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What DOJ Was Doing While You Were Wasting Time Whinging on Twitter

Because people are so desperate for information on investigations into Trump, they’re over-reading articles to see only the most panic-inducing details.

So I wanted to collect all the known details of investigative steps against Trump and his associates. This will be a running thread.

Note that while I’ve focused on named subjects, these investigations absolutely intersect. That’s readily apparent with the fake electors investigation, but less so with the “Stop the Steal” nexus (best seen in the Ali Alexander entry below; which is where I’m putting some movement activists who played key roles). Those who were speakers on January 5, VIPs who were removed from the speaker’s list on January 6, or who were on Stone’s Friends of Stone or Alexander’s Stop the Steal lists often had roles both in ginning up mobs in states or advance planning for events at the Capitol on January 6 and played some role as things rolled out that day. These people would likely be the “influencers” identified in the investigative plan put together before Michael Sherwin left.

Rudy Giuliani

April 13, 2021: SDNY obtains historic and prospective cell site warrant for Rudy.

April 21, 2021: Warrants for Ukraine-related investigation approved. This was Lisa Monaco’s first day as Deputy Attorney General. The temporal scope on the Ukraine warrants extends from August 1, 2018 through May 31, 2019.

April 28, 2021: Warrants executed. Around 18 devices seized, of which 16 can be cracked.

September 3, 2021: SDNY argues that the privilege review for Rudy’s devices must be conducted pre-scope (meaning, before just the information on Ukraine is identified) and generously offers to limit temporal range of review to items post-dating January 1, 2018, significantly expanding the temporal scope of the privilege review vis a vis the known warrants.

September 16, 2021: Judge Paul Oetken approves SDNY’s desired treatment of Rudy’s phones, meaning anything that post-dates January 1, 2018, regardless of topic, will be reviewed for privilege.

November 2, 2021: Special Master releases contents of 7 devices, for which privilege review extended through seizure. 2,223 items were provided to the government.

January 15, 2022: WaPo quotes Rob Jenkins, who represents a number of Proud Boy defendants, explaining that DOJ is asking about Roger Stone and Rudy Giuliani’s ties to militia members.

January 19, 2022: Special Master releases contents through April 2021 of one phone amounting to over 25,000 items, as well as eight other devices for which the privilege review extended from December 1, 2018 through May 31, 2019.

April 12, 2022: In guise of coming to a final decision on the Ukraine influence-peddling that hasn’t happened yet, DOJ asks Rudy to unlock last several devices.

May 26, 2022: Subpoenas (CNN, NYT) relating to the fake elector plot ask for information on:

  • Rudy Giuliani,
  • Boris Epshteyn
  • Justin Clark
  • John Eastman
  • Bernard Kerik
  • Joe diGenova
  • Victoria Toensing
  • Jenna Ellis
  • Kenneth Chesebro

July 22, 2022: In grand jury testimony, Marc Short and (earlier) Greg Jacob are asked about Rudy and Eastman.

Roger Stone

March 17, 2021: In response to motion for bail for Connie Meggs, DOJ includes picture showing both she and Graydon Young worked a Roger Stone event on December 14, 2020.

June 23, 2021: Oath Keeper Graydon Young, who interacted with Stone in Florida in December 2020, enters into a cooperation agreement.

June 30, 2021: Oath Keeper Mark Grods, who worked the Willard the morning of the insurrection, enters into a cooperation agreement.

September 15, 2021: Oath Keeper Jason Dolan, who guarded Stone in both Florida and DC and would have witnessed discussions between Kelly Meggs and Roger Stone in December, enters into a cooperation agreement.

January 15, 2022: WaPo quotes Rob Jenkins, who represents a number of Proud Boy defendants, explaining that DOJ is asking about Roger Stone and Rudy Giuliani’s ties to militia members.

March 2, 2022: Oath Keeper Joshua James, who oversaw security of Stone on the morning of January 6 and reported back frequently, enters into a cooperation agreement. James also provides statement to NYPD inquiry of Stone associate Sal Greco.

March 4, 2022: WaPo describes hours of documentary video tracking Stone’s events leading up to the attack, including details from a Friends of Stone list on which Stone started planning Stop the Steal immediately after the election. Both DOJ and January 6 sought the outtakes, with Oath Keeper prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler offering to fly to Denmark to make the request. [Note this entry has been corrected to reflect ongoing efforts to get the footage.]

May 2022: NYT describes more about the FOS list, confirming that Owen Shroyer, Enrique Tarrio, Stewart Rhodes, and Ivan Raiklin took part. By June 23, 2022, DOJ had extracted the contents of Shroyer, Tarrio, and Rhodes’ phones.

Sidney Powell

June 2021: Nikki Fried announces Sidney Powell’s Defending the Republic had been raising funds in Florida without registering as a charity.

August 24, 2021: Powell’s fund settles with Florida.

September 2021: AUSA Molly Gaston issues subpoena for records relating to Sidney Powell’s grift going back to November 2, 2020.

November 30, 2021: Several outlets report on subpoenas relating to Powell. (WaPo, Daily Beast)

January 22, 2022: Powell’s attorney claims to be “cooperating” with DOJ investigation.

June 22, 2022: Months after BuzzFeed and Mother Jones report on the scheme, DOJ asks Judge Amit Mehta to conduct conflict inquiry regarding Powell’s funding of Oath Keeper defendants’ defense.

Alex Jones

April 13, 2021: Jones videographer Sam Montoya arrested on trespassing charges related to January 6.

August 19, 2021: Jones sidekick and January 5 speaker Owen Shroyer arrested for violating a non-prosecution agreement by trespassing; Shroyer did not enter the Capitol.

January 20, 2022: Judge Tim Kelly denies Shroyer’s motion to dismiss, effectively agreeing with DOJ that Shroyer (and so Alexander and Jones) weren’t invited by cops to the East steps and didn’t de-escalate the crowd. According to his pre-released testimony, Alexander had claimed they were de-escalating in his sworn testimony to the January 6 Committee.

May 5, 2022: Montoya asks for 60 day extension to discuss plea deal.

May 9, 2022: At status hearing, Shroyer attorney Norm Pattis describes talks of a plea deal.

June 14, 2022: Long-time Jones attorney Norm Pattis, who is representing Owen Shroyer, joins Joe Biggs’ defense team.

June 23, 2022: DOJ provides Shroyer unscoped contents of his phone, to provide scoped contents later.

Ali Alexander

January 25, 2021: Brandon Straka arrested for trespassing and civil disorder. Straka was a key player in the Stop the Steal movement, playing a key role at the riot at the TCF vote counting center in Michigan after the election, spoke at the January 5 rally, sat next to Mike Flynn at Trump’s speech, and stopped at the Willard before heading to the riot. Straka was also on Alexander’s Stop the Steal LISTSERV.

February 17, 2021: First FBI interview with Straka.

March 25, 2021: Second interview with Straka.

December 8, 2021: In released testimony for an appearance before J6C, Alexander told a story that DOJ had already debunked in the Owen Shroyer case. For this and other appearances, Alexander was represented by Paul Kamenar, the same attorney that guided Andrew Miller through stalling the Mueller investigation for a year.

January 5, 2022: Third interview with Straka.

January 13, 2022: DOJ includes sealed cooperation memo in Straka’s sentencing memo.

April 19, 2022: After 15 months of continuations, Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet charged with a single trespassing charge, a charge understood to have required some cooperation in advance.

May 11, 2022: Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet balks at a plea hearing for a cooperative misdemeanor plea. It is understood that Gionet shared certain materials to avoid a felony indictment. Gionet was given two months (until July 22) to plead to the misdemeanor or face the prospect of felony charges relying on his cooperation.

June 24, 2022: Ali Alexander testifies before grand jury.

June 28, 2022: Alexander returns to DC.

Jeffrey Clark

Note there are two Trump lawyers named Clark: Jeffrey is the DOJ official who would have replaced Jeffrey Rosen . Justin worked on campaign issues. [Really bad error corrected.]

January 25, 2021: DOJ IG Michael Horowitz opens probe into whether current or former DOJ officials attempted to overturn the election.

July 26, 2021: Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer writes former top Trump DOJ officials permitting them to testify on efforts, led by but not limited to Clark, to involve DOJ in an attempt to overturn the election. This was the first of a series of Executive Privilege review waivers DOJ asked Biden to make and roughly coincided with the delayed institution of a Contact Policy preventing Biden from learning about investigations.

June 22, 2022: Agents search Clark’s home and seize his devices. Per CNN, DOJ IG coordinated with the wider investigation into January 6.

John Eastman

March 28, 2022: Judge David Carter rules it is more likely than not that Eastman and Trump conspired to obstruct the vote certification. DOJ would be able to obtain any emails Judge Carter released directly from Chapman University covertly.

May 26, 2022: Subpoenas (CNN, NYT) relating to the fake elector plot ask for information on:

  • Rudy Giuliani,
  • Boris Epshteyn
  • Justin Clark
  • John Eastman
  • Bernard Kerik
  • Joe diGenova
  • Victoria Toensing
  • Jenna Ellis
  • Kenneth Chesebro

June 28, 2022: FBI seizes Eastman’s phone, gets him to unlock it.

July 22, 2022: In grand jury testimony, Marc Short and (earlier) Greg Jacob are asked about Rudy and Eastman.

Fake Electors

Fall 2021: According to NYT, Thomas Windom assigned, “to pull together some of the disparate strands of the elector scheme.”

January 25, 2022: Lisa Monaco confirms on the record that DOJ is investigating the fake elector scheme.

May 26, 2022: Subpoenas (CNN, NYT) relating to the fake elector plot ask for information on:

  • Rudy Giuliani,
  • Boris Epshteyn
  • Justin Clark
  • John Eastman
  • Bernard Kerik
  • Joe diGenova
  • Victoria Toensing
  • Jenna Ellis
  • Kenneth Chesebro

June 21, 2022: On July 25, 2022, WaPo published subpoenas to AZ fake electors Karen Fann and Kelly Townsend. In addition to AZ-specific list and the already published list of names of interest, those add:

  • James Troupis
  • Joshua Findlay
  • Mike Roman

June 22, 2022: DOJ takes a slew of overt steps in their investigation into the fake electors:

  • WaPo: Law enforcement activity targeting GA lawyer David Carver and Trump staffer Thomas Lane, subpoenas for GA GOP Chair David Shafer and Michigan fake electors
  • NYT: Subpoenas to Trump campaign aide in MI, Shawn Flynn, as well as Carver, Lane, and Shafer
  • CBS: Search warrants for NV GOP Chair Michael McDonald and Secretary James DeGraffenreid
  • CNN: Subpoena for Shafer, a warrant for David Carver’s phone, information on a GA Signal chat

July 8, 2022: Due date for June 21 subpoenas.

July 13, 2022: Talks between J6C and DOJ about sharing transcripts prioritizes fake electors scheme.

The Mark Meadows Gap

As I was writing this timeline, I realized that, aside from efforts on behalf of the Archives to force Meadows to reconstruct the insurrection he carried out on his personal phone and email, we really do have little information about an active investigation into Meadows’ role in the plot. That may explain why DOJ had not considered interviewing Cassidy Hutchinson before they saw her testimony.

Meadows should be included in the fake electors investigation, but thus far, he’s not. He would be included in any DOJ investigation of pressure in Georgia, but thus far, it seems DOJ has let Fani Willis take the lead on that investigation.

With the exception of Scott Perry, Meadows would be an absolutely necessary pivot to members of Congress who conspired in an attack on their own institution.

Additionally, there are credible allegations of obstruction against Meadows — for replacing his phone, likely deleting Signal and other encrypted app texts, after the FBI investigation started; for burning documents; for pressuring Hutchinson not to testify.

All that said, while Meadows is undeniably the most important gap in this timeline, Trumpsters are predicting that Meadows will go to jail, citing not just his own schemes, but his finances.

Steve Bannon

September 23, 2021: January 6 Committee subpoenas Bannon.

November 3 and 8, 2021: At interviews Bannon attorney Robert Costello did with DC US Attorney’s Office, at which FBI Agents were present, he gives materially inconsistent answers.

November 11, 2021: DOJ obtains Internet and telephony toll records for Robert Costello spanning from March 5 through November 12, which cannot pertain exclusively to the subpoena from a Committee the founding of which came months after the start date of toll request.

November 2021: DOJ subpoenas the toll records for two people — one is a financial advisor — under whose accounts he was believed to communicate in the past; DOJ provided these in discovery on July 8, 2022. The scope for at least one of the subpoenas is for September 22, 2021 through October 21, 2021.

November 12, 2021: DOJ indicts Bannon for contempt.

December 2, 2021: After DOJ raises concerns about Costello serving as a witness, he joins Bannon’s legal team until just before trial.

June 29, 2022: Pursuant to a trial subpoena, DOJ interviews Trump attorney Justin Clark about circumstances of Bannon’s non-compliance.

July 22, 2022: Jury finds Bannon guilty of both counts of contempt.

Peter Navarro

June 2, 2022: DOJ indicts Navarro on two counts of contempt.

Stolen classified documents

February 18, 2022: NARA informs Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney that there were classified documents among the 15 boxes taken to Mar-a-Lago.

February 22, 2022: Merrick Garland implies DOJ will investigate the mishandled documents.

April 7, 2022: Because DOJ opened investigation into documents, NARA refuses request for more information from Maloney.

May 12, 2022: DOJ issues subpoena to NARA regarding documents and requests interviews with those involved in packing boxes before leaving the White House.

Other key dates

January 4, 2021: DC authorities seize Enrique Tarrio’s phone.

January 8, 2021: Grand jury that carries out bulk of investigation on Capitol and ultimately charges Oath Keepers with sedition convened.

May 25, 2021: Grand jury that indicted Bannon, handful of Jan6ers convened.

August 11, 2021: Grand jury that indicted Michael Riley (Capitol Policeman), several serious defendants (including a superseding) convened.

Summer 2021: FBI interviewed Doug Mastriano about January 6.

October 21, 2021: In Congressional hearing, Merrick Garland makes clear that the OLC memo prohibiting the prosecution of a sitting President is not pertinent to whether Trump can be charged.

November 10, 2021: Still-active grand jury indicting more serious ongoing assault cases, among others, convened.

November 22, 2021: In hearing in Garret Miller case, Judge Carl Nichols asks AUSA James Pearce whether DOJ’s application of 18 USC 1512(c)(2) to the vote certification could apply to someone like Trump. Nichols would go on to be the lone DC judge to reject this application.

December 2021: FBI first gets access to Tarrio’s phone.

December 10, 2021: Judge Dabney Friedrich is the first DC Judge to uphold DOJ’s application of 18 USC 1512(c)(2) to the certification of the vote, the same crime discussed for use with Trump.

January 5, 2022: Garland promises DOJ, “remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead” and describes, “follow[ing] the money.”

January 12, 2022: DOJ charges Oath Keepers with sedition (and adds Stewart Rhodes to conspiracy).

Mid-January 2022: After filter review, DOJ first obtains materials from Tarrio’s phone that was seized over a year earlier.

January 19, 2022: SCOTUS rejects Trump’s bid to shield January 6 records under Executive Privilege. Not only will J6C get subpoenaed materials directly, but DOJ will be able to obtain the same materials directly, using privilege waiver Biden made for the Committee without violating contact rules.

February 14, 2022: Grand jury that charges Proud Boys with sedition convened.

February 15, 2022: Grand jury that charges Peter Navarro convened.

February 18, 2022: Judge Mehta denies Trump’s motion to dismiss various lawsuits, finding it plausible that Trump conspired with rioters at the Capitol, that he conspired with the militias who attacked the Capitol, and that he has aid and abet liability for assaults at the Capitol, including on cops.

March 3, 2022: Judge Carl Nichols holds that 18 USC 1512(c)(2) must have a documentary component and applies the rule of lenity to dismiss obstruction charge against Garret Miller. In briefing in this case, Nichols had hypothetically asked whether the law could apply to the then-President.

March 7, 2022: DOJ adds Enrique Tarrio to Proud Boy Leaders conspiracy.

March 28, 2022: Judge David Carter rules it is more likely than not that Eastman and Trump conspired to obstruct the vote certification.

May 25, 2022: Garland issues memo affirming that the same rules that always apply to DOJ investigations still apply to DOJ investigations.

June 6, 2022: DOJ charges Proud Boy leaders with sedition.

June 28, 2022: Testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson said to “jolt” DOJ to discuss Trump crimes other than those tied to inspiring rioters, though that report also says that, “change that was underway even before Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony.”

June 29, 2022: In a public appearance, Lisa Monaco says, Congress “is doing their job and we’re doing ours” and describes that DOJ is “deep” into its January 6 probe.

July 15, 2022: After declining to prosecute Mark Meadows for contempt in June, DOJ weighs in on Meadows lawsuit against J6C to opine that Hutchinson’s testimony demonstrated that the Committee is unable to obtain necessary information from other sources.

July 20, 2022: In response to a question about whether DOJ guidance on opening sensitive investigations would be affected if Trump announced he was running, Lisa Monaco reiterates that DOJ would follow the facts, “no matter where they lead, no matter to what level.”

July 21, 2022: Merrick Garland suggests that those who claim DOJ should, but is not, doing a hub-and-spoke investigation are speculating, and calls the investigation “the most wide-ranging” investigation that the Justice Department has ever entered into.

July 22, 2022: Marc Short appears before a grand jury (Greg Jacob did by July 22 as well).

Three Months Later, DOJ Finally Gets Interested in Sidney Powell’s Militia Defense Fund

In the Oath Keepers case, the government just sent out a letter raising concerns about DC’s Rule 1.8(e) that governs the ethical obligations in cases where a third party pays for someone else’s defense. That’s allowed, but there are three necessary conditions: that the defendant make informed consent, that the payor not interfere in case decisions, and that information about the case may not be shared with the payor.

(1) The client gives informed consent after consultation;

(2) There is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and

(3) Information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by Rule 1.6.

At issue is the scheme that BuzzFeed revealed and Mother Jones later reported that describes that Sidney Powell is paying for some of the Oath Keepers’ defense.

As the government describes, in response to the government’s queries, lawyers for Stewart Rhodes and Jessica Watkins did not respond, the Meggs’ lawyers and that of Kenneth Harrelson say they’re in compliance with the rule, and William Shipley, who is representing Roberto Minuta, said he’d respond to Judge Mehta’s inquiries, but didn’t answer to DOJ.

1. Attorney David Fischer, who represents Thomas Caldwell, stated that he was in compliance with Rule 1.8(e) and that he “has received no funding from, and has no affiliation with, Defending the Republic.”

2. Attorney Scott Weinberg, who represents David Moerschel, stated he was in compliance with Rule 1.8(e) and that he was not receiving any funding from Defending the Republic.

3. Attorney Gene Rossi, on behalf of himself and co-counsel Natalie Napierala and Charles Greene, who represent William Isaacs, stated that they were in compliance with Rule 1.8(e) and that they were not receiving any funding from Defending the Republic.

4. Attorney Tommy Spina, on behalf of himself and co-counsel Edward B. MacMahon, Jr., who represent Jonathan Walden, stated that they were in compliance with Rule 1.8(e) and that they were not receiving any funding from Defending the Republic.

5. Attorneys Julia Haller and Stanley Woodward, who together represent Kelly Meggs and Connie Meggs, stated that they were in compliance with Rule 1.8(e). They did not specifically inform the government whether their fees were being paid by Defending the Republic.

6. Attorney William Shipley, who represents Roberto Minuta, declined to answer, but wrote, “Should Judge Mehta wish for my client or me to explain the arrangement for funding my client’s legal defense in order to confirm that my client’s Sixth Amendment right to conflict-free counsel are being afforded – or waived – we will provide him with whatever information he requests.”

7. Attorney Bradford Geyer, who represents Kenneth Harrelson, stated that he was in compliance with Rule 1.8(e). He declined to inform the government whether his fees were being paid by Defending the Republic.

The other defense counsel whom the government believes to be retained rather than court-appointed – Phillip Linder and James Lee Bright for Stewart Rhodes, and Jonathan Crisp for Jessica Watkins – have not yet responded to the government’s letter.

The letter DOJ sent to the defense attorneys suggested that Powell’s interests may diverge from these defendants.

The Supreme Court has said that “inherent dangers . . . arise when a criminal defendant is represented by a lawyer hired and paid by a third party.” Wood v. Georgia, 450 U.S. 261, 269 (1981). In Wood, the third-party payer was the “operator of the alleged criminal enterprise,” and thus the lawyer had an interest in the clients not testifying against the third-party payer or taking other actions contrary to the payer’s interest.4 Id. Indeed, comment 10 to Rule 1.8 explains that “third-party payers frequently have interests that differ from those of the client.” Here, Defending the Republic may have interests that diverge from these defendants.

4 As Defendant Kelly Meggs’s former counsel Jonathon Moseley told Mother Jones, Defending the Republic’s “financial support has the effect of making plea bargains less likely.” This fact could be against the interest of a particular defendant.

I’m happy DOJ is addressing this. The lawyers who are reported to be on Powell’s dole seem to be pushing conspiracy theories in lieu of a real defense.

What I don’t understand is the timing. BuzzFeed first reported this on March 9. DOJ only sent out its inquiry letter on June 16, over three months later.

And thus far, DOJ is only raising this in the Oath Keepers’ case. At the very least, you’d think DOJ would make similar inquiries in the Ryan Samsel case; he’s represented by the same team, Stanley Woodward and Juli Haller, as is representing the Meggses. And after he was assaulted, Samsel seemed to decide not to cooperate (against what would be Joe Biggs).

Similarly, William Shipley is representing a slew of defendants, including many of the Proud Boys who might most immediately implicate Biggs.

Finally, Jimmy Haffner, one of the Proud Boys accused of helping to open up the East Door of the Capitol, posed with Powell when her fundraising bus came through town in 2020.

Of course, DOJ has been investigating Powell herself since at least September, so maybe they’re learning of new conflicts only now.

So who else is Sidney Powell paying? And why is DOJ only doing something about it now?

Maybe Merrick Garland Already Made Some of the Decisions Everyone Thinks Are Pending?

Jack Goldsmith has weighed in on the debate over whether and if so how Trump should be charged in the NYT. He tries to capture three things that Merrick Garland might consider before charging Trump, which include:

  • Whether charging Trump would require a Special Counsel to avoid any conflict of interest stemming from Garland’s appointment by Joe Biden
  • Whether there’s enough evidence to convict the former President
  • Whether the national interest is served by such a prosecution

It’s a worthwhile piece that has, at least, generated some substantive discussion.

Garland might face a prosecutorial decision on something other than obstruction

But I wanted to throw out some things that might change the calculus on these three questions. First, Goldsmith’s column is premised on prosecuting Trump for crimes relating to January 6, focusing on 18 USC 1512(c)(2) and 18 USC 371.

The two most frequently mentioned crimes Mr. Trump may have committed are the corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding (the Jan. 6 vote count) and conspiracy to defraud the United States (in working to overturn election results). Many have noted that Mr. Trump can plausibly defend these charges by arguing that he lacked criminal intent because he truly believed that massive voter fraud had taken place.

Mr. Trump would also claim that key elements of his supposedly criminal actions — his interpretations of the law, his pressure on Mr. Pence, his delay in responding to the Capitol breach and more — were exercises of his constitutional prerogatives as chief executive. Mr. Garland would need to assess how these legally powerful claims inform the applicability of criminal laws to Mr. Trump’s actions in what would be the first criminal trial of a president. He would also consider the adverse implications of a Trump prosecution for more virtuous future presidents.

I think it’s not necessarily the case that the first prosecutorial decision Garland would face for Trump would be for one of these January 6 crimes, nor is it certain that these would be the January 6 charges he would be considering.

For example, Trump has potential criminal exposure that dates to before and after his time in the Presidency, which for various reasons might be easier to charge sooner. Trump has criminal exposure in Georgia for trying to cheat; if he were charged there, it might make it easier to charge him federally with an associated crime (including 18 USC 371). Similarly, other charges in relation to January 6 might be easier to charge, including aiding and abetting the violence, conspiring in violation of 18 USC 372 to intimidate Pence out of certifying the vote, or wire fraud in conjunction with the way he monetized the Big Lie.

It’d be one thing, after all, to charge Trump for pressuring Pence and another thing to charge him for trying to get Pence killed. The mens rea requirements for other charges would not give Trump the same invitation to pretend he really believed he had won. And with regards to Trump’s grift, even Laura Ingraham reacted negatively to the evidence of his Big Grift (though that may only because Republicans are seeking a way to clear the decks for Ron DeSantis).

So the prosecutorial decision that Garland might face would differ considerably based on what crime line prosecutors and US Attorneys were asking for approval to charge.

DOJ has already put in place measures to guard the independence of the investigation

Second, my impression is that Garland would view appointing a Special Counsel not only as unnecessary, but also counterproductive.

I wrote about why it would be counterproductive here. The short version of that is that if Trump committed a crime in conjunction with January 6, he did so in part by conspiring some subset of the 1,000 people who have already been charged or are being investigated now, in an investigation that upwards of 140 prosecutors have worked.

In Merrick Garland’s recent speech, he revealed there are 140 prosecutors working on this investigation, half normally assigned to the DC US Attorney’s office (that is, people who now report to Graves), and the other half coming from other units. Some of those units are functional, with the most notable being National Security’s Terrorism prosecutors, but also Public Corruption. Far more of them are detailees assigned from different US Attorneys offices. Some of these detailees, working on the simpler cases, are doing 6 month stints, then handing off their cases. Others, including key prosecutors involved in the Proud Boys investigation, appear to be seeing the investigation through. Just as one example, there are three prosecutors on the case against the five Florida men who traveled with Joe Biggs the day of the attack; they are located in Chicago, Brooklyn, and Seattle. Just accounting for the number of prosecutors involved, this investigation is larger than most US Attorneys Offices in this country, and far too large for a Special Counsel to handle.

Then there’s this magical notion about convening a grand jury. The existing January 6 investigation is already using somewhere between four and six. Public Corruption prosecutions, like that of Steve Bannon, are using the same grand juries that the militias are being prosecuted through.

If Trump were to be charged with conspiring with any number of those 1,000 people, then you’d want to use one of the grand juries that has already reviewed big chunks of this investigation. In my opinion, you’d want to make sure that Trump’s prosecution was charged via the same process that the thousand other alleged criminals involved that day were, in part to make it clear that his was the crime of a violent mob, not a backoffice presidential decision.

And even as it would be counterproductive to appoint a Special Counsel in this investigation, I think Garland has already taken steps to ensure the independence of the investigation. For starters, while Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco’s office has kept a very close watch on the investigation (many would say too close a watch), the prosecutorial decisions are being made out of DC US Attorney’s Office. And while Garland was confirmed with broad approval, Matthew Graves had no recorded opposition at his confirmation (though Ron Johnson held up the confirmation). No Special Counsel will have any more recorded buy-in from Republicans than the existing team does.

Meanwhile, among the things Garland’s DOJ did, at a moment when prosecutors may have realized a Trump prosecution was possible, was to set up a framework under which prosecutors could obtain sensitive information on Trump’s role in January 6 without any involvement from Joe Biden. The most important of those is the privilege review for January 6-related materials the January 6 Committee deems material to their investigation. It has gone like this:

  • Jan 6 Committee makes requests
  • The Archives identifies materials responsive to those requests
  • Biden reviews those materials and either waives privilege or withholds the information
  • Trump sues to withhold the materials but the Supreme Court denies his lawsuit
  • The Committee receives the materials

Once materials have been through that process, DOJ could simply serve a warrant on the Archives to obtain the same materials. Neither Trump nor Biden nor any of the rest of us would know (and this is consistent with things past investigations into Presidents have done, including the Mueller investigation). This process would bypass one of the problems Mueller had investigating Trump, in which Trump waived privilege for the investigation but not for any further use of it.

But DOJ would have various other means to obtain pertinent potentially privileged information, including:

  • Using a January 6-specific warrant to obtain materials seized from Rudy Giuliani in response to a warrant approved on Lisa Monaco’s first day in office; as I laid out here, the privilege review of those materials included all materials through the date of seizure
  • Obtain a warrant to Chapman University for all John Eastman emails that Judge David Carter approved to be turned over to the January 6 Committee
  • Review for an obstruction determination all the emails and texts sent over personal accounts that Mark Meadows had originally withheld from the Archives in violation of the Presidential Records Act
  • Review the already identified materials tied to the referral for stealing classified information from NARA
  • Obtain a January 6-specific warrant for materials already obtained from Sidney Powell in the fraud-related investigation into her grift

I wrote more about some of these methods here.

Obtaining sensitive information like this doesn’t eliminate the political sensitivities of an Attorney General appointed by Joe Biden making a prosecutorial decision regarding Trump. But it ensures that DOJ can entirely shield the investigation from any Biden involvement.

None of these things make the question easier. But they do suggest that Garland may have already put into place ways of addressing them.

January 6 Committee Details The Big Fraud Monetizing The Big Lie

The second hearing from the January 6 Committee was just as well choreographed as the first one, with an even greater reliance on Republican voices to make the case against Trump, including:

  • Bill Barr
  • Bill Stepien
  • Al Schmidt
  • Alex Cannon
  • Ivanka
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • Sidney Powell
  • Chris Stirewalt
  • Jason Miller
  • Ben Ginsberg

Here’s my live tweet of the hearing.

The presentation started by describing how Trump was told on election night that the news looked bad. The presentation ended by showing how those attacking the Capitol cited Trump’s lies to justify their actions.

Perhaps the most effective part of the hearing, however, was a video shown near the end that talked about how Trump monetized the Big Lie. He raised $250M telling lies about voter fraud.

Some of that money went to Mark Meadows’ “charity,” the Conservative Partnership Institute and even more went to Paul Manafort’s company, Event Strategies.

This is the kind of activity, fundraising making false claim, that got Steve Bannon charged with wire fraud and it’s the kind of scheme behind the investigation into Sidney Powell.

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.