on the Capitol in real time.

A number of the other things you’d want to have before you charged Trump are available to DOJ:

  • Details of how the march to the Capitol happened and why it — and Ali Alexander’s permitted rallies at the Capitol — made a riot more likely
  • Explanations why Ellipse rally organizers balked at including people like Ali Alexander and Roger Stone
  • Testimony from Pence’s aides about how Trump pressured his Vice President in private

It is true that the testimony of several people — those involved in selling the Big Lie and Scavino’s coordination of the riot (including a particular focus on The Donald) — would be really useful. But that testimony is as important to proving that they were part of the conspiracy along with Trump.

Pat Cipollone’s tesitmony would be incredibly useful to that case, too. Normally, he could invoke privilege, but Trump already waived some of that privilege by sharing details about his conversations with Cipollone with Sean Hannity. If Cipollone did cooperate with DOJ, I don’t think he would leak that.

Similarly, the Relevant to Motive and Co-Conspirators rows — showing Trump’s coordination with Congress or his prior planning of it — would be really useful to have in prosecuting Trump. But ultimately, as Judge Walton held, what Trump did in private could not have influenced most of the rioters, because they never knew those details. As such, some of that information — precisely the kinds of stuff that TV lawyers say would be the first overt signs that Trump was a subject of the investigation — is more useful for including others in the conspiracy.

The most important of this evidence — communications from the December 18 meeting and comms during the day of the riot — are already in DOJ’s possession from Rudy’s seized phones, whether or not they obtained a warrant for that content yet.

Update: I’ve tweaked the horizontal headings on the table to clarify that the top half of the table stems from the elements of offense for 1512(c)(2), whereas the bottom half is clearly related and may help prove mens rea or incorporate other co-conspirators, but is not necessary (in my opinion) to meeting the elements of obstruction.

Four Rudy Giuliani-Related Privilege Reviews: DOJ Likely Already Has a Version of Document 4708

As I noted here and here, on Monday, Judge David Carter ordered John Eastman to turn over most documents he had been trying to withhold from the January 6 Committee. That order found that it was likely that Trump and Eastman had conspired to defraud the US. But there was just one document turned over on the basis of crime-fraud exception: a document otherwise privileged under a work product claim that, Judge Carter ruled, could not be withheld because it was sent in the commission of the attempt to obstruct the vote count.

Here’s how Carter described the document:

In this email, a colleague forwards to Dr. Eastman a memo they wrote for one of President Trump’s attorneys.153 The memo sketches a series of events for the days leading up to and following January 6, if Vice President Pence were to delay counting or reject electoral votes. The memo clearly contemplates and plans for litigation: it maps out potential Supreme Court suits and the impact of different judicial outcomes. While this memo was created for both political and litigation purposes, it substantively engages with potential litigation and its consequences for President Trump. The memo likely would have been written substantially differently had the author not expected litigation. The Court therefore finds that this document was created in anticipation of litigation.

[snip]

The eleventh document is a chain forwarding to Dr. Eastman a draft memo written for President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani.274 The memo recommended that Vice President Pence reject electors from contested states on January 6. This may have been the first time members of President Trump’s team transformed a legal interpretation of the Electoral Count Act into a day-by-day plan of action. The draft memo pushed a strategy that knowingly violated the Electoral Count Act, and Dr. Eastman’s later memos closely track its analysis and proposal. The memo is both intimately related to and clearly advanced the plan to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021. Because the memo likely furthered the crimes of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States, it is subject to the crime-fraud exception and the Court ORDERS it to be disclosed.

274 4708. [my emphasis]

Carter’s decision and the release of documents has set off the usual wails about how much more proactive the January 6 Committee is than DOJ, replete with statements of fact — almost always people who haven’t done any work to understand what DOJ is really doing — that DOJ hasn’t taken steps to obtain such documents itself.

I’d like to look at four privilege reviews that implicate Rudy Giuliani and show that it is likely DOJ already has this document or at least ones that are related. Those reviews are:

  • Judge David Carter’s review of 111 documents subpoenaed from John Eastman by the January 6 committee
  • The 11-month long privilege review of materials on 16 devices seized from Rudy Giuliani on April 28, 2021
  • Details released about Robert Costello’s advice to Steve Bannon provided in response to a subpoena from the January 6 Committee
  • The known details about subpoenas served on Sidney Powell’s non-profit, Defending the Republic

John Eastman

As explained here, the David Carter opinion describes the judge’s privilege review of just four days of materials (January 4 to January 7, 2021) responsive to the January 6 Committee subpoena to Eastman. Carter went meticulously through seven categories of materials in Eastman’s possession and determined that just ten documents could be withheld under a work product claim and one — document 4708 — had to be turned over under a crime-fraud exception.

Carter ruled the document — an email chain that forwarded a memo written for Rudy to Eastman — was excepted under a crime-fraud exception because, the judge described, it sought to transform Eastman’s Electoral Count Act scheme “into a day-by-day plan of action.” Eastman didn’t write it. Rather, because the document was created for Rudy, Carter treated it along with four others, “created by or for agents of President Trump or his campaign, including attorneys of record in state cases and President Trump’s personal attorney.” [my emphasis]

References to the document explain that Eastman claimed attorney-client privilege over the document (fn 81, 125) and someone wrote “PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL” in email text (fn 101).

Carter’s review of the document is particularly valuable for how he dismisses Eastman’s attorney-client privilege claim: In hundreds of pages of briefing, Eastman provided no evidence that its sender was affiliated with the Trump campaign or was covered by Eastman’s own claim to be representing Trump.

Dr. Eastman claims attorney-client privilege over only nine documents: five emails125 and four attachments.126 None of these documents includes Dr. Eastman’s client, President Trump, as a sender or recipient of the email. Instead, all emails are sent from a third party to Dr. Eastman, and two of the emails blind copy (bcc) a close advisor to President Trump.127

Despite having filed nearly a hundred pages of briefing, Dr. Eastman does not mention this third-party email sender anywhere in his briefs; the person is named only in his privilege log entries. Dr. Eastman’s description in the privilege log is conclusory, describing the sender merely as his “co-counsel.”128 Dr. Eastman failed to provide retainer agreements or a sworn declaration that would prove this third party was an attorney or agent for President Trump. The Court also cannot infer the third party’s affiliation with President Trump from his email, which is a generic, [email protected] email address. Dr. Eastman has not met his burden to show that these communications were with an agent of President Trump or the Trump campaign, and as such, these documents do not warrant the protection of the attorney-client privilege.

In other words, there was someone involved in relaying a memo originally written for Rudy to Eastman that Eastman didn’t want to or couldn’t argue was a Trump lawyer. And that’s why this attorney-client privilege claim failed. That’s an important detail because — as we’ll see — Bannon tried something similar.

Rudy Giuliani

Now let’s turn to Rudy’s phones. As I keep explaining, while the known warrants used to seize Rudy’s phones cover his Ukrainian influence peddling and cover a time period from May 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019, SDNY got Judge Paul Oetken to approve a Special Master review that covered the period from January 1, 2018 through the date of seizure, April 28, 2021. Special Master Barbara Jones’ review is only for privilege claims (including Executive privilege and attorney-client at least), not for responsiveness to any subpoena, so the end result of her review will result in turning over all non-privileged content on Rudy’s devices from that 28-month period.

That means if the person who created the memo forwarded as part of document 4708 sent it to Rudy on one of the devices that were seized, then the underlying memo would be included in the Special Master review.

We don’t know how DOJ has prioritized this review. We know only what is in this and earlier reports, which I’ve captured in this table.

Jones did an initial review, covering the entire timeframe (that is, post-dating January 1, 2018) of 7 devices, from which she found 3 documents about which she had some question, but ultimately deemed them privileged and turned over 2,000 other items.

Then, seemingly in parallel, she did a review of Device 1B05 (a cell phone) and 8 other devices. For the 8 devices, her review covered only the period of Rudy’s Ukrainian influence peddling. But for Device 1B05, Jones’ review covered the full 28-month period, meaning it would include any texts or messages sent on or pertaining to January 6.

I next assigned for review the chats and messages that post-dated January 1, 2018 on Device 1B05, which is a cell phone. There were originally 25,481 such items, which later increased to 25,629 after a technical issue involving document attachments was identified. An initial release of non-designated items was made to the Government’s investigative team on November 11, 2021.1

Of the total documents assigned for review, Mr. Giuliani designated 96 items as privileged and/or highly personal. Of those 96 designated items, I agreed that 40 were privileged, Mr. Giuliani’s counsel withdrew the privilege designation over 19, and I found that 37 were not privileged. I shared these determinations with Mr. Giuliani’s counsel, and they indicated that they would not challenge my determination that the 37 items are not privileged. The 40 privileged documents have been withheld from the Government’s investigative team and the remaining 56 were released on January 19, 2022.

1 Additional non-designated items were released on January 19, 2022.

Device 1B05 was the only one for which Jones disputed the original privilege claims made by Rudy and his attorney Robert Costello. Of 40 items, Jones agreed with their privilege claim. Of 19, Costello withdrew the claim. And of 37, Jones told Costello she disagreed, after which Costello decided not to fight her ruling.

While these discussions were going on, Judge Oetken issued a ruling that, if Rudy wanted to challenge Jones’ rulings, they’d have to make their legal arguments (but not the content of the contested communications) public. During the Michael Cohen privilege review, such a decision led Cohen and Trump to drop privilege claims, probably over the crime-fraud excepted hush payment communications, and that may be what happened here.

Whatever happened, we know that, with the exception of 43 items, any January 6-related communications that were on half of the 16 phones seized from Rudy would have been turned over to the FBI for a scope review. To be clear, investigators wouldn’t be able to access those comms unless they got a separate warrant for them, but we would never know (short of an indictment relying on them) if they had.

None of that guarantees that the memo forwarded with Eastman’s document 4708 is in DOJ possession. If the person who wrote it emailed it, it would not necessarily be on the seized devices. (Though if DOJ had a January 6 warrant for Rudy’s phones, they presumably would have obtained one for his email and iCloud as well, as they did with his Ukraine investigation.) If the person delivered it by hand, it would not be on the devices. And it’s possible that Costello made a more compelling argument than Eastman did that the sender was covered by a privilege claim tied to Trump.

Steve Bannon

We don’t know what kind of wild privilege claims Robert Costello was making as part of the privilege review of Rudy’s devices (which started in earnest in September 2021). But we do know what kind of wild privilege claims Robert Costello was making for another of his clients, Steve Bannon, in discussions of how to respond to a subpoena from the January 6 between October 5 and 19, 2021. He provided those details (including two 302s from interviews at which FBI agents were present) in a bid to claim he — Costello — was unfairly targeted as part of DOJ’s investigation of Bannon’s contempt (see this post for details).

In Costello’s interviews, he was all over the map about whether Bannon could invoke Executive Privilege. He said that according to some OLC opinions, Bannon did not have to be a government employee to receive “protections” under EP, and that “TRUMP had the right to claim it for BANNON.” He said that 10 of the 17 items on the Jan 6 subpoena were covered by EP. He admitted EP did not cover a request for comms involving Scott Perry and “it would take a ‘creative argument’ to apply Executive Privilege to that particular item.” He admitted, too, that comms with the Proud Boys wouldn’t be covered by EP if such communications existed.  He said that EP claims should be worked out between Trump and the Committee. He said he had told Bannon that Bannon could not invoke EP because “that authority belongs to the President.”

Ultimately, though, Costello admitted that Trump’s attorney Justin Clark never reviewed anything Bannon might have claimed privilege over and refused several requests to contact the Committee himself about EP.

COSTELLO did not provide any documents to attorneys representing former President Trump for review to determine if Executive Privilege covered the documents. At the time, COSTELLO did not know what attorneys were representing others who had received Select Committee subpoenas.

COSTELLO asked CLARK to reach out to the Select Committee and to directly express to the Select Committee what COSTELLO and BANNON were confused about in regards to Executive Privilege. COSTELLO estimated he requested this of CLARK approximately two or three times; however, CLARK did not reach out to the Select Committee. COSTELLO did not have prior knowledge of the lawsuit of former President TRUMP.

[snip]

CLARK would not identify for COSTELLO what would be covered under Executive Privilege and that CLARK left that determination up to those who had received the Select Committee subpoena. CLARK also refused to reach out to the Select Committee on behalf of COSTELLO or BANNON.

[snip]

COSTELLO did not provide or offer any documents to attorneys representing former President TRUMP to review for Executive Privilege.

In a follow-up, Costello effectively admitted there was no concrete record that Trump had invoked EP.

Costello stated that Justin Clark (Clark) was trying to be intentionally vague; however, Costello was clear former President Donald Trump (President Trump) asserted executive privilege with regard to Bannon.

When DOJ asked Costello for a letter indicating that Clark had invoked EP for Bannon, he had nothing specific.

Then there was the matter of Bannon’s podcasts. Costello ceded they weren’t covered by privilege, but only because they were public (!!!!), and appears to have just assumed the Committee would go get them on their own.

With regards to responding to the Select Committee’s request for documents, COSTELLO planned to send a link to the website hosting all of BANNON’s publicly accessibly podcasts.

[snip]

The podcasts requested could be obtained by the Select Committee off the internet, and since they were in the public domain, the podcasts also were not covered by Executive Privilege.

[snip]

COSTELLO admitted he did not have a good answer as to why he didn’t disclose to the Select Committee that the podcasts were in the public domain and BANNON was not required to respond to that particular item. COSTELLO believed the particular requests regarding the podcasts was just a “bad request” by the Select Committee.

The most telling piece of advice given by the lawyer Bannon shares with Rudy — one that goes to the heart of what Costello might have done in discussions taking place at the same time about privilege with SDNY — was that Bannon, who is not a lawyer, could claim attorney-client privilege over items requested in item 17 of the subpoena, which asked for,

Any communications with Rudolph Giuliani, John Eastman, Michael Flynn, Jenna Ellis, or Sydney Powell about any of the foregoing topics.

Costello claimed these such communications, including those with Mike Flynn or Sidney Powell, would be covered by attorney-client or work product privilege.

COSTELLO believed that the request listed as number 17 involved information over which BANNON could assert attorney-client privilege given it included a request for communications between BANNON and RUDOLPH GIULIANI, JENNA ELLIS, and other attorneys who were working for former President Trump.

[snip]

COSTELLO believed item 17 was covered by attorney-client privilege or by attorney work product protections. Even though MICHAEL FLYNN was not an attorney, he was present during attorney-client-protected discussions. Those particular attorneys represented former President TRUMP and CLARK informed COSTELLO not to respond to item 17.

There’s so much crazy-train about this last bit. After stating over and over that Clark refused to invoke EP, Costello then admitted that Clark wanted Bannon to withhold communications involving Rudy, Eastman, Powell, and Mike Flynn. Costello admitted Flynn (like Bannon) was not a lawyer, but was still prepared to claim attorney work product over comms with him anyway. But the thing I can’t get enough of is that Rudy’s lawyer Robert Costello was claiming that Sidney Powell — who, in a written statement issued on November 22, 2020, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani made very clear did not represent Donald Trump — represented Donald Trump.

Still, all this crazy train amounts to non-lawyer Bannon, advised by the lawyer he shares with Rudy, making the same claim that lawyer John Eastman had made regarding “war” planning leading up to January 6; that such documents were covered by work product privilege. That’s the same claim that Judge Carter just applied a crime-fraud exception for.

I’m guessing Costello attempted to make similar claims with Barbara Jones in SDNY and I’m guessing that Jones pointed out that Bannon and Flynn aren’t lawyers and Rudy was quite clear that Powell was not Trump’s lawyer. In other words, I think it likely that some of the claims Costello withdrew are similar to those that Eastman failed with. If that’s right, it increases the chance Document 4708 would be turned over to DOJ.

Sidney Powell

And then there’s the Kraken lady.

We don’t know the full scope of the grand jury investigation into Powell, aside from the fact that Molly Gaston, who is supervising the Bannon prosecution, is also involved in it (which means she’d have visibility on the overlap between the two, and would know that Trump’s lawyer tried to withhold comms involving Powell without invoking privilege). The subpoena requests, at least, cover the finances of her Defending the Republic “non-profit.”

The federal probe, which has not been previously reported, is examining the finances of Defending the Republic, an organization founded by Powell to fund her “Kraken” lawsuits to overturn the 2020 election, the sources said.According to two of the people familiar with the matter, a grand jury was empaneled, and subpoenas and documents requests have gone out to multiple individuals as recently as September.

The investigation, then, would cover activities that are tangential to the January 6 subpoenas to Bannon and Eastman.

But the fact that there’s a grand jury investigation into Powell makes it exceedingly likely DOJ got a warrant for her emails.

She has a valid privilege claim covering communications with Mike Flynn for some of this period. But thanks to Rudy’s public statement, she has no privilege covering her actions for Trump.

Chances are pretty good she received a copy of the memo for Rudy too (if the memo wasn’t written by someone with closer ties to Powell than Rudy).

I think it’s likely that DOJ has multiple copies of document 4708, probably via Rudy, Bannon, and Powell, if not Eastman himself (getting it from Chapman U would always have been easy to do with a gag, and would be still easier now).

What’s clear, though, is that the lawyer that Rudy and Bannon share is making privilege claims every bit as absurd as the ones Carter just rejected, and with Bannon, there’s no question about privilege claims.

A White Board of the Sedition-Curious

Contrary to what a lot of people imagine, I don’t keep visual representations — like some cork board with a bunch of strings attached — of the investigations I follow, not even the sprawling January 6 investigation. Instead, I just try to capture important developments here, where I can refer back to them. There are several such relationships unpacked in recent weeks.

Roger Stone and Stewart Rhodes bug out at the same time after insurrection

For example, a bunch of people have asked me what I make of the WaPo report based on video taken by some Danish journalists who were filming a documentary of Roger Stone on January 6.

As you read it, keep in mind that the Get Me Roger Stone video team was following Roger Stone during key periods of 2016, including at the RNC.

Mueller at least attempted — as Stone feared Mueller would in real time — to mine the video for clues about Stone’s activities. For example, in one of the same email chains where Stone told Randy Credico to “do a [Frank] Panta[n]gel[i],” he and Credico were panicking about what Get Me Roger Stone writer Morgan Pehme was saying about 2016.

So even assuming Roger Stone wasn’t engaged in his everyday type of performance when being filmed for these film-makers, he would be acutely aware of the legal hazards of having a documentary team following around while crimes were being committed.

That’s why the report is most interesting for the times when Stone made sure to ditch the camera team: at precisely the time of a key Proud Boy planning meeting, during a meeting that Joshua James may have reported in on, and as the riot unfolded at the Capitol.

For example, the videographers did not track Stone when he left the hotel at 9PM on January 5 with Sal Greco.

At about 8:50 p.m. on Jan. 5, after the Danish filmmakers had left him, Stone exited the Willard again with his bodyguard, off-duty New York City police officer Sal Greco, a live-stream video shows. Their destination was unclear, though Stone had said he had a 9 p.m. appointment to have his hair dyed.

Just minutes after that — just before 9:17 PM — Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean were meeting with as-yet unidentified people putting together their plan for the riot.

Then there was a meeting with Bernie Kerik at 10AM at the Willard; hotel staff prevented videographers from watching that meeting.

The filmmakers told The Post that Stone appeared to change his plans after an encounter in the Willard lobby around 10 a.m. with Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner working in Giuliani’s command center at the hotel. The filmmakers began recording their conversation but were forced to leave by hotel staff. It is unclear what was said.

There’s good evidence that Joshua James checked in with Michael Simmons before and after that meeting.

Finally, Stone blew off the videographers from just before the Proud Boys kicked off a riot until almost the moment both Stone-related militias stood down.

At about 12:40 p.m., some ofStone’s guests left his suite. Stone’s team and the filmmakers agreed to separate for lunch and then reconvene two hours later. Stone planned to speak at a smaller rally near the Capitol later that afternoon.

But as the filmmakers ate in their hotel room, they saw news footage of a riot escalating at the Capitol. Around 2:30 p.m., Guldbrandsen headed out to capture the scene while Frederik Marbell, the director of photography, rushed to Stone’s room.

“Kristin Davis opened the door and said that Roger was taking a nap, so I couldn’t film,” Marbelltold The Post.

Outside the room, Marbell attempted to reach Stone by text message starting at 3:03 p.m. The messages went unanswered for 24 minutes, when Stone responded and offered to go to Marbell’s room.

By about 4 p.m., with the Capitol in chaos, Stone had still not arrived at Marbell’s room. Marbell returned to Stone’s room and began knocking. About five minutes later, room service arrived and Marbell snuck inside, he said.

“Roger was not taking a nap. He was on the phone with someone,” Marbell said.

Stone condemned the riot to the filmmakers at 4:18 p.m., saying: “I think it’s really bad for the movement. It hurts, it doesn’t help. I’m not sure what they thought they were going to achieve.

These are like Stone’s July 2016 meeting with Nigel Farage at the RNC: The stuff he knew well to and did hide from the camera. That’s where the sweet spot of Stone’s interactions are.

All that said, the report shows that key Stone actions the camera team captured exactly map the known central events of the planning for the insurrection.

For example, Stone put together a Friends of Stone Signal list, including Enrique Tarrio, once it became clear Trump had lost. That fed Flynn’s efforts.

He told them to monitor a group chat on the app Signal titled “F.O.S.” — friends of Stone. Tarrio of the Proud Boys was among the group’s members, a later shot of Stone’s phone showed.

[snip]

On Nov. 5, Stone drew up a Stop the Steal action plan that was visible on Alejandro’s laptop in footage captured by the filmmakers. As protesters were mobilized, the plan said, state lawmakers would be lobbied to reject official results. That tactic later proved central to Trump’s efforts.

Also that day, Stone had a 15-minute call with Flynn, the video shows. He told Flynn they could “document an overwhelming and compelling fraud” in each battleground state and urged him to spread the word on social media. That day, Flynn, Trump’s campaign and his sons Donald Jr. and Eric began using #StopTheSteal on Twitter.

Just after this mobilization, both Tarrio and Biggs started calling for civil war.

Later that month, Stone was coordinating with Mike Flynn and Ali Alexander.

Stone moved quickly after Trump’s defeat to help mobilize the protest movement that drew thousands to the nation’s capital on Jan. 6, 2021, The Post found. He privately strategized with former national security adviser Michael Flynn and rally organizer Ali Alexander, who visited Stone’s home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in late November 2020 for a dinner where Stone served pasta and martinis.

In the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving (when Flynn would be pardoned and Sidney Powell would, like Stone, start grifting off claims of a stolen election), Flynn and Powell were at Lin Wood’s properties in South Carolina, plotting away.

I was most struck, however, by the unsurprising news that in addition to Tarrio, Stone also used Signal messages with Stewart Rhodes.

Stone used an encrypted messaging app later in January to communicate with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who is also charged with seditious conspiracy, and Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, the footage shows.

When I saw the description in James’ statement of offense of the way Rhodes bugged out of town immediately after the riot, I suspected that someone had instructed Rhodes that they were going to be hunted.

At Rhodes’s instruction, James, Vallejo, and others met Rhodes that evening at a restaurant in Vienna, Virginia. Rhodes discussed saving “the Republic” by stopping the transfer of presidential power and began to make plans to oppose the Inauguration on January 20, 2021, including by having people open-carry firearms at state capitols around the country.

While at the restaurant, Rhodes and James came to believe that law enforcement was searching for Rhodes and others after their attack on the Capitol. The group immediately returned to their hotel, collected their belongings, and met at a nearby gas station. There, James saw what he estimated to be thousands of dollars’ worth of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment in Rhodes’s vehicle. Rhodes divvied up various firearms and other gear among James and others who occupied a total of three cars. Rhodes left his mobile phone with one person and departed with another person in that person’s car so that law enforcement could not locate and arrest him. The three cars departed in separate directions.

James returned to Alabama with some of Rhodes’s gear, including firearms and other tactical equipment.

According to the videographers, Stone bugged out at about the same time and in the same frantic manner as Rhodes did.

As a mob ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s longest-serving political adviser, hurried to pack a suitcase inside his elegant suite on the fifth floor of the Willard hotel. He wrapped his tailored suits in trash bags, reversed his black face mask so its “Free Roger Stone” logo was hidden, then slipped out of town for a hastily arranged private flight from Dulles International Airport.

“I really want to get out of here,” Stone told an aide, as they were filmed at the hotel by a Danish camera crew for a documentary on the veteran Republican operative. Stone said he feared prosecution by the incoming attorney general, Merrick Garland. “He is not a friend,” Stone said.

I would, at this point, be shocked if Rhodes and Stone hadn’t communally decided they needed to bolt. The remaining question I have, though, is whether someone in government — like Mark Meadows — alerted Stone or someone close to him that the FBI had switched immediately into investigative mode.

Sidney Powell springs for the sedition gaslight defense

In the same way that the Danish videographers confirm that Roger Stone and Mike Flynn were conspiring early in the post-election process, a recent BuzzFeed report reveals that Sidney Powell is now using her hard-won grift to pay for the defense of some Oath Keepers.

Since October, the organization, Defending the Republic, has been making monthly payments to the defense attorney for Kelly Meggs, a member of the militant group the Oath Keepers who is charged with seditious conspiracy for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. In an interview, the attorney, Jonathon Moseley, said he was aware of “at least three or four other defendants who have that arrangement” as well. The Oath Keepers’ general counsel, Kellye SoRelle, said that one of those others is the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes. Offered the chance to deny that, his lawyers said they don’t discuss funding.

The revelation, which has not been previously reported, sheds new light on the activities of Powell’s organization, which was incorporated in December 2020 “to defend the constitutional rights of all Americans.” By last August, the group had raised nearly $15 million, according to its audited financial statements, and since then has raked in untold cash in donations and sales of merchandise, including T-shirts, drink coasters, and highball glasses adorned with the organization’s logo. Yet despite mounting legal scrutiny from federal and state investigators, Defending the Republic has disclosed almost nothing about where that money has been going.

[snip]

Powell’s involvement in the Oath Keepers case helps explain how some of the defendants, most of whom are far from wealthy, have been able to work with private attorneys who charge hundreds of dollars an hour rather than court-appointed lawyers. But it also raises questions as to who is dictating their defense strategy. In recent months, defense attorneys have raised many of the same far-flung conspiracies about COVID-19, antifa, and the deep state that appeared in lawsuits against the federal government filed by Powell herself.

As Ken Bensinger notes and I have traced, Jonathon Moseley has chosen to use court filings to engage in conspiracy theorizing rather than a more typical defense.

But on top of the futility of such an approach to actually obtain an optimal outcome, it serves to undermine rule of law more generally. Moseley’s approach is not all that different from the one that Powell herself used with Mike Flynn in attempting to blow up his prosecution by inventing false claims about the government. There was no evidence to support it, but it fed the frothers.

Tellingly, Powell’s efforts did nothing but make Flynn’s outcome worse. Thus, the defense plan, such as it existed, served to undermine rule of law and then make it all go away with a Presidential pardon. I’ve long assumed that that was the hope for Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson (who has adopted a similarly conspiratorial defense approach): that they could stall through 2025 in hopes a Republican would pardon them for their alleged sedition.

On March 4, Judge Amit Mehta appointed Andrew Wise of Miller Chevalier as conflict counsel to inquire into conflicts between Moseley’s representation of Meggs and (at least in the civil suit) Stewart Rhodes). That’s likely to bring a review of compensation arrangements, which may lead to inquiries about what Powell is paying Moseley to do.

Interestingly, BuzzFeed suggests that Juli Haller, who represents Meggs’ wife Connie, but also Ryan Samsel, may be on this dole. There was a time when Samsel looked like he might have considered flipping but that time is long gone.

Roger Stone’s pardon grift

And now, having covered Roger Stone’s Stop the Steal grift and Sidney Powell’s Defending the Republic grift, we come to Stone’s pardon-selling.

The Daily Beast adds to the earlier WaPo report (the first item here) that addressed all the pardons Roger Stone pitched Trump to make in the days between when he bolted from DC quickly and the day any such power expired. It notes that in mid-January 2021, Stone was playing all sides of the Florida scandal that engulfs Matt Gaetz.

It’s already known that Stone lobbied for pardons for both Gaetz and Greenberg in the waning days of the Trump administration. But it wasn’t known that Stone also advocated for a pardon for this third man connected to Gaetz and Greenberg: Stephen Alford, a serial fraudster from the Florida panhandle.

That development was first revealed by The Washington Post in a draft memo published earlier this month. But the Post report didn’t mention Alford—his name only appears in a document the Post obtained and uploaded online—and the link hasn’t been explored.

Two months after Stone advocated for Alford’s absolution, that allegiance dissolved when Alford became Gaetz’s scapegoat for the investigation. (Stone also eventually blasted Alford as part of the “deep state.”)

Just weeks before, however, Stone was in Alford’s corner, lobbying for a pardon.

Much of this is just scammy Florida politics. I’m interested in two details of this.

First, one of the ties TDB did find between Alford — the guy who attempted to extort Gaetz’s dad — and Stone goes through Oleg Deripaska.

According to a person with direct knowledge of the events, however, Alford had one powerful friend: A Republican lobbyist close to Stone.

Weeks after Alford’s pardon request was declined, that lobbyist shared some more information: Matt Gaetz was in trouble. And the lobbyist, this person said, had the details, including images of Gaetz with young women at a sex party.

While it’s unclear how the lobbyist—an associate of Oleg Deripaska—came into this information, Stone had by that time known about the Gaetz allegations for months; Greenberg had told Stone all about their involvement with a 17-year-old, both over text messages and in a confession he drafted at Stone’s request, as part of the pardon process.

It didn’t take long for Alford to cobble together a plan—and it was a doozy: He would secure Gaetz a presidential pardon in exchange for $25 million, which Alford would supposedly use to repatriate an FBI agent taken hostage in Iran who has long been considered dead.

TDB then describes how this plan, involving a lobbyist with ties to Deripaska, was behind the campaign against the NYT story on Gaetz’ legal woes.

When The New York Times broke the investigation in late March last year, Gaetz used Alford’s ploy as ammo. He fired off a tweetstorm, claiming the Times report was a “planted leak” designed to torpedo an investigation into “criminal extortion” plot “to smear my name.”

The central figure in Gaetz’s narrative, however, wasn’t Alford; it was Alford’s lawyer, whose role was limited to holding the money in an escrow account while Alford negotiated the release.

That lawyer had one special characteristic: Three decades ago, he served as a DOJ prosecutor. And that fact equipped the narrative with a “deep state” hook—a Roger Stone special.

Gaetz doubled down that night on Tucker Carlson’s late-night Fox News talk show, explaining the convoluted “leaking” and “smearing” plot to a befuddled Carlson, who remarked that it was “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”

The next day, Stone piped up to defend Gaetz, using the same language.

And I’m interested in that because Glenn Greenwald was another key player in this anti-NYT campaign, including as recently as December.

Click through for the details on Gaetz paying Stone until he stopped paying Stone.

Update: One more note about Stone’s plan for pardons. Unsurprisingly he pushed for pardons for Assange and Stone, and unsurprisingly he did so in the same terms that Greenwald did — as the best way to get back at the Deep State.

Hell yes ,I would pardon Julian Assange and Edward Snowden- they are persecuted because they exposed the same people who attempted the Russia Collusion Hoax, the Ukraine hoax the last phony impeachment and are now pushing you’re their new phony impeachment.

The plan is a telling document of how Stone exploited Trump’s narcissism and grievances to get things done. The UK Supreme Court just rejected Assange’s bid to appeal, so the initial extradition request will go to Priti Patel for approval (though he still has several avenues of appeal).

The Eight Trump Associates Whom DOJ Is Investigating

Exactly a month ago, I did a post noting that the TV lawyers claiming there was no proof that DOJ was investigating anyone close to Trump were either ignorant of or ignoring six Trump associates who were being investigated. I wanted to update that post with developments from the last month, because (in addition to the contempt prosecution for Steve Bannon), we’ve learned of investigations into at least two more Trump associates.

Note that four of these — Sidney Powell, Alex Jones, Roger Stone, and Mark Meadows — definitely relate to January 6 and a fifth — the investigation into Rudy Giuliani — is scoped such that that it might include January 6 without anyone knowing about it.

Tom Barrack

Last week, Trump’s top donor, Tom Barrack, filed a motion to dismiss his indictment for serving as an unregistered agent of the Emirates.

As he did in a prior status hearing, that motion complained that Billy Barr’s efforts to undermine this investigation failed.

[T]he government’s unjustified two-year delay in charging Mr. Barrack also warrants dismissal of the indictment. The government had all the evidence on which the indictment was based in 2019. The indictment pleads the conspiracy terminated in April 2018, and the alleged false statements occurred in June 2019. Why the government waited more than two years, and until after a change in administration, is a question only it can answer, but it should answer it especially given the paramount First Amendment interests at stake. Had the government brought this case when its investigation was complete in 2019, recollections regarding Mr. Barrack’s June 2019 interview would have been fresh and the harm from the government’s failure to make a contemporaneous record might have been mitigated. The lengthy delay has also prejudiced Mr. Barrack’s ability to identify, preserve, and secure documentary evidence and obtain evidence from witnesses whose memories have faded. The government has provided no explanation for its delay, and the specter that the government intentionally delayed bringing this case for political reasons or tactical advantage hangs heavily over this case. Because Mr. Barrack has been deprived of a fair opportunity to defend himself, the indictment should be dismissed. [my emphasis]

Barrack and DOJ are also fighting over whether Barrack can unseal discovery in an attempt to discredit this investigation.

Barrack filed the specified materials in connection with pretextual arguments in his motion to dismiss, and he all but acknowledges that he seeks their unsealing in a bid to improperly influence public opinion.

As noted before, according to reporting from 2019, this investigation was a Mueller referral, so it’s proof that Garland’s DOJ will pursue such referrals. According to CNN reporting, the indictment was all ready to go in July 2020, a year before it was actually charged. That provides a measure of how long it took an investigation that was deemed complete at a time when Barr seemingly prohibited filing it to be resuscitated under Garland: at least four months.

Barrack’s prosecution proves that DOJ can indict a top Trump associate without leaks in advance. But it will also be an early test about a Trumpster’s ability to discredit the notion that any of them can be held accountable.

Jury selection for Barrack’s trial is now scheduled to start on September 7.

Rudy Giuliani

Since my last post on this topic, Special Master Barbara Jones reported on the progress of the privilege review of 16 devices seized from Rudy Giuliani on April 28, 2021.

Here’s a summary of what that review and the earlier known seizures of Rudy’s communications in the Ukraine-related investigation into Rudy:

The known warrants for Rudy’s phones pertain to whether, in the lead-up to Trump’s impeachment for trying to coerce Ukraine’s assistance in the 2020 election, Rudy was acting as an unregistered agent of Ukraine.

There’s good reason to believe DOJ could show probable cause to access Rudy’s phones from April 2018 (before he formally became Trump’s lawyer), because during that period he was attempting to buy Michael Cohen’s silence with a pardon. There’s equally good reason to believe that act of obstruction is one of the referrals still redacted in the Mueller Report.

On or about April l 7, 20 l 8, Cohen began speaking with an attorney, Robert Costello, who had a close relationship with Rudolph Giuliani, one of the President’s personal lawyers. 1022 Costello told Cohen that he had a “back channel of communication” to Giuliani, and that Giuliani had said the “channel” was “crucial” and “must be maintained.” 1023 On April 20, 2018, the New York Times published an article about the President’s relationship with and treatment of Cohen. 1024 The President responded with a series of tweets predicting that Cohen would not ” flip” :

The New York Times and a third rate reporter . . . are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip. ‘ They use nonexistent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media! 1025

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

Similarly, there’s good reason to believe DOJ could show probable cause to access Rudy’s phone for his involvement in Trump’s attempted coup, not least because Rudy himself tweeted out some texts he exchanged with a Proud Boy associate discussing specific insurrectionists in the aftermath of the attack.

We wouldn’t know if DOJ had obtained warrants for those separate periods, because those periods will be covered by Jones’ review one way or another.

But because of the temporal scope Judge Paul Oetken approved last year, Jones has completed a privilege review of all communications that date between January 1, 2018 through April 28, 2021 on 8 of the devices seized from Rudy (April 28 was the day the devices were seized). We can’t know what dates during which Rudy was using those 8 devices. It could well be that they were older phones with nothing recent.

But we know that of the communications on the phone with the most texts and chats — the phone designated 1B05 — the government received 99.8% of any communications dated between January 1, 2018 and April 28, 2021 and they received those communications no later than January 21.

Of particular note, Rudy at first tried to claim privilege over 56 items from phone 1B05. He thought better of those claims in 19 cases. And then, after Jones deemed 37 of them not to be privileged, he backed off that claim as well. During a period when Jones and Rudy’s team would have been discussing those 37 items, Judge Oetken issued a ruling saying that the basis for any privilege claims (but not the substance of the communications) would have to be public. After precisely the same kind of ruling in the Michael Cohen Special Master review, Trump backed off his claim of privilege for Cohen’s recording about the hush payments. That may be what persuaded Rudy to withdraw his claim of privilege over those materials here, as well.

And whether or not DOJ has already accessed the communications Rudy conducted during 2020 and 2021 on any of the 16 devices seized from him, we know all the phones Rudy was using in April 2021 are in DOJ’s possession and that Judge Oetken has already approved a privilege review to cover those communications.

In any case, the details of the Rudy investigation show, at a minimum, that Barr went to extraordinary lengths to attempt to kill this investigation (and may have even ordered that FBI not review the materials seized in 2019). It took mere weeks after Garland took over, however, for the investigation to take very aggressive steps.

It also shows that SDNY managed to renew this investigation without major leaks.

Robert Costello

Last Friday, Steve Bannon revealed that DOJ had seized the toll records of his lawyer, Robert Costello, the same guy that would be at the center of any predication for any investigation into Rudy’s attempts to obstruct the Mueller investigation. Some outlets are claiming that this was just part of the investigation into Bannon, but that cannot be right, for several reasons. First, DOJ didn’t ask for the most intrusive set of those records — email metadata from between March 5 and November 12, 2021 — until the day they indicted Bannon. The returns on those requests could not have been presented to the grand jury, because DOJ didn’t receive them until December 7. Plus, scope of that request not only dates back to before the September 23 subpoena that is the basis for the Bannon contempt prosecution, it dates back before the January 6 Committee that issued the subpoena in the first place. DOJ obtained those Internet toll records for a reason that extends beyond the subpoena fight; they cannot pertain (just) to the known prosecution of Bannon.

It may well be they relate to obstruction related to Rudy though. Here’s DOJ’s letter responding to Bannon’s complaints about this seizure, which given some confusion bears further discussion.

We write in response to your January 6, 2022, letter requesting information about internal deliberations and investigative steps relating to Mr. Costello and any other attorneys who have represented Mr. Bannon. As you are aware, and as we discussed in a phone call with Mr. Corcoran and Mr. Schoen on December 2, 2021, Mr. Costello represented Mr. Bannon before the January 6th Select Committee (“the Committee”) in relation to the subpoena it issued to Mr. Bannon and is, therefore, a witness to the conduct charged in the Indictment. We understand that attorney Adam Katz also represented Mr. Bannon with respect to the Committee and, therefore, also is a potential witness. We are not aware of any other attorneys who represented Mr. Bannon with respect to the Committee.

Aside from the information that Mr. Costello voluntarily disclosed on behalf of Mr. Bannon during the investigation of this matter, the Government has not taken any steps to obtain any attorney work product relating to any attorney’s representation of Mr. Bannon or to obtain any confidential communications between Mr. Bannon, Mr. Costello, and Mr. Katz, or between Mr. Bannon and any other attorneys.

We have provided all discoverable material in the prosecution team’s possession, custody, or control relating to Mr. Costello’s and Mr. Katz’s involvement in the conduct charged in the Indictment.

The first paragraph explains a warning DOJ gave when Costello first raised noticing an appearance in the contempt prosecution for Bannon (it’s likely Costello had been tipped off by his firm that DOJ had obtained his toll records by that point). DOJ makes clear that, by voluntarily sitting for two meetings at which FBI agents were present, Costello made himself a witness about the basis for which Bannon gave for blowing off the Committee subpoena. As I have noted, Costello gave materially inconsistent answers at that meeting, likely giving the FBI probable cause to investigate whether he had made false statements; the easiest and least intrusive way to test whether his claims were true was to test whether his claims about the existence and timing of communications with Trump’s lawyers were true or not — thus the toll record seizure.

The remaining two paragraphs disclaim any impact on Bannon. Call records are not work product and, while sensitive, are not treated as privileged (and in any case, date to a period in which Costello was not representing Bannon criminally). The interviews were work-product, claims about the advice Costello gave Bannon (including the email Costello described in which he told Bannon to be BEWARE because he was likely to be referred to DOJ for prosecution). But Costello shared that work-product voluntarily. DOJ has not otherwise obtained the work-product or confidential content of Costello pertaining to Bannon.

That paragraph says nothing about Costello’s representation of Rudy, though.

And the following paragraph makes it more likely this statement intentionally stops short of covering all of Costello’s work product. It limits the statement about materials in its possession to the prosecution team (excluding, for example, SDNY prosecution teams). It doesn’t address confidential communications between Rudy and Costello. And for good measure, it limits its statements to Costello’s involvement in the January 6 subpoena, not other matters.

Costello may not count as a Trump associate directly. But this is all about Trump’s extended effort to obstruct investigations into his conduct. And because of the way Costello has, on at least two occasions, been the weak link that pierced privilege covering such cover-ups, may be a key investigative target.

Sidney Powell

Sidney Powell may be another key lawyer who pierced privilege.

Several different outlets have reported that there is a grand jury investigation into Sidney Powell’s grifting off lies about election fraud.

Since my last post on investigations into Trump’s associates, Sidney Powell’s lawyer revealed she is “cooperating” in that investigation, though in contemplating “cooperation” with the January 6 committee, she is reserving privilege claims about “advice” to Donald Trump.

A lawyer for Sidney Powell, a well-known, Trump-connected attorney, acknowledged that her organization’s fundraising connected to the 2020 election is subject to an ongoing federal criminal investigation.

Powell’s lawyer, Howard Kleinhendler, told CNN that his client “is cooperating” with the investigation into her organization, Defending the Republic, by the US Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia. That cooperation includes “rolling productions” of documents.

[snip]

Still, when the committee asks Powell about communications she had with Trump, that is “going to get a little hairy,” Kleinhendler told CNN.

He said Powell believes that the times Trump called her to ask for legal advice may be covered by attorney-client privilege — even if he never paid her to be his or his campaign’s lawyer. Powell never worked as a lawyer for the former President personally or for the Trump campaign, Kleinhendler said.

“We’ll have to deal with that, and we’ll have to try to discuss with the committee to see how” to handle privilege issues, Kleinhendler said.

But Powell can’t claim privilege for the bulk of the period during which she was helping Trump steal the election. After Trump claimed Powell represented him on November 15, 2020, Rudy stated as clearly as he can manage on November 22 that, “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.”

With that statement, Rudy effectively waived privilege for any communications implicating both of them from that date forward, long in advance of a December 18 meeting at which Powell purportedly told him about all the communications she sent him in the interim.

Similarly, most of these events post-date the time, November 25, when Powell can credibly claim to be representing Mike Flynn in an effort to nullify the consequences of his lies and foreign agent work, because that’s when Trump pardoned Flynn. Certainly, Powell’s claim to be criminally representing Flynn ended no later than December 8, when Emmet Sullivan dismissed the case. So she may want to claim privilege, but well before the critical meeting between Rudy, Powell, Flynn, and Patrick Byrne on December 18, all visible basis for that claim was affirmatively gone, and for anything seized from her email provider, she’s likely not going to be involved in making that claim anyway.

Mark Meadows

In a number of posts, I have argued that DOJ would be better off treating the January 6 contempt referral as, instead, a referral into obstruction of justice for the way Mark Meadows withheld or deleted evidence pertaining to the coup attempt.

I can’t prove that has happened.

What is certain, however, is that Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco confirmed that DOJ is investigating the fake electors.

“We’ve received those referrals. Our prosecutors are looking at those and I can’t say anything more on ongoing investigations,” Monaco said in an exclusive interview.

And the January 6 contempt referral made clear that communications in Meadows possession show that he was at the center of that effort.

Mr. Meadows received text messages and emails regarding apparent efforts to encourage Republican legislators in certain States to send alternate slates of electors to Congress, a plan which one Member of Congress acknowledged was ‘‘highly controversial’’ and to which Mr. Meadows responded, ‘‘I love it.’’ Mr. Meadows responded to a similar message by saying ‘‘[w]e are’’ and another such message by saying ‘‘Yes. Have a team on it.’’34

34Documents on file with the Select Committee (Meadows production).

Meadows has been frantically trying to ensure whichever of these communications occurred on his personal accounts get shared with the Archives. Which means DOJ now knows they can learn details of the fake elector conspiracy by obtaining those records from the Archives.

Alex Jones

Over the last year, DOJ has collected a great deal of evidence that the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and an alarming number of former Marines worked together to open a second breach on the Capitol via the East doors. Instrumental to the success of this breach were a large number of MAGA tourists who joined in the breach. DOJ has proof that at least some of them were there because Alex Jones had lured them there by lying about a second Trump speech on the East side of the building.

DOJ has already arrested two of Jones’ employees: videographer Sam Montoya in April and on-air personality Owen Shroyer in August.

In a November DOJ response in the Shroyer case, Alex Jones was referred to as Person One, as numerous others believed to be under active investigation have been described. That filing debunked the cover story that Shroyer and Jones have used to excuse their actions on January 6. Judge Tim Kelly, who is also presiding over the most important Proud Boys cases, is currently reviewing Shroyer’s First Amendment challenge to his arrest.

This strand of the investigation has likely necessarily lagged the exploitation of former Alex Jones’ employee Joe Biggs’ iCloud and phone, which were made available to Biggs’ co-travelers in August. This post has more on the developments in the Montoya and Shroyer cases, including that a different prosecutor recently took over Monotya’s case.

Roger Stone

Roger Stone, who has close ties to both the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys who coordinated the attack on the Capitol, has shown up repeatedly in the Oath Keeper conspiracy. In March, DOJ debunked Connie Meggs’ claim not to know her co-conspirators by including a picture of an event she did with Roger Stone and Graydon Young (this was close to the time that Connie’s husband Kelly organized an alliance between Florida militias).

In a May 25 FBI interview, Mike Simmons, the field commander for the Oath Keepers on January 6, appears to have been specifically asked why Simmons had so many conversations with Joshua James, who was providing security for Roger Stone at the Willard the morning of the insurrection. Simmons appears to have explained that James called him every time Stone moved.

In June, Graydon Young, the Floridian who attended that Stone event with Connie, entered a cooperation agreement. Also in June, Mark Grods, one of the Oath Keepers who had been at the Willard that morning, entered a cooperation agreement. In September, Jason Dolan, a former Marine from Florida who also interacted with Stone in advance of the insurrection and who was waiting there on January 6 as the other Oath Keepers, a number of Proud Boys (including former Alex Jones employee Joe Biggs) and Alex Jones himself all converged at the top of the East steps just as the doors were opened from inside, entered a cooperation agreement.

Erik Prince

In my last post, I described a grand jury investigation into a powerful Trump associate that had subpoenaed witnesses in the investigation in the second half of last year. NYT just disclosed that investigation, which is into Erik Prince.

Mr. Prince is separately under investigation by the Justice Department on unrelated matters, according to people familiar with the case. The scope of that investigation is unclear.

The investigation reflects a reopening of an investigation Billy Barr shut down in 2019-2020. What’s interesting about it is the scope seems somewhat different and the investigating District is different than the earlier investigation. That may suggest that, for investigations that Barr shut down, DOJ would need to have a new evidence to reopen it. But the existence of this investigation shows, again, that Garland’s DOJ will go after powerful Trump associates.

In any case, I keep laying all this out, and TV lawyers keep angrily insisting that this public evidence does not exist.

I can’t guarantee that any of these investigations will lead to charges (or, in the case of Bannon and Barrack, convictions). Investigations alone will not save democracy.

But there is abundant evidence that DOJ is not shying away from aggressively investigating the suspect criminal conduct of Trump flunkies.

Trump’s Coup Attempts: A Tale of Five Pardon Dangles

In an analysis piece earlier this week, the NYT reported as newsworthy that,

Over the weekend, Mr. Trump also dangled, for the first time, that he could issue pardons to anyone facing charges for participating in the Jan. 6 attack if he is elected president again — the latest example of a yearslong flirtation with political violence.

Politico followed that with a report that Trump at least considered blanket pardons for those who might be implicated in January 6.

“Is it everybody that had a Trump sign or everybody who walked into the Capitol” who could be pardoned? Trump asked, according to that adviser. “He said, ‘Some people think I should pardon them.’ He thought if he could do it, these people would never have to testify or be deposed.”

Offering preemptive pardons is not a new idea for Trump. According to Michael Cohen, Trump also entertained bulk pardons with the Russian investigation before Jay Sekulow figured out that it would make it easier for people to testify against him.

Q What is – you had a conversation with Jay Sekulow about something called a pre-pardon?

A Yes.

Q How many conversations did you have with him about pre-pardoning

A One or two.

Q And what did he say to you?

A The problem with a pre-pardon is that you have to answer every question because technically you have immunity, so you can’t assert any Fifth Amendment privilege.

Q Let’s back up for a second, because that presupposes that you’ve already discussed the idea of you getting a pardon. Did Jay Sekulow tell you that the President was considering giving you a pardon?

A That’s not the way that he stated it, but we had a conversation, one at least – I believe it may have been two – and I am not 100 percent certain of the exact date that that occurred, but the concept of a pre-pardon was discussed, yes.

Q Okay. So if you said that’s not exactly how he said it, what do you remember him saying about the idea of you getting a pardon?

A Well, it wasn’t just me. It was globally, in order to, I guess, shut down, you know, this investigation. And I had said to him, you know, what .. well, you know, there’s always the possibility of a pre-pardon. And –

Q Let’s take your time, because it’s important for us to understand not just the gist of the conversation but who said what exactly. All right? So you mentioned something called a global pardon. Did he use that term?

A No.

Q Okay. What do you mean by a global pardon?

A Okay. That in order to shut this whole thing down, that this is how they were potentially going to do it, and everybody would just get a pardon. And said, well, it wouldn’t be a pardon, it would be a pre-pardon, because nobody’s been charged yet. So it ultimately just became, that’s not really something that could be accomplished, because then they’d have the right, again, to ask you questions, everyone on the team.

Q So when you say everyone, who do you mean?

A I guess whoever it is that you started to request to come in, testify, subpoenaed.

And in Trump’s last days in office, he considered pre-emptive pardons, but — in part because of Pat Cipollone’s opposition — he did not do so.

It is the case that Trump has now dangled pardons at a time he doesn’t have the power to grant them. Even that is not new, though, given that Roger Stone was brokering a Julian Assange pardon no later than November 15, 2016 and probably starting even before the election, in October 2016.

This latest dangle is more newsworthy, though — and for reporters who don’t want to enable Trump’s authoritarian power, ought to be reported as — an attempt to reclaim power he already lost after reneging on promises of pardons made while he still had the power to grant them.

It is not news that Trump used pardon dangles as one tool to attempt a coup on January 6. At least five people directly involved in the coup attempt benefitted from pardons, some awarded at key times in the planning process, with Steve Bannon’s issued at the last possible moment.

It is not news that Trump is making pardon dangles publicly to try to bend the will and buy the silence of others. This latest pardon dangle comes in the wake of five events, all of which pose a direct threat to Trump:

  • December 15: The Select Committee contempt referral for Mark Meadows that puts him at risk of Presidential Records Act and obstruction prosecution
  • January 12: The indictment on sedition charges of the Oath Keepers whose testimony could most directly damage Trump
  • January 19: SCOTUS’ refusal to reverse the DC Circuit order allowing the Archives to share Trump records
  • January 19: The delivery to prosecutors, on January 19, of a large number of texts and messages from Rudy Giuliani’s phones
  • January 20: The Select Committee request for Ivanka’s testimony, which strongly suggested she has violated the Presidential Records Act
  • January 21: The report from Sidney Powell’s attorney that she is “cooperating” in her own prosecution and the Select Committee

What’s newsworthy is that Trump is trying this tack after reneging on promises to three of the people involved (during the last days of his Administration, there were reports that Meadows, Rudy, and Ivanka all might receive pardons) that Trump made in the course of planning for the coup.

So I’d like to tell the story of five pardons — three granted, and two withheld — in the context of Trump’s attempted coup on January 6.

Michael Cohen pardon dangle

This first pardon necessary to understand what Trump is up to is one that didn’t happen: The pardon dangle to try to silence Michael Cohen. As the Mueller Report described. in the wake of a raid on Cohen, Robert Costello started reaching out as an envoy for Rudy Giuliani, offering pardons.

On or about April 17, 2018, Cohen began speaking with an attorney, Robert Costello, who had a close relationship with Rudolph Giuliani, one of the President’s personal lawyers. 1022 Costello told Cohen that he had a “back channel of communication” to Giuliani, and that Giuliani had said the “channel” was “crucial” and “must be maintained.” 1023 On April 20, 2018, the New York Times published an article about the President’s relationship with and treatment of Cohen. 1024 The President responded with a series of tweets predicting that Cohen would not ” flip” :

The New York Times and a third rate reporter . . . are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip. ‘ They use nonexistent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media! 1025

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

According to Cohen, Rudy Giuliani and Robert Costello were at the heart of Trump’s efforts to buy silence.

But Cohen couldn’t be silent about his own plight, and so facing prosecution from that and after a privilege review of his files discovered the recording Cohen made of Trump’s hush payments, he started cooperating with Mueller, helping them to understand what Trump was trying to hide about his ties with the Kremlin during the election.

Cohen paid for that decision, too. He did more time, for example, than Roger Stone, who (like Cohen) had kept blackmail material on Trump. As such, Cohen served as a useful example to Trump: if you cooperated against Trump, Trump would ensure that you suffered a worse outcome than those who had sustained the lies to protect him.

Roger Stone commutation

Roger Stone kept a notebook recording every conversation he had with Donald Trump during the 2016 election. After the election, according to an unreliable October 2018 interview that Steve Bannon had with Mueller’s team, Stone got a meeting to which he brought what appears to be that notebook. Trump asked Bannon to attend, it seems, to ensure that Stone would be kicked out after a short time.

While BANNON was at Breitbart in 2013-2015, BANNON had a strong relationship with [redacted]. BANNON heard from [redacted] STONE was still talking to Trump and was an advisor. STONE subsequently made those statements to BANNON as well. BANNON was suspect and upset. BANNON believed you had to eep TRUMP “on program.” While BANNON was on the Trump Campaign he never heard any mention of STONE from TRUMP or anyone else on the campaign. After the win, STONE tried a full court press in order to get a meeting with TRUMP. [redacted] eventually set up a meeting with TRUMP and STONE in early December 2016 on the 26th floor of Trump Tower. TRUMP didn’t want to take the meeting with STONE. TRUMP told BANNON to be in the meeting and that after 5 minutes, if the meeting hadn’t concluded, to throw STONE out. STONE came in with a book he wrote and possibly had a folder and notes. [full sentence redacted] TRUMP didn’t say much to STONE beyond “Thanks, thanks a lot.”. To BANNON, this reinforced STONE [redacted] After five to six minutes, the meeting was over and STONE was out. STONE was [redacted] due to the fact that during the meeting TRUMP just stared.

That was Bannon’s second-to-last interview with Mueller’s team. A week after his last interview, at which Bannon also appeared before the grand jury, the FBI raided Stone’s homes. One of the things they explicitly looked for was that notebook.

53. On 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 f0rmally 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. [redated] provided information about a meeting at Trump Tower between Trump and Stone during the time [redacted] worked for him, to which Sterne carried a “file booklet” with him. Stone told [redacted] the file booklet was important and that no one should touch it. [redacted] also said Stone maintained the file booklet in his closet.

54. On December 3, 2018, law enforcement conducted an interview of an individual (“Person 1 “) who previously had a professional relationship with a reporter who provided Person 1 with information about Stone. The reporter relayed to Person 1 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.”

In November 2019, Stone was convicted for lying about the nature and Trump’s awareness of his back-channel to the Russian operation. Billy Barr went to extraordinary lengths to attempt to minimize the punishment Stone would suffer for covering that up. He went so far as claiming threats against a federal judge by Roger Stone and the Proud Boys, threats which foreshadowed January 6, were a mere technicality.

But in July 2020, the moment when Stone would have to report to prison approached. Stone made several public appearances telling a story that was impossible as told, the gist of which was that prosecutors had promised Stone they would fight for leniency if he would testify about the content of a subset of the conversations he had with Trump during the election. That had the desired effect: Trump commuted Stone’s sentence before he reported for prison, protecting Stone in a way he had not done for Paul Manafort.

Billy Barr minimized the damage this should have done to Trump’s electoral chances. The Attorney General sat on a footnote of the Mueller Report that revealed when all this occurred, Roger Stone was still under investigation for the hack-and-leak with Russia. Barr released that literally on the eve of the 2020 election, and to this day no major outlet has reported that Stone was still under investigation for conspiring with Russia after the Mueller Report was released.

Mike Flynn pardon

As I laid out in this post, Mike Flynn got next to nothing out of his his two year attempt to renege on his plea agreement with Robert Mueller.

  • Replaced competent lawyers with incompetent TV grifters
  • Released evidence he lied to his lawyers doing the FARA filing
  • Consented to waive privilege so DOJ could find more proof he lied
  • Debunked a slew of conspiracy theories
  • Got really damning transcripts released
  • Served 708 days of supervised release
  • Joined a gang
  • Got one of his gang members prosecuted for death threats against Judge Sullivan
  • Got a ruling — and, later, a clear statement from DOJ — that no abuse occurred
  • Exposed his son to further prosecution
  • Exposed DOJ to further scrutiny
  • Proved Judge Sullivan’s point about selling the country out

After 18 months of making repeatedly debunked claims that he had been victimized by DOJ, however, he did get the most expansive pardon Trump gave, one pardoning not just his underlying crimes, but also the crimes he committed during the process of performing that victimization.

Given everything that has happened since, it’s worth considering Flynn’s performance as a victim as part of Trump’s reelection campaign.

That became most evident on September 29, 2020. Earlier in the day, in a status hearing, Sidney Powell confessed that weeks earlier, she had spoken to Trump about the case, and asked him not to pardon Flynn.

More curious still, she admitted she had spoken with Trump’s campaign attorney, Jenna Ellis.

THE COURT: Let me ask you this before you get to your other objections since we’re talking about — since I raised the issue about communications and correspondence with the Department of Justice. Have you had discussions with the President about this case?

MS. POWELL: I have not, Your Honor, while the case was pending pre-motion to dismiss or otherwise other than an update as to what happened in it.

THE COURT: I’m sorry. I’m not sure I understand your answer. The question is whether you’ve had any discussions at all with the President of the United States about Mr. Flynn and about this case. Yes or no.

MS. POWELL: I’m sorry, Your Honor. I can’t discuss that.

THE COURT: What’s the reason why you can’t discuss that?

MS. POWELL: I would think any conversations that I had with the President would be protected by executive privilege.

THE COURT: Well, you don’t work for the government.

MS. POWELL: I don’t think the executive privilege is limited to people who work for the government.

THE COURT: So you’re purporting to invoke executive privilege not to answer the Court’s question about whether you discussed Mr. Flynn’s case with the President of the United States. Is that correct?

MS. POWELL: Yes. Other than the fact that after the government moved to dismiss or at some point in the last month or so, I provided the White House an update on the overall status of the litigation.

THE COURT: How did you provide that update? Was it in writing?

MS. POWELL: No, sir.

THE COURT: How did you provide that update? Who did you speak with?

MS. POWELL: I provided it in person to counsel for the President.

THE COURT: I mean the White House counsel or a deputy or who did you speak to?

MS. POWELL: Your Honor, I spoke with Jenna [Ellis] and I spoke with the President himself to provide a brief update of the status of the litigation within the last couple of weeks.

THE COURT: And did you make any request of the President?

MS. POWELL: No, sir. Other than he not issue a pardon.

THE COURT: All right. Prior to that discussion with the President — how many discussions with the President have you had about this case?

MS. POWELL: That’s the only one I recall.

THE COURT: So you’re not ruling out other — well, certainly, you would recall a discussion with the President of the United States, wouldn’t you?

MS. POWELL: Well, I’ve had a number of discussions with the President of the United States. I think the New York Times reported I’ve had five. So it seems like they probably have a number better than I know.

THE COURT: Are the New York Times’ representations erroneous?

MS. POWELL: I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve actually spoken with the President, Your Honor.

THE COURT: All right. About this case. But there’s been more than one though.

MS. POWELL: No, sir. I can tell you I spoke with one time to the President about this case to inform him of the general status of the litigation.

THE COURT: And was that within the last two weeks?

MS. POWELL: Time has a way of getting by for me, but it’s certainly well after the government moved to dismiss and probably if I recall correctly after the writ of mandamus was entered.

THE COURT: All right. Did you ever ask the President of the United States to request his Attorney General to appoint more attorneys in this case?

MS. POWELL: Oh, heavens, no.

THE COURT: All right. So very succinctly just so I have a clear understanding, what precisely — during the first time you spoke with the President of the United States, what precisely did you ask him to do in connection with this case? What did you ask him to do in connection with this case?

MS. POWELL: I never discussed this case with the President until recently when I asked him not to issue a pardon and gave him the general update of the status of the litigation. [my emphasis]

On the same day Powell admitted to speaking, some weeks earlier, to Trump’s campaign attorney Jenna Ellis, Trump delivered a pre-arranged attack against Joe Biden in the first debate.

President Donald J. Trump: (01:02:22)
We’ve caught them all. We’ve got it all on tape. We’ve caught them all. And by the way, you gave the idea for the Logan Act against General Flynn. You better take a look at that, because we caught you in a sense, and President Obama was sitting in the office.

This false claim was based off misrepresentations based on altered Peter Strzok notes released as part of Bill Barr’s efforts to reverse the prosecution of Flynn. There were other altered documents released for wider dissemination in this period, as well, including additional Strzok and Page texts that newly violated the Privacy Act, though after DOJ had to confess that they had altered those documents, any further focus on the altered documents were dropped.

And then, Trump pardoned his Agent of Turkey along with the Thanksgiving bird.

At the moment Trump would have informed Sidney Powell of that news, she was at Lin Wood’s plantation plotting ways to steal the election Trump had lost. If Flynn was not already with Powell plotting away at the moment he learned of his pardon, he would join her within 24 hours.

Within weeks, the recently-pardoned retired General and foreign agent that had been plotting away with Sidney Powell and Patrick Byrne, someone who had been seduced by an admitted Russian agent, was calling for military intervention. Flynn’s calls for insurrection were reported in real time, but the news was buried and the fact that Trump had just pardoned the man calling for a coup did not make the coverage.

Roger Stone pardon

During the first half of December, Roger Stone was palling around with the accused terrorists who would help physically obstruct the vote certification on January 6.

Days later, one of the Oath Keepers that Stone palled around with, Kelly Meggs, bragged of arranging an alliance with other accused terrorists that Stone also palled around with, the Proud Boys that Trump had told to “Stand Back and Stand By” in that same debate on September 29 where Trump had used a campaign attack packaged up by Sidney Powell.

On December 23, Trump pardoned Stone for the crimes of which he was convicted (but not those that were still under investigation).

On Christmas, Meggs specifically tied protection, almost certainly of Stone, and coordination with a Proud Boy, almost certainly Enrique Tarrio, in the same text.

On December 26, Stone associate Kelly Meggs called this an insurrection (albeit in response to Trump’s order) explicitly.

On December 27, Stone went to Mar-a-Lago to thank Trump for the pardon directly and to discuss how he would “ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president.”

Roger Stone, who received a Christmas week pardon from President Donald Trump, delivered a personal thank you to the president on Sunday at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.

Stone wrote that he counseled the president on how he could “ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president.”

[snip]

Stone said via text that he deleted the words and images after he was notified the golf club has “a policy of prohibiting photos of club members or guests out of respect for their privacy.” He said he didn’t have any additional comment.

A photo posted and then removed from Roger Stone's Parler social media page shows President Donald Trump, left, Kimberly Guilfoyle, an unidentified man and Roger Stone at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach on Sunday.
A photo posted and then removed from Roger Stone’s Parler social media page shows President Donald Trump, left, Kimberly Guilfoyle, an unidentified man and Roger Stone at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach on Sunday.

One picture showed four people talking: Trump; Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign and Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend; Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of the website and cable channel Newsmax, which is based in Boca Raton; and Stone.

“I thanked President Trump in person tonight for pardoning me,” he wrote. “I also told the president exactly how he can appoint a special counsel with full subpoena power to ensure that those who are attempting to steal the 2020 election through voter fraud are charged and convicted and to ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president #StopTheSteal #rogerstonedidnothingwrong.”

The next day, Stone deleted the pictures of his face-to-face meeting with Trump.

On January 5 and 6, Stone continued to interact closely with the Oath Keepers (and some Proud Boys). The morning of the insurrection, one of the Oath Keepers since charged with sedition, Joshua James, checked in with the operational leader for the Oath Keepers that day every time that someone — almost certainly Stone — moved.

Two days after the insurrection, Kristin Davis tweeted out a picture of Stone signing his pardon paperwork. (h/t gal_suburban)

Stone never hid it: His pardon was directly tied to his efforts to keep Trump in power. Given that Stone’s pardon was not as expansive as Flynn’s, he remains at some legal exposure for prosecution for his later efforts (including his June 2017 efforts to shut down the investigation into Julian Assange), so he had a real incentive to do anything he could to keep Trump in power.

Steve Bannon

Three days after Trump lost the election, Steve Bannon — in planning for an illegal second Trump term — threatened to assassinate Chris Wray and Anthony Fauci. The same day, his very competent lawyer, Bill Burck (the guy who got him through a bunch of serial lies in the Mueller investigation), fired him as a client, even as he was facing fraud charges for cheating Trump’s rubes.

It wasn’t until December 11, well into the plotting for a coup, that Robert Costello — the very same lawyer who dangled a pardon to Michael Cohen over two years earlier — noticed his appearance. Costello’s representation of Bannon also meant that the same lawyer represented both Rudy and Bannon, two of the masterminds in the Willard War Room.

December 11, when Costello formally filed as Bannon’s lawyer, is around the same time, according to Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, that Paul Gosar’s Chief of Staff tied a pardon for their own involvement in Bannon’s fraud to their efforts to overturn the election results.

In December 2020, as the tour rolled around the country, Stockton and Lawrence say they got a call from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and his chief of staff, Thomas Van Flein. According to Stockton, Van Flein claimed he and the congressman had just met with Trump, who was considering giving them a “blanket pardon” to address the “We Build the Wall” investigation.

“We were just in the Oval Office speaking about pardons and your names came up,” Van Flein allegedly said. Van Flein did not respond to a request for comment.

Gosar suggested the bus tour was helping Stockton and Lawrence build support for a pardon from the caucus and Trump. “Keep up the good work,” Gosar said, according to Stockton. “Everybody’s seen what you’re doing.”

So it was probably assumed that, so long as Bannon kept helping Trump try to steal the election, he would would get a pardon. That was true even though Roger Stone made it clear after his trial that Bannon had testified in the grand jury against him.

But on the last day, among the very last pardons Trump granted, Trump pardoned Bannon not just for the crimes he had already been charged with, but any others that might arise from the Build the Wall project federally.

Rudy Giuliani left dangling

Almost three years after Rudy started helping Trump out of his legal troubles, in part by shamelessly dangling pardons to (at least) Cohen and Paul Manafort, Rudy got nothing. He got no pardon even though he was represented by Robert Costello, who had started the pardon dangles with him. He got no pardon even after working relentlessly — and exposing himself to further criminal exposure — trying to help Trump steal an election. Rudy got nothing, even though it was known that Barr had failed in his efforts to kill the Ukraine influence peddling investigation into Rudy.

While there had been abundant discussion of pardoning people who weren’t yet charged in early 2021, after Trump’s coup attempt, that plan was scotched.

It might not have happened in any case, given the conclusion Jay Sekulow had come to years earlier, the preemptive pardons make witnesses more likely to testify against Trump.

But because of the insurrection, Pat Cipollone got a lot more involved in pardons. And the insurrection made it virtually impossible to pardon the mastermind of the insurrection, Rudy Giuliani, even while making it all the more important to find a way to keep Rudy silent.

Ten days after (we now know) SDNY first obtained a warrant targeting Rudy Giuliani in the investigation used to justify seizing all his phones, Rudy boasted that he had “very, very good insurance.” Rudy certainly believed Trump would protect him.

But he didn’t.

That’s the angle through which Trump’s latest attempt to dangle pardons should be viewed. Rudy may be the most important person Trump needs to silence. But Trump had a chance to pardon Rudy when he had the authority, and he failed to do so.

Update: Added the SCOTUS decision to the list of things that must have Trump worried. h/t Brian Pillion

Key pardons of January 6 participants

February 18. 2020: Bernie Kerik

November 25, 2020: Mike Flynn

December 22, 2020: George Papadopoulos

December 23, 2020: Roger Stone and Paul Manafort

January 19, 2021: Steve Bannon

While TV Lawyers Wailed Impotently, DOJ Was Acquiring the Communications of Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and (Probably) Mark Meadows

Because TV lawyers continue to wail that DOJ isn’t doing enough to investigate Donald Trump, I want to dumb down this post.

While TV lawyers have been wailing impotently that DOJ has been doing nothing to investigate Donald Trump, DOJ and the National Archives have been acquiring the communications behind some of the most damning events leading up to January 6. DOJ has been doing so even as the TV lawyers guaranteed us they would know if DOJ were doing such things, yet insisting that DOJ was not.

Consider just the events leading up to the December 18, 2020 series of meetings at the White House, involving Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and Mark Meadows, which some of the same reporters that reported it in real time are reporting as if it were new news.

Sidney Powell

According to the WaPo story on the grand jury investigation into Sidney Powell, a subpoena in that investigation issued in September asked for “communications and other records related to fundraising and accounting” related to Powell’s grift.

Federal prosecutors have demanded the financial records of multiple fundraising organizations launched by attorney Sidney Powell after the 2020 election as part of a criminal investigation, according to a subpoena reviewed by The Washington Post.

The grand jury subpoena, issued in September by the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, sought communications and other records related to fundraising and accounting by groups including Defending the Republic, a Texas-based organization claiming 501(c) 4 nonprofit status, and a PAC by the same name, according to the documents and a person familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the probe.

As part of the investigation, which has not been previously reported, prosecutors are seeking records going back to Nov. 1, 2020.

The subpoena reviewed by The Post was signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gaston, who is also handling politically charged matters related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, including contempt of Congress charges brought against former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon for refusing to testify in front of the House committee investigating the pro-Trump riot. [my emphasis]

While the predication of that investigation seems to be based on Powell’s fundraising — soliciting money from dupes who believe her false claims of a stolen election — because proving that she knew those claims were false would require collecting everything about her efforts to manufacture false claims, it would get the communications explaining how to exploit those false claims as well. Plus, this September subpoena reveals just what DOJ did after moving to an overt phase. Prior to that, DOJ presumably obtained — first — preservation orders and — then — warrants on the emails that, according to Patrick Byrne, Powell claims she sent Rudy about her schemes.

On January 21 (a week before Trump started dangling pardons again), Sidney Powell’s lawyer revealed she is “cooperating” in that investigation, though in contemplating “cooperation” with the January 6 committee, she is reserving privilege claims about “advice” to Donald Trump.

A lawyer for Sidney Powell, a well-known, Trump-connected attorney, acknowledged that her organization’s fundraising connected to the 2020 election is subject to an ongoing federal criminal investigation.

Powell’s lawyer, Howard Kleinhendler, told CNN that his client “is cooperating” with the investigation into her organization, Defending the Republic, by the US Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia. That cooperation includes “rolling productions” of documents.

[snip]

Still, when the committee asks Powell about communications she had with Trump, that is “going to get a little hairy,” Kleinhendler told CNN.

He said Powell believes that the times Trump called her to ask for legal advice may be covered by attorney-client privilege — even if he never paid her to be his or his campaign’s lawyer. Powell never worked as a lawyer for the former President personally or for the Trump campaign, Kleinhendler said.

“We’ll have to deal with that, and we’ll have to try to discuss with the committee to see how” to handle privilege issues, Kleinhendler said.

Any emails obtained with a non-public warrant would be sent to a taint team that would review Sidney Powell’s privilege claims independently. Of particular interest, after Trump claimed Powell represented him on November 15, 2020, Rudy stated as clearly as he can manage on November 22 that, “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.”

With that statement, Rudy effectively waived privilege for any communications implicating both of them from that date forward, long in advance of that December 18 meeting at which Powell purportedly told him about all the communications she sent him in the interim.

Similarly, most of these events post-date the time, November 25, when Powell can credibly claim to be representing Mike Flynn in an effort to nullify the consequences of his lies and foreign agent work, because that’s when Trump pardoned Flynn. So she may want to claim privilege, but after November 25, all visible basis for that claim was affirmatively gone, and for anything seized from her email provider, she’s likely not going to be involved in making that claim anyway.

As I previously noted, the prosecutor in charge of that investigation dropped off three other January 6 prosecutions by March 29 of last year (though there is at least one other investigation, the obstruction investigation into Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley, on which she was also working in the interim).

Gaston originally pulled three January 6 cases in the investigation’s early days, those of Robert Packer, Robert Gieswein, and Derrick Evans, just the latter of which, involving a then-West Virginia state politician, had any possible public corruption component. But, at a time of immense staffing shortages at DC’s US Attorney’s Office, she dropped off those cases on February 18 (in the case of Packer) and March 29 (in the case of Gieswein and Evans). I’ve long wondered what, in the weeks after Merrick Garland came in, became a higher priority for the DC US Attorney’s leading public corruption prosecutor. We now know one thing she picked up in the interim was the prosecution of Michael Riley, the Capitol Police Officer who advised rioter Jacob Hiles to delete Facebook posts about his role in the riot. And by September, Gaston’s grand jury investigation into Sidney Powell’s grift had started taking overt steps like subpoenaing Powell’s nonprofit.

There continue to be some curious moves that suggest DOJ is shifting prosecutorial resources to unseen investigations in fairly urgent fashion.

Rudy Giuliani

Meanwhile, on January 21 (the same day that CNN reported that Powell was “cooperating” in the DOJ investigation, and so also a week before Trump started dangling pardons again), Special Master Barbara Jones reported on the progress of the privilege review of 16 devices seized from Rudy Giuliani on April 28, 2021.

Here’s a summary of what that review and the earlier known seizures of Rudy’s communications in the Ukraine-related investigation into Rudy:

Because of the temporal scope Judge Paul Oetken approved last year, Jones has completed a privilege review of all communications that date between January 1, 2018 through April 28, 2021 on 8 of the devices seized from Rudy (April 28 was the day the devices were seized). We can’t know what dates during which Rudy was using those 8 devices. It could well be that they were older phones with nothing recent.

But we know that of the communications on the phone with the most texts and chats — the phone designated 1B05 — the government received 99.8% of any communications dated between January 1, 2018 and April 28, 2021 and they received those communications no later than January 21.

Of particular note, Rudy at first tried to claim privilege over 56 items from phone 1B05. He thought better of those claims in 19 cases. And then, after Jones deemed 37 of them not to be privileged, he backed off that claim as well. During a period when Jones and Rudy’s team would have been discussing those 37 items, Judge Oetken issued a ruling saying that the basis for any privilege claims (but not the substance of the communications) would have to be public. After precisely the same kind of ruling in the Michael Cohen Special Master review, Trump backed off his claim of privilege for Cohen’s recording about the hush payments. That may be what persuaded Rudy to withdraw his claim of privilege over those materials here, as well.

And whether or not DOJ has already accessed the communications Rudy conducted during 2020 and 2021 on any of the 16 devices seized from him, we know all the phones Rudy was using in April 2021 are in DOJ’s possession and that Judge Oetken has already approved a privilege review to cover those communications.

Mark Meadows

On December 15, the House voted to send the Mark Meadows contempt referral to DOJ for prosecution. Much to the chagrin of the TV lawyers, DOJ has not taken overt action against Meadows on the criminal contempt of Congress referral.

But as I’ve repeatedly argued, that referral is better considered — and would be more useful to the pursuit of justice — as a referral of Mark Meadows for a violation of the Presidential Records Act and obstruction of the DOJ criminal investigation that he knew to be ongoing.

Among the things included in the referral are:

  • A link to this Politico report quoting “a source close to former President Donald Trump’s ex-chief of staff,” insisting that, “all necessary and appropriate steps either were or are being taken” to ensure that Meadows is not deemed to have violated the Presidential Records Act by failing to share Presidential communications he conducted on his personal email and phone
  • Repeated references to Jonathan Swan’s coverage of the December 18 meeting at which Powell and others discussed seizing the voting machines
  • Indication that Meadows received notice on his personal phone (and so among the records withheld in violation of the PRA) the rally might get violent
  • A citation of a message that Meadows turned over to the committee (but presumably not, originally, to the Archives) in which Alyssa Farah urged, “You guys have to say something. Even if the president’s not willing to put out a statement, you should go to the [cameras] and say, ‘We condemn this. Please stand down.’ If you don’t, people are going to die”
  • Citation of several communications Meadows had with state politicians involved in the fake elector scheme (which Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco has confirmed they are investigating), including one where Meadows said, “I love it” and another where he said, “Have a team working on it;” Monaco’s confirmation puts Meadows on notice that his actions are the subject of a federal criminal investigation
  • A claim of election fraud sent to Meadows on his private email (and so among the materials he violated the PRA by withholding)
  • Citation of a tweet Meadows sent on December 21 reporting “‘Several members of Congress just finished a meeting in the Oval Office with President @realDonaldTrump, preparing to fight back against mounting evidence of voter fraud. Stay tuned”
  • Citation of this story describing that Meadows’ late December trip to Georgia to pressure election officials to find more votes could get him in legal trouble; when Fulton County DA Fannie Willis asked for increased protection in the wake of Trump’s calls for riots, she stated explicitly that she was criminally investigating, “former President Donald J. Trump and his associates,” putting Mark Meadows on notice that he’s under criminal investigation there, too

This entire process led Meadows and his attorney to make efforts to comply with the PRA, meaning they’ve been working to provide the communications cited here, as well as those Meadows intended to claim privilege over, to the Archives.

If they can’t comply — and some of the texts in question were sent via Signal, which is really hard to archive, and so may not have been preserved when Meadows sent his own phone back to his provider to be wiped and replaced — then Meadows will not just be in violation of the PRA (which is basically toothless) but also of obstructing the criminal investigation he knew was ongoing when he replaced his phone. Obstruction carries a far stiffer penalty than contempt of Congress does, and it serves as good evidence of involvement in a larger conspiracy.

As Carl Nichols, the Trump appointee presiding over the Steve Bannon criminal contempt case (and therefore likely to preside over one against Meadows if it were ever charged), criminal contempt is for someone from whom you’ve given up getting cooperation, not someone who still might offer useful cooperation.

Meanwhile if Meadows and his lawyer do belatedly comply with Meadows’ obligations under the PRA, it’s quite possible (particularly in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling denying Trump’s attempt to override Joe Biden’s privilege waiver) that DOJ has to do no more to obtain these records than to send a warrant to the Archives. If not, Meadows is now on notice that he is the subject of several criminal investigations (the fake elector one and the Fulton County one), and he may think twice before trying to withhold communications that are already in possession of the Archives.

So whether or not DOJ has these documents in their possession right now, they have the means to get them very easily.

In other words, while TV lawyers have been wailing that DOJ has been doing nothing, DOJ has been acquiring the communications from at least two of the key participants in that December 18 meeting, and the Archives have been acquiring the communications of a third.