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Guccifer 20uble Entendre

As people continue to unravel the various parties involved in the January 6 insurrection, including Roger Stone and his repurposed group, Stop the Steal, I want to finish unpacking the Mueller-related files liberated by BuzzFeed last month.

Before I do that though, I want to lay out one potential implication of some things I said as part of my Rat-Fucker Rashomon series on Roger Stone’s prosecution.

In the post from that series on Jerome Corsi’s prescience that WikiLeaks would dump John Podesta’s emails, I showed that Ted Malloch, Rick Gates, and Paul Manafort all testified that Stone had advance knowledge of the Podesta drop in August — and according to Gates, he had that knowledge before August 14.

According to the SSCI Report, in part of Rick Gates’ October 25, 2018 interview that remains redacted,

Gates recalled Stone advising him, prior to the release of an August 14 article in The New York Times about Paul Manafort’s “secret ledger,” that damaging information was going to be released about Podesta. 1579 Gates understood that Stone was referring to nonpublic information. Gates further recalled later conversations with Stone about how to save Manafort’s role on the Campaign, and that Stone was focused on getting information about John Podesta, but said that Stone did not reveal the “inner workings” of that plan to Gates. 1580

An unredacted part of that 302 — which is likely the continuation of the discussion cited in SSCI — explains,

Gates said there was a strategy to defend Manafort by attacking Podesta. The idea was that Podesta had baggage as well. Gates said it was unfortunate the information did not come out in time to defend Manafort from his ultimate departure from the campaign.

In a September 27, 2018 interview, Manafort provided details of two conversations that he placed in August 2016, one of which provided specific details (which remain redacted, purportedly to protect Podesta’s privacy!) about John Podesta’s alleged ties with Russia.

Manafort was sure he had at least two conversations with Stone prior to the October 7, 2016 leak of John Podesta’s emails.

In the one conversation between Stone and Manafort, Stone told Manafort “you got fucked.” Stone’s comment related to the fact that Manafort had been fired. The conversation was either the day Manafort left the campaign or the day after.

In the other conversation, Stone told Manafort that there would be a WikiLeaks drop of emails with Podesta, and that Podesta would be “in the barrel” and Manafort would be vindicated. Manafort had a clear memory of the moment because of the language Stone used. Stone also said Manafort would be pleased with what came out. It was Manafort’s understanding that WikiLeaks had Podesta’s emails and they were going to show that [redacted] Manafort would be vindicated because he had to leave the campaign for being too pro-Russian, and this would show that Podesta also had links to Russia and would have to leave.

Manafort’s best recollection was the “barrel” conversation was before he got on the boat the week of August 28, 2016.

Roger Stone’s longtime friend Paul Manafort, at a time when he lying to protect key details about what happened in 2016, nevertheless confirmed that Stone had detailed knowledge not just that the Podesta files would drop, but what Russian-based attacks they would make of them.

In the piece arguing that Guccifer 2.0, not Julian Assange, was Roger Stone’s go-between with the Russian operation, I noted that SSCI believes Roger Stone had obtained his advance knowledge that WikiLeaks would later release John Podesta files by mid-day August 15, 2016.

Indeed, the Mueller Report describes that Corsi told Ted Malloch later in August that, “Stone had made a connection to Assange and that the hacked emails of John Podesta would be released prior to Election Day,” not that he himself had.

[snip]

At 8:16AM on August 15, Corsi texted and then at 8:17 AM Corsi emailed Stone the same message, telling him there was “more to come than anyone realizes”:

Appearing in the midst of a story about Stone’s lies about his go-between with WikiLeaks, the texts and emails are fairly innocuous. Though the SSCI Report does seem to believe Corsi’s story that this moment — and the 24 minute call between Corsi and Stone at 12:14PM on August 15 — is when Corsi told Stone about what the Podesta files would include.

(U) The Committee is uncertain how Corsi determined that Assange had John Podesta’s emails. Corsi initially explained in an interview with the SCO that during his trip to Italy, someone told him Assange had the Podesta emails. Corsi also recalled learning that Assange was going to “release the emails seriatim and not all at once.”1572 However, Corsi claimed not to remember who provided him with this information, saying he could only recall that “it feels like a man” who told him.1573

(U) Corsi further recalled that on August 15, after he returned from Italy, he conveyed this information to Stone by phone.1574 According to Corsi, the information was new to Stone. Stone seemed “happy to hear it,” and the two of them “discussed how the emails would be very damaging” to Clinton. 1575 Corsi also reiterated by both text and email to Stone on August 15 that there was “[m]ore to come than anyone realizes. Won’t really get started until after Labor Day.”1576

So three witnesses sympathetic to Stone say he had advance knowledge of the Podesta dump, and the neutral observers at SSCI believe that happened by mid-day on August 15, 2016.

If that’s the case, I pointed out in the Guccifer 2.0 post, then it means when the persona asked the rat-fucker whether Stone had found anything interesting in the documents he posted, it would appear to be a reference to the DCCC documents released days earlier, but would actually be reference to the Podesta files.

August 15, 2016 (unknown time): Guccifer 2.0 DMs Stone: “thank u for writing back . . . do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?”

So long as the WikiLeaks story is kept separate from the Guccifer 2.0 one, that August 15 DM from Guccifer 2.0 to Stone appears to be a question about the DCCC emails posted on August 12, and so, as Stone claimed, totally innocuous. But given the evidence that Corsi and Stone acquired advance knowledge of the content of select Podesta emails by August 15 — particularly given Stone’s claim, reportedly made before July 22, to have been in touch with Guccifer 2.0 and his apparent foreknowledge of the GRU personas — that August 15 DM appears to be a comment on the Podesta files.

That is, that August 15 was not innocuous at all. It appears to have been, rather, the GRU’s persona asking Stone whether he liked what he had received in advance.

That is, it would be a kind of double entendre, a comment that seemed to have an innocuous public meaning, but in fact was a public marker of direct coordination between the Russian operation and the Trump campaign.

Consider the implications if that were true of the other comments from Guccifer 2.0 to Roger Stone. There were two such comments that have been made public. On August 16, Roger Stone linked a piece of his, talking about “How the election can be rigged against Donald Trump,” part of Stone’s Stop the Steal campaign that would eventually morph into the January 6 insurrection. Via DM, Stone asked G2 to RT it, which the persona did, saying he was “paying u back.”

Then on August 17, G2 buttered Stone up a bit, then offered to help him.

Starting at 1AM on August 18, Roger Stone himself buttered up the new replacement campaign manager for Donald Trump, offering him some way to win the election. “I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty,” a similar pitch as Stone made to Paul Manfort just weeks earlier.

Affidavits show that Stone and Bannon continued to talk.

On August 19, 2016, Bannon sent Stone a text message asking if he could talk that morning. On August 20, 2016, Stone replied, “when can u talk???”

Bannon testified under oath at Stone’s trial that this conversation might have pertained to “the tougher side of politics” that the Trump campaign might use to “make up some ground,” possibly relating to Stone’s role as envoy to WikiLeaks.

Q. When Mr. Stone wrote to you, “I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty,” what in your mind did you understand that to mean?

A. Well, Roger is an agent provocateur, he’s an expert in opposition research. He’s an expert in the tougher side of politics. And when you’re this far behind, you have to use every tool in the toolbox.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. Well, opposition research, dirty tricks, the types of things that campaigns use when they have got to make up some ground.

Q. Did you view that as sort of value added that Mr. Stone could add to the campaign?

A. Potentially value added, yes.

Q. Was one of the ways that Mr. Stone could add value to the campaign his relationship with WikiLeaks or Julian Assange?

A. I don’t know if I thought it at the time, but he could — you know, I was led to believe that he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

This is the testimony Stone is threatening to sue Bannon over.

The next day, Stone tweeted his famous “Podesta time in the barrel” tweet.

The communication between Stone and Bannon continued; I’ll return to it in a follow-up post. But first, there was one more DM exchange between G2 and Stone: When, on September 9, G2 wrote Stone seemingly out of the blue and asked, “what do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign”?

Stone did’t respond at first. G2 probed again: “?” Then G2 sent HelloFL’s post on the Florida turnout model that G2 had sent Aaron Nevins. And G2 lectured the rat-fucker about a topic on which Stone is an expert: the import of voter turnout.

“Pretty standard,” Stone correctly said of the base level oppo research that G2 had sent Nevins.

And for years, that exchange made perfect sense. The Nevins data was the only publicly known turnout data that G2 might have had (indeed, it’s still the only data that most people know about). And so it made sense: G2 was just trying to fluff up his value with the candidate’s rat-fucker by pointing to data the quality of which the rat-fucker already had easy access.

Except, that data was not — as G2 referenced — “the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign.” It pertained only to Florida.

But GRU had obtained data that may have provided a way to reconstruct the turnout model for the Democrats’ entire Presidential campaign: starting on September 5, they started hacking Hillary’s analytics, hosted on AWS. As the DNC described it in their lawsuit targeting (among others) Stone, this data was among the most valuable for the campaign. The hackers made several snapshots of the testing clusters the DNC used to test their analytics program.

On September 20, 2016, CrowdStrike’s monitoring service discovered that unauthorized users—later discovered to be GRU officers—had accessed the DNC’s cloud-computing service. The cloud-computing service housed test applications related to the DNC’s analytics. The DNC’s analytics are its most important, valuable, and highly confidential tools. While the DNC did not detect unauthorized access to its voter file, access to these test applications could have provided the GRU with the ability to see how the DNC was evaluating and processing data critical to its principal goal of winning elections. Forensic analysis showed that the unauthorized users had stolen the contents of these virtual servers by making exact duplicates (“snapshots”) of them and moving those snapshots to other accounts they owned on the same service. The GRU stole multiple snapshots of these virtual servers between September 5, 2016 and September 22, 2016. The U.S. government later concluded that this cyberattack had been executed by the GRU as part of its broader campaign to damage to the Democratic party.

In 2016, the DNC used Amazon Web Services (“AWS”), an Amazon-owned company that provides cloud computing space for businesses, as its “data warehouse” for storing and analyzing almost all of its data.

To store and analyze the data, the DNC used a software program called Vertica, which was run on the AWS servers. Vertica is a Hewlett Packard program, which the DNC licensed. The data stored on Vertica included voter contact information, such as the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of voters, and notes from the DNC’s prior contacts with these voters. The DNC also stored “digital information” on AWS servers. “Digital information” included data about the DNC’s online engagement, such as DNC email lists, the number of times internet users click on DNC advertisements (or “click rates”), and the number of times internet users click on links embedded in DNC emails (or “engagement rates”). The DNC also used AWS to store volunteer information—such as the list of people who have signed up for DNC-sponsored events and the number of people who attended those events.

[snip]

The DNC’s Vertica queries and Tableau Queries that allow DNC staff to analyze their data and measure their progress toward their strategic goals—collectively, the DNC’s “analytics,”—are its most important, valuable, and highly confidential tools. Because these tools were so essential, the DNC would often test them before they were used broadly.

The tests were conducted using “testing clusters”—designated portions of the AWS servers where the DNC tests new pieces of software, including new Tableau and Vertica Queries. To test a new query, a DNC engineer could use the query on a “synthetic” data set—mock-up data generated for the purpose of testing new software—or a small set of real data. For example, the DNC might test a Tableau query by applying the software to a set of information from a specific state or in a specific age range. Thus, the testing clusters housed sensitive, proprietary pieces of software under development. As described above, the DNC derives significant value from its proprietary software by virtue of its secrecy: if made public, it would reveal critical insights into the DNC’s political, financial, and voter engagement strategies and services, many of which are used or intended for use in interstate commerce.

[snip]

On September 20, 2016, CrowdStrike’s monitoring service discovered that unauthorized users had breached DNC AWS servers that contained testing clusters. Further forensic analysis showed that the unauthorized users had stolen the contents of these DNC AWS servers by taking snapshots of the virtual servers, and had moved those replicas to other AWS accounts they controlled. The GRU stole multiple snapshots of these servers between September 5, 2016 and September 22, 2016. The U.S. later concluded that this cyberattack had been executed by the GRU as part of its broader campaign to damage to the Democratic party. The GRU could have derived significant economic value from the theft of the DNC’s data by, among other possibilities, selling the data to the highest bidder.

The software would also be usable as executable code by DNC opponents, who could attempt to re-create DNC data visualizations or derive DNC strategy decisions by analyzing the tools the DNC uses to analyze its data.

So by the time G2 asked Stone what he thought of “the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign” on September 9, three weeks after having offered to help Stone, the GRU had started stealing snapshots relating to Hillary’s analytics four days earlier. If, as seems may have been the case with G2’s August 15 question, this question was meant to be a double entendre with a  hidden meaning, it might suggest that GRU had shared this, a way to reconstruct Hillary’s crown jewels, with Trump’s rat-fucker (and in any case would have provided incredibly valuable information for whomever received the campaign strategy information that Konstantin Kilimnik was passing on).

Which is even more interesting given the conversations about data that Stone and Bannon were having at the time.

Mutually Assured Blackmail: Roger Stone Tries to Undercut Steve Bannon’s Power

Roger Stone is trying (thus far unsuccessfully) to pick a fight with Steve Bannon and the Mercers.

First, earlier in June on Alex Jones’ show, Roger Stone accused Bannon, among other things, of lying in his testimony against Stone and blackmailing Trump to get a pardon.

Stone: Let’s me very clear. Not only did Steve Bannon steal the name of my Infowars show with the great American Owen Shroyer, ‘The War Room,’ but he testified falsely at my trial against me. He was an informant for Robert Mueller. If you take his sworn testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, which was sealed at the time of my trial, and his testimony on the stand at my trial, he clearly perjured himself in my trial.

So right now, here, today, I am challenging Steve Bannon to come on Infowars and debate this, let’s have it out. Alex, you can moderate it, so it stays civil. But he needs to answer as to why he was working with Robert Mueller to destroy me and send me to prison. So there it is. The challenge, the gauntlet has been laid down, big Steve. Cmon, sloppy Steve. We can find a suit and tie for you that’s clean, I think. And you should come on Infowars and answer what I just said.

And by the way, all you little Bannon groupies who want to go on social media and challenge me? I wouldn’t suggest it. Because I will merely block you. Facts are facts. As the NYPost reported, and Jonathan Turley, the GWU law professor who read both transcripts and concluded, Bannon, clearly perjured himself at one place or the other. And since the entire question on which I was being tried was lying to the House Committee, you would think that it would be germane, it would be important. As Professor Turley pointed out, there were 40 lawyers in the room at the time that Bannon testified prior to my trial.

[Alex Jones agrees, asks why Stone has turned on Bannon, and Stone claims Bannon only testified against Stone because he was under investigation himself]

He should not be able to put himself forward as an advocate  for the America First agenda. Steve Bannon publicly accused the President of having Alzheimers, he said the Trump Organization was a criminal enterprise, he said that Trump would be prosecuted — I can do this almost verbatim. When the American people learn he’s not a billionaire, he’s just another scumbag.

[snip]

His defenders say, oh well that was two years ago. It doesn’t matter when it was. Steve Bannon called the President of the United States —

Jones: Well here’s the 64 Trillion dollar question. Why did Trump give him a pardon?

Stone: I think he was blackmailed. That’s what I think. That is my opinion.

More recently, Stone called on his groupies to stop using Parler and to “boycott these assholes,” the Mercers, generally.

Stone is absolutely right that Bannon perjured himself, though the record shows that he perjured himself before HPSCI, not the grand jury and Stone’s own trial. As I’ve noted, Bannon was basically reciting a White House script handed to him at that HPSCIi appearance. But over the course of multiple interviews with Mueller’s team, Bannon was slowly made to hew closer to the truth about Stone and other things, presumably because he was faced with more and more documents showing that his original story did not resemble the documentary record (HPSCI got none of these documents, which is how he was able to read directly from the White House script).

I’ll return to Stone’s war on the Mercers.

But given Stone’s claim that Bannon blackmailed Trump for a pardon, I want to look at a detail from Bannon’s October 26, 2018 interview with Mueller’s team that goes to the core of Stone’s own successful effort to blackmail Trump for, first, a commutation, and then a pardon.

Throughout his Mueller interviews, Bannon excused his coordination with Stone by explaining that the rat-fucker could fuck up your life if you didn’t placate him, and so he had no choice but to keep him happy. In the October 2018 interview, Bannon seemingly responds to a question about whether he and Trump talked about Stone with a weird chain of associations.

While BANNON was at Breitbart in 2013-2015, BANNON had a strong relationship with [redacted]. BANNON heard from [redacted] STONE was still talking to Trump and was an advisor. STONE subsequently made those statements to BANNON as well. BANNON was suspect and upset. BANNON believed you had to eep TRUMP “on program.” While BANNON was on the Trump Campaign he never heard any mention of STONE from TRUMP or anyone else on the campaign. After the win, STONE tried a full court press in order to get a meeting with TRUMP. [redacted] eventually set up a meeting with TRUMP and STONE in early December 2016 on the 26th floor of Trump Tower. TRUMP didn’t want to take the meeting with STONE. TRUMP told BANNON to be in the meeting and that after 5 minutes, if the meeting hadn’t concluded, to throw STONE out. STONE came in with a book he wrote and possibly had a folder and notes. [full sentence redacted] TRUMP didn’t say much to STONE beyond “Thanks, thanks a lot.”. To BANNON, this reinforced STONE [redacted] After five to six minutes, the meeting was over and STONE was out. STONE was [redacted] due to the fact that during the meeting TRUMP just stared. This reinforced what BANNON thought about STONE, that STONE was a [redacted]. BANNON never heard TRUMP talk about STONE. The 2010 conversation with TRUMP about STONE was the only time, to the best of BANNON’s recollection. BANNON never heard that STONE was talking to candidate TRUMP while BANNON was on the campaign. BANNON never asked then candidate TRUMP if he talked with STONE. Candidate TRUMP never could have talked to STONE, without BANNON knowing about it, and he had the opportunity to do so. BANNON was not aware of who TRUMP talked to in the evenings and they could have had a phone call. BANNON was not aware of who TRUMP was talking to in the evening, but he was definitely talking to people. BANNON did not have visibility into that. TRUMP was not shy about throwing names out of people he had talked to, and he never said STONE.

What appears to be entirely an expression of Bannon’s stream-of-consciousness in response to a question about whether he knew of Stone communicating with Trump during the campaign goes like this:

  • The only time Trump ever raised Roger Stone was in 2010, during his earlier dalliance with running for President
  • Bannon was upset to learn of Stone’s involvement in Trump’s 2016 run (even though Bannon was perfectly happy to coordinate with Stone before he joined the campaign)
  • Bannon never heard any mention of Stone from Trump or anyone else during 2016 (even though Bannon was in direct contact with Stone himself even after joining the campaign)
  • In December 2016, Bannon attended a Trump Tower meeting between Stone and Trump to which Stone brought his book and possibly a folder and notes, a meeting Trump purportedly didn’t want, and in which Trump said almost nothing but instead just stared
  • Bannon really never heard of Trump talking to Stone while he was on the campaign, but it’s possible such calls took place during the evening hours and he simply didn’t know about it

The answer is not all that credible: we know that Stone was calling Trump via multiple channels, including through Keith Schiller during campaign hours, for example. But nevertheless, Bannon claimed not to know anything about calls between Stone and Trump.

Still, right in the middle of sustaining that claim, Bannon told about a meeting that Stone apparently demanded in December 2016 to which he brought his book depicting how he claimed Trump had won — a book in which Stone would later be scrupulously careful not to claim credit for the victory — and, the interview describes, “possibly a folder and notes.”

At the time of that interview in October 2018, Mueller only had one witness we know of who had mentioned those notes: a former employee of Stone’s who had been told the file “was important and that no one should touch it.”

53. On May 8, 2018, a law enforcement interview of [redacted] was conducted. [redacted] was an employee of Stone’s from approximately June 2016 through approximately December 2016 and resided in Stone’s previous New York apartment for a period of time. [redacted] provided information technology support for Stone, but was not f0rmally trained to do so. [redacted] was aware that Stone communicated with Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, and afterward, both in person and by telephone. [redacted] provided information about a meeting at Trump Tower between Trump and Stone during the time [redacted] worked for him, to which Sterne carried a “file booklet” with him. Stone told [redacted] the file booklet was important and that no one should touch it. [redacted] also said Stone maintained the file booklet in his closet.

Given that this person worked for Stone through December 2016, the person’s description of Stone bringing the “file booklet” to a meeting at Trump Tower might even refer to the same meeting Bannon described, that five minute meeting that Trump had tried to avoid that Bannon had been ordered to attend, perhaps to serve as a witness and certainly as a way to ensure that Stone didn’t overstay his welcome.

But some weeks after the Bannon interview, a second witness would come forward and share, second-hand, that those notes were the contemporaneous notes that Stone kept of his “constant” communication with Trump during the campaign.

54. On December 3, 2018, law enforcement conducted an interview of an individual (“Person 1 “) who previously had a professional relationship with a reporter who provided Person 1 with information about Stone. The reporter relayed to Person 1 that in or around January and February 2016, Stone and Trump were in constant communication and that Stone kept contemporaneous notes of the conversations. Stone’s purpose in keeping notes was to later provide a “post mortem of what went wrong.”

Curiously, Mueller’s team didn’t mention Bannon’s inconclusive reference to those notes when they obtained a warrant to search Stone’s homes for them just a week after a January 18, 2019 grand jury appearance by Bannon, and if they knew the December 2016 meeting to be the same one Stone’s employee mentioned, they didn’t let on in their warrant affidavit. Nor is there any public follow-up I’ve noticed in the Bannon interview notes (though the government is withholding a 302 from summer 2019 and probably one from before that grand jury appearance). The copy of Bannon’s grand jury transcript that Stone is so incensed about was redacted, but if Bannon were asked about the notes in that meeting, it would have had to have been disclosed to Stone in advance of the trial.

Still, in the midst of an unconvincing denial of any knowledge that Stone and Trump were in any communication during the campaign, Bannon seems to have described a meeting to which Stone brought proof that he had been in constant communication during the campaign.

Stone is sure that Bannon got a pardon from Trump by blackmailing him.

The rat-fucker would certainly recognize the signs. Amid other forms of lobbying for a pardon, after all, Stone made three appearances that he knew Trump would see in which he made clear he could have avoided prison time if he had shared the content of the 36 conversations with Trump he had during the campaign (though the number varies), the conversations which we know Stone documented in that notebook.

DOBBS: We’re back with Roger Stone. And Roger, do you think you were targeted by Mueller, specifically to get dirt — to put you under pressure to get dirt on President Trump?

STONE: There’s no question whatsoever. After illegal leaks over a year saying I would be charged with treason and conspiracy against the United States, being the link between the Trump campaign and Russia. They indicted me on the flimsiest charges of lying to Congress even though there was no underlying crime for me to lie about. And then on July 24th, 2019, a member of the Mueller’s dirty cop squad approached one of my lawyers proposing a deal. If Stone would be willing to really re-remember the content of some 36 phone calls I had with candidate Trump, and admit that they were about Russia and WikiLeaks, they would be willing to perhaps recommend no jail time and I said, no. This President needs to be reelected, Lou. He is the greatest President in my lifetime, I would never give false testimony against him.

Stone made a record that could be used for blackmail, you see, a record that may have saved Stone from prison time.

And he is now accusing the guy who witnessed Stone presenting that record to Trump of likewise blackmailing Trump for a pardon.

Rudy Giuliani’s Support Role in the Mueller Report

As I showed in the Rat-Fucker Rashomon series, it can be tremendously useful to compare how different inquiries into Russian interference in 2016 tell that story. That’s true not just of Roger Stone; it’s also true of Rudy Giuliani.

By the time SSCI finished its Russia Report, the shape of the 2020 Russian influence campaign was evident, and it shows up, in redacted form, in the final report. As part of that discussion, the SSCI Report deals with Rudy at least once in almost entirely redacted passages about the ongoing influence campaign involving Russian assets in Ukraine. That is, it clearly suggests the trajectory led to the influence campaigns that were still active in 2020.

Perhaps because SSCI had the advantage of seeing where Rudy would end up, it also included a few more details about Rudy from earlier on of interest. For example, before Paul Manafort discussed how to win Pennsylvania and how to carve up Ukraine on August 2, 2016, he met with Trump and Rudy Giuliani in Trump Tower.

Among the details SSCI shows of the Trump campaign exploiting documents leaked to WikiLeaks is a citation to an email, dated October 11, 2016, showing Rudy was in that loop.

When Rick Gates was asked what kind of contact Paul Manafort retained with Trump after he was ousted from the campaign, Gates revealed that Manafort told Gates that Rudy Giuliani was helping him place people in Administration positions.

And PsyGroup’s Joel Zamel claimed that Rudy introduced him to Jared Kushner some months after the inauguration; Kushner and Zamel had a meeting at the White House to discuss “human rights issues in the Middle East, Iran, and ‘counter-extremism’.”

Aside from the detail that Manafort was using Rudy as a side channel to influence the White House, those aren’t necessarily momentous details.

Still, those details show that Rudy was a participant in these events during 2016. And yet, Rudy doesn’t show up as such in discussions about 2016 in the Mueller Report. Rather, Rudy shows up exclusively as Trump’s lawyer, floating the pardons in an attempt to get witnesses to lie to cover up what really happened in 2016.

Rudy — who was not yet formally Trump’s personal counsel — and his current defense attorney, Robert Costello, didn’t succeed in getting Michael Cohen to shield Trump.

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

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

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

But Rudy, acting as part of Joint Defense Agreement in the role of Trump’s personal counsel, did succeed in getting Paul Manafort to lie about what happened on August 2 and efforts to carve up Ukraine in the aftermath.

Immediately following the revocation of Manafort’s bail, the President’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, gave a series of interviews in which he raised the possibility of a pardon for Manafort. Giuliani told the New York Daily News that “[w]hen the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons.” 856 Giuliani also said in an interview that, although the President should not pardon anyone while the Special Counsel’s investigation was ongoing, “when the investigation is concluded, he’s kind of on his own, right?”857 In a CNN interview two days later, Giuliani said, ” I guess I should clarify this once and for all. . . . The president has issued no pardons in this investigation. The president is not going to issue pardons in this investigation …. When it’s over, hey, he’s the president of the United States. He retains his pardon power. Nobody is taking that away from him.”858 Giuliani rejected the suggestion that his and the President’s comments could signal to defendants that they should not cooperate in a criminal prosecution because a pardon might follow, saying the comments were “certainly not intended that way.”859 Giuliani said the comments only acknowledged that an individual involved in the investigation would not be “excluded from [ a pardon], if in fact the president and his advisors .. . come to the conclusion that you have been treated unfairly.”860 Giuliani observed that pardons were not unusual in political investigations but said, “That doesn’t mean they’re going to happen here. Doesn’t mean that anybody should rely on it. … Big signal is, nobody has been pardoned yet.” 561

[snip]

The President said that flipping was “not fair” and “almost ought to be outlawed.”880 ln response to a question about whether he was considering a pardon for Manafort, the President said, “T have great respect for what he’s done, in terms of what he’s gone through …. He worked for many, many people many, many years, and T would say what he did, some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does.”881 Giuliani told journalists that the President “really thinks Manafort has been horribly treated” and that he and the President had discussed the political fallout if the President pardoned Manafort.882 The next day, Giuliani told the Washington Post that the President had asked his lawyers for advice on the possibility of a pardon for Manafort and other aides, and had been counseled against considering a pardon until the investigation concluded.883

On September 14, 2018, Manafort pleaded guilty to charges in the District of Columbia and signed a plea agreement that required him to cooperate with investigators.884 Giuliani was reported to have publicly said that Manafort remained in a joint defense agreement with the President following Manafort’s guilty plea and agreement to cooperate, and that Manafort’s attorneys regularly briefed the President’s lawyers on the topics discussed and the information Manafort had provided in interviews with the Special Counsel’s Office.885 On November 26, 2018, the Special Counsel’s Office disclosed in a public court filing that Manafort had breached his plea agreement by lying about multiple subjects.886 The next day, Giuliani said that the President had been “upset for weeks” about what he considered to be “the un-American, horrible treatment of Manafort.”887

Also, for whatever reason — probably because he had word diarrhea — Rudy provided the best evidence that Trump knowingly lied on his written answers to Mueller when he claimed not to remember the Trump Tower Moscow dangles during the election.

Also in January 2019, Giuliani gave press interviews that appeared to confirm Cohen’s account that the Trump Organization pursued the Trump Tower Moscow project well past January 2016. Giuliani stated that ” it’s our understanding that [discussions about the Trump Moscow project] went on throughout 2016. Weren’t a lot of them, but there were conversations. Can’t be sure of the exact date. But the president can remember having conversations with him about it. The president also remembers-yeah, probably up-could be up to as far as October, November.” 1069

Rudy was treated so persistently as a lawyer in the Mueller Report, but not a participant, that he didn’t even make the Glossary of Referenced Persons.

That’s true even though Rudy did show up in interviews as a topic of interest.

For example, when Mike Flynn was asked on April 25, 2018, just days after Rudy officially became Trump’s defense attorney, who else besides he and Bannon were hunting for Hillary’s missing 33,000 emails, the former Director of Defense Intelligence named Rudy, because he was “a big cyber guy.”

When question[ed] who else might have information about on the email messages, FLYNN mentioned Rudy GIULIANI. GIULIANI was “a big cyber guy” who have a speech on the topic in Tel Aviv. GIULIANI had a ton of contacts and traveled quite a bit with TRUMP (FLYNN surmised approximately half of the time). GIULIANI had a certainty that the emails were out there and available. GIULIANI would have said this directly to TRUMP. The natural response from TRUMP was “why the hell could they not find them?”

After two more questions (about Barbara Ledeen’s efforts), Mueller’s team returned to Rudy. This time, former Director of Defense Intelligence explained that if Rudy said something, you could be sure it was factual.

GIULIANI had contacts at the FBI, though he was pretty “close hold” on who he spoke with there. If GIULIANI said something, you could take it to the bank as factual, FLYNN believed that GIULIANI acted in a manner which indicated had specific knowledge related to the emails. FLYNN reviewed GIULIANI’s speech for Tel Aviv, made some comments, and gave it back to GIULIANI. GIULIANI did not name drop. GIULIANI popped in throughout the campaign to help with certain events. FLYNN did not know if GIULIANI knew Russia hacked the DNC.

Two more questions later, in response to a question about whether Jeff Sessions attempted to find the emails, Flynn brought up Rudy again.

FLYNN was asked whether SESSIONS or CHRISTIE made any efforts to find an answer based on their law enforcement backgrounds. SESSIONS did not make any effort at all. GIULIANI had deeper discussion on the issue with the campaign. CHRISTIE was somewhere between the two in regards to effort. CHRISTIE always seemed to “puff” about what he could do. FLYNN observed that GIULIANI and CHRISTIE had extensive connections and contact in New York. They constantly brought information back to the campaign. They did not do a lot of name dropping but there was a certainty to their information. FLYNN did not remember either of them saying they had contact with WikiLeaks.

Several more questions later, Flynn raised Rudy again in a discussion of whether anyone reached out to other countries for the emails.

Flynn opined that if Russia had them, then China, Iran, and North Korea also had them. Those countries had the cyber capabilities to get them and CLINTON was the Secretary of State. FLYNN also thought hactivist groups operating in the [sic] Ukraine could have them. It was also likely Israel had them. FLYNN did not recall specific discussions on reaching out to these countries to find out what they had. GIULIANI could have reached out to Israel but FLYNN did not know.

In an interview six days later, Mueller’s team asked Flynn more about the role of the guy who had just become Trump’s defense attorney.

FLYNN did not recall Rudy GIULIANI saying specifically what he was doing to learn more about the missing email messages. GIULIANI seemed insightful to FLYNN on knowing when news would break. GIULIANI was working on cyber policy for TRUMP. FLYNN was not sure if GIULIANI got his information from the news or from actual contacts. FLYNN attended a couple of meetings at Trump Tower where GIULIANI was present. GIULIANIs conversations were always that Wikileaks would release the missing email messages, not Russia. FLYNN thought Russia would wait to see who won the election. If CLINTON won, Russia could then use them for leverage over her. Wikileaks claimed to have the desire to put information out in the public to damage CLINTON.

FLYNN did not participate in any conversations with GIULIANI that indicated GIULIANI “cast his net” with his contacts. GIULIANI was one of a number of people around TRUMP’s inner circle. GIULIANI agreed on who was behind the hack but was not really certain. GIULIANI was a close hold guy but might share what he was hearing. FLYNN recently saw a clip that during the campaign, GIULIANI said during an interview that there were more leaks to come. FLYNN recalled that was the kind of thing GIULIANI would say with certainty related to cyber. FLYNN listened to GIULIANI who came across as a judge and made remarks as though they were facts.

I have not done a systematic review of all this (and earlier releases are too redacted to be of much use on such issues). But it’s not just Flynn who had something interesting to say about Rudy. When discussing the Transition (and egregiously downplaying his own role in foreign policy), for example, Steve Bannon described the tension during the Transition because both Jeff Sessions and Rudy wanted to be Secretary of State. “Bannon thought Giuliani would have issues in his confirmation if he was nominated as Secretary of State, however, because of some of his companies and foreign contacts,” Bannon explained, acknowledging even then that Rudy was a foreign influence peddling risk.

Perhaps it’s because, when Rudy became Trump’s defense attorney, it made any inquiry into his role in 2016 awkward. But even though Rudy was a participant in all this, and even though Mike Flynn thought he might be the most likely person to “cast his net” for ways to pursue stolen emails, it’s not clear how aggressively the Mueller team considered what role Rudy had.

Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, and the Ongoing Investigation into Cambridge Analytica

Steve Bannon responded to what may have been Alexander Nix’s pitch to reach out to Julian Assange to help find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails in June 2016 by responding, “Love it.”

DOJ has hidden that email in a series of FOIA releases to BuzzFeed under a b7A redaction, claiming an ongoing investigation prevents its release.

DOJ also continues to hide Roger Stone’s possible involvement in all this.

We can unpack what that email means by piecing together the multiple releases of Steve Bannon’s interviews and backup material liberated by BuzzFeed, which I’ve laid out in this post.

Bannon was first asked about this email — which DOJ released with b7B redactions related to the pending Roger Stone trial — in his February 14, 2018 interview, at which Bannon made a lot of claims that violently conflict with the now public record. Bannon claimed not to remember the email and also claimed not to know whether the person who sent the email ever did reach out to this person. The redactions show that the person in question had a 3-character name, meaning Nix is almost certainly the person at Cambridge Analytica who sent it. And the date of the email, June 12, is the same day that Assange said he had Hillary’s emails, the Assange comments in response to which Nix has said he did reach out.

DOJ released another copy of the same email when it released more of the backup to Bannon’s interviews earlier this month. DOJ redacted the previously released passages under privacy exemptions, and redacted the previously unredacted date under an ongoing b7A exemption. So it’s useless to help determine the full content of the email.

But it makes it possible to connect the email to Bannon’s second explanation of it in his October 28, 2018 interview. Bannon’s attempts to claim that “Love it” means “I don’t love it” were no more convincing in his October 2018 interview than they were in his February 2018 interview. Though by the end of his answer, Bannon admitted that, as someone who ran a media company and not yet a campaign, “there wasn’t any reason why doing it would be wrong.”

In this second explanation of the email, Bannon makes it quite clear that this was part of his effort to find Hillary’s missing 33,000 emails — the same purpose which Alexander Nix has admitted his outreach to Assange served. It appears that this email is a different one than the one that has been reported in the past, where Nix told Rebekah Mercer and someone else who was not (as Bannon was not yet) on the campaign that he had reached out to Assange.

If that’s right, then it’s unclear why the Congressional committees didn’t get this email, or indeed, why SSCI had to rely on the Daily Beast report of the outreach that purportedly sourced to Congressional investigators.

In that second interview, Bannon also described the coverage in 2017, which again strongly suggests this is Nix reaching out to Assange.

But that may not be the most important part of this email.

The passages from Bannon’s February 2018 interview that got reprocessed after Stone’s trial show that the second question after the one about this June 12 email prompted Bannon to explain how he met Stone. There’s even a question about whether Bannon introduced someone — again, a three letter name — to Stone. Stone and this person didn’t have a relationship, Bannon said, but the person was “trying to get business from Stone.” Bannon said he may have introduced the two.

Then there are a series of questions about other emails, several of which were withheld, probably under b7A redactions. Those include:

Bannon’s explanation for the second May 4 email is that it relates to Stone’s May 7 email (described as “Document #17).

All this seems to suggest that, even before Nix reached out to Julian Assange, he or someone else at CA and Stone were in discussions about a very sizable data project.

The Mike Flynn Interviews, with Backup

A few weeks ago, the government turned over the backup to some Mueller interviews, including a number of Flynn interviews, at least one Steve Bannon interview, and a Corey Lewandowski one.

I’ve long been tracking the public Mike Flynn interview records (one, two, three). This post is an update incorporating, best as I could, the backup materials along with the interview reports. One primary Mueller interview may remain outstanding, along with his EDVA interviews regarding secretly being an Agent of Turkey.

Generally, the headings consist of one of three things:

  • My summary of what got included in the Mueller Report (which is helpful to see what is new to this declassification)
  • “Missing” and/or EDVA, which is a reflection of what Bijan Kian’s lawyers claimed they had gotten by June 2019
  • New, with a description of the content

The backup fleshes out what Flynn was questioned about, and what remains sensitive. The government has released maybe half of the emails and pictures that Flynn was questioned about in interviews, based on the references to such things in the interviews themselves. In general, if BuzzFeed got the backup material, the link I’ve added should link directly to that item.

But key kinds of materials were withheld. For example, the following were withheld:

  • Communications surrounding a 2016 Egyptian meeting (which Mueller suspected may have involved a bribe)
  • A Kushner Blueprint for Russia sent to Flynn on January 1, 2017
  • To the extent Flynn was shown it in interviews, the David Ignatius story reporting the Kislyak calls; that was generally withheld both for classification but also ongoing investigation (reflecting John Durham’s leak investigation into it)
  • A January 5, 2017 email referencing the Logan Act
  • An email about the Steele dossier
  • A July 24, 2016 email involving Flynn making it clear he recognized Russia had hacked the DNC; Flynn would equivocate on the subject in the weeks after that

1. November 16, 2017: Trump appoint Flynn as NSA, first call with Putin, Israel vote, communications with Kislyak, December Kislyak call

Mueller attendees: James Quarles, Aaron Zebley, Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad

Entered: January 5, 2018

Nine months after Mike Flynn got fired, ostensibly for lying to the Vice President, Mueller’s team invited him for a mulligan on his January 24, 2017 interview in which he lied several times to the FBI. In advance discussions about that interview, Brandon Van Grack alerted Flynn’s lawyers that there were likely things Mueller’s team knew that Flynn’s did not.

There is information that you or your client might not be aware of. From where we’re sitting, there might still be value in sitting down with your client. We have a good sense of what Flynn knows and what Flynn doesn’t know.

As one indication of how badly Flynn had misled his attorneys, Rob Kelner expressed surprise that Flynn might be exposed for false statements from his interview at the White House.

Frankly, we are surprised by that. That is not consistent with what we have learned from press reports and other sources.

Zainab Ahmad warned,

You don’t know everything he knows.

This first interview, then, might be considered a test, whether Flynn was willing to tell the truth about his actions and those of Trump’s associates. He failed.

The interview front-loaded general information (how he came to work for Trump, though even there, later interviews would offer slightly different details as to timing), and questions about topics that Flynn was a tangential participant in — the DNC emails, the June 9 meeting, meetings with Egypt and Mueller’s suspicion that Trump got $10 million from them, ties with Qatar, Manafort’s role in the platform change, Brad Parscale’s operation, an the hush hush meeting with the UAE.

Only after asking questions about all that did Mueller’s team ask Flynn the same questions the FBI had asked him nine months earlier. He answered the questions the same way. He lied to hide the specific requests of Russia on Egypt’s UN proposal and he lied about whether he had discussed sanctions with Sergey Kislyak and discussed them with the Transition team at Mar-a-Lago with Trump.

Topics:

  • How he came to work for Trump
  • The $10 million campaign contribution (Mueller suspected it to be sourced from Egypt)
  • Hillary’s emails (Flynn lied and claimed he had never looked for them)
  • The DNC emails (Flynn lied about discussions about the topic)
  • No knowledge about June 9 meeting
  • The meeting with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (and those suspected of brokering it); Flynn later admitted he met with Egyptians on more than one occasion
  • A reference to Qatar
  • Flynn’s views about Manafort, including the platform change
  • Flynn’s views on Russia
  • Flynn’s review of Parscale’s operations
  • Early congratulation calls, including Egypt, a botched one to Taiwan, and the first call with Putin
  • The meeting with Kislyak (Flynn claimed a back channel did not come up)
  • The call with Sergey Kislyak on 12/6/16, which he always insisted he didn’t remember, and a follow-up on December 7
  • The UAE meeting in NY
  • The UN vote (Flynn repeated his lies from earlier that year, twice)
  • The sanctions discussion (Flynn repeated his lies from earlier that year)

Backup

  • 9/15/16 email to Bannon regarding Egypt (A)
  • 12/7/16 email RE: Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (regarding deferring all conversations until after inauguration) (B and C)
  • 3/27/2017 NYT article describing Kushner meeting (D)
  • 12/12/16 meeting keep UAE meeting to small circle (E)
  • Another email on Egypt

That night, Flynn’s lawyers told him he had botched the interview.

That same evening, after concluding the first proffer, we returned to the Covington offices where my attorneys told me that the first day’s proffer did not go well and then proceeded to walk me through a litany of conceivable charges I was facing and told me that I was looking at the possibility of “fifteen years in prison.”

2, November 17, 2017: Israel vote, December Kislyak call, especially comms with Mar a Lago, re Ignatius Flynn said he had not talked sanctions, Mar a Lago with Trump, Flynn’s last meeting with Trump, “we’ll take care of you”

Mueller attendees: James Quarles, Aaron Zebley, Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad (Zebley and Quarles in and out)

Entered: 1/5/18

According to Flynn, overnight his attorneys coached him on language to

“get through” the next day’s proffer and satisfy the special counsel.

Flynn shaded the truth in his November 17 interview — about the Trump Transitions contacts with their predecessors, about his discussions about sanctions with KT McFarland and Steve Bannon, about why he left no written record of having discussed sanctions. Still, it was a better interview, and after being confronted with just a selection of the communications that had recorded these communications in real time, his story edged closer to the truth, even while denying things (such as the explicit nod to their calls from Kislyak) that were in FISA transcripts. Among the things Flynn admitted that day was that he “knew he got involved in U.S. policy when he called KISLYAK.”

In addition, Flynn provided Mueller’s team what must have been important insight. He said that when he resigned, “TRUMP was tired and visibly shaken or upset.” But then when Sean Spicer explained his resignation, “It bugged FLYNN that SPICER said he (FLYNN) had been untruthful.” Flynn’s sense of betrayal would, at times, be powerful motivation for his cooperation with Mueller, until it wasn’t anymore.

Topics:

  • Calls with Kislyak, including January 12 one, (several iterations); Flynn lies abt Bossert speaking with Monaco, claims not to remember specifics of discussion with McFarland, makes excuses for not including sanctions in email, then backtracked somewhat, makes excuse for not telling Trump, claims he didn’t discuss it with Bannon
  • Flynn’s lies to others, including knights of the round table
  • His first FBI interview (several iterations)
  • Covington asks who he spoke with after the call, includes people (like Ted Gistaro) whom he didn’t tell
  • His resignation

Backup

  • 12/29/16 Text messages to Sara Flaherty (possible some withheld on b3) (A)
  • Some exhibit (possibly call records) eliciting a discussion about whether he and Michael Ledeen spoke about sanctions (B)
  • 12/30/16 email from McFarland relaying the talking points (C)
  • D [possibly comms from after he spoke with Kislyak]
  • 12/31/16 Keith Kellogg email (E)
  • Probably Ignatius article

Ongoing: Individual words redacted to hide an investigation into Ignatius’ source

3. November 20, 2017: Whether he told others at MAL, response to Ignatius

Mueller attendees: James Quarles, Aaron Zebley, Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad

Entered : 1/5/18

On November 20, Flynn inched still closer to the truth about what happened during the Transition period. He clarified a key detail about the $10 million infusion of cash that, Mueller suspected, had come from Egypt. Flynn described how Trump blamed him for not informing Trump that Vladimir Putin had been the first to call Trump after inauguration — something Trump had told Jim Comey.

And after being shown texts of the communications he had with Mar-a-Lago surrounding his calls with Sergey Kislyak, he effectively admitted that he had coordinated with Mar-a-Lago. There were still gaps. He had no explanation for why there was a meeting between him, KT McFarland, and Trump at 5PM, which would have been shortly after his call with Kislyak. Flynn inched closer to admitting that he and McFarland had agreed to leave mention of sanctions out of his text summarizing the call. And he admitted that he may have spoken about the sanctions discussion in some meetings with Steve Bannon at the latter’s townhome after the calls.

Once Flynn’s admissions about his own actions got closer to the truth, Mueller’s team asked him questions about Jared Kushner’s actions, especially a secret meeting with Mohammed bin Zayed in mid-December 2016.

Topics:

  • The Infusion of cash (correcting earlier explanation)
  • Theresa May arrival (included in Comey’s notes)
  • Calls with Kislyak (including texts with Flaherty)
  • Texts excluding sanction discussion
  • Meeting with Trump at 5PM on 12/29
  • Meeting with Bannon
  • Kushner’s blueprint for Russia
  • McFarland January 5, 2017 email
  • January 6, 2017 ICA briefing
  • Dossier
  • Cohen’s Ukraine plan
  • Someone who also believed CIA was bloated (and discussed UAE and Libya)
  • Seychelles meeting
  • Egypt package

Backup

Classified: Rex Tillerson? Some details about early January

Ongoing: Two b7A paragraphs in follow-up to Egypt package

4. November 21, 2017: Whether he told others at MAL, response to Ignatius, meeting with Trump [Missing]

Mueller attendees: James Quarles, Aaron Zebley, Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad; Mueller, briefly; Zebley left

Entered: 1/5/18

Having given Mueller’s team a passable explanation for his own actions, they focused the last interview on fine tuning that — particularly his admission to discussing the sanctions with Bannon — while getting him to talk about all the times he had been thrown under the bus by those who were in the know on the sanctions discussion, Bannon and McFarland.

Mueller’s team also got him to go over Kushner’s involvement in foreign policy, the relationship with Egypt, and the UAE meeting.

Topics:

  • Logan Act
  • Bannon’s townhouse (Bannon already knew content of conversation)
  • Knights of the round table meeting, Bannon and McFarland silent
  • Another instance of being thrown under the bus
  • Kushner on Mexico
  • Egypt
  • Rick Gerson and Tony Blair, the UAE meeting (April 2017 Flynn contact with Gerson)

Backup [large b4 redactions likely hiding a bunch]

  • Email on el-Sisi meeting
  • 9/16/16 email between Ivanka and Phares
  • Photo of Rick Gerson
  • Kushner email on keeping meeting small

Large b4 redactions (trade secrets), addressing two topics, which leads into Kushner on foreign policy.

5. November 29, 2017: Peter Smith [Missing]

Mueller attendees: Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad

Entered: 1/5/18

The November 29, 2017 meeting, when the two sides were already discussing a plea deal, seems to be focused on answering questions that Mueller’s team didn’t know the answers to, unlike the prior proffers. This covered some of Flynn’s other legal exposure (such as his non-disclosure of foreign travel on his clearance form and his financial disclosure), just bits about his ties with Turkish officials, WikiLeaks and the Peter Smith attempt to find Hillary’s email, as well as other election year digital activities.

The interview ended with a discussion about language in a draft statement of offense admitting that Flynn had initially not told the government that he and Steve Bannon discussed sanctions. That language was cut from the final statement of offense, but it provides important background to interviews with others, including McFarland and Bannon.

Topics:

  • Op-ed on Libya relying on WikiLeaks docs
  • Discussions about WikiLeaks having Hillary’s emails, no direct contact
  • WikiLeaks following Flynn starting in October or November 2016, DMs him on 12/5/16
  • An NSC hire
  • Flynn notes on index cards
  • Meeting with Turkish officials, including sitting with Foreign Minister at Trump International Hotel in January
  • More Turkish
  • Svetlana Lokhova, including congratulations sent after election
  • Jobs after DIA
  • Meetings Flynn set up
  • Foreign travel not included in SF-86, financial disclosure
  • Peter Smith (original contact cyber business), probably downplaying extent of their contacts
  • Rick Gates during transition
  • Putin congratulatory phone call (possibly different details than original version), asked about a “signal”
  • Rick Gerson notes on 12/14/16
  • WikiStrat
  • PsyGroup
  • Donbass
  • Meeting with Susan Rice
  • Strong dollar
  • Bannon townhouse language in statement of offense

Backup

  • 10/6/16 Curtis Ellis email, possibly relating to an op-ed on Libya, using classified information that had shown up on WikiLeaks
  • Possible b7A
  • Possible SF-86 and financial disclosure form
  • 12/4/16 notebook entries re Rick Gerson meeting
  • Possible media report that Trump asked him about strong dollar

b7E redactions

Ongoing: Four b7A redactions in discussion of what he did after he left DIA.

6. January 11, 2018: November 30 meeting with Kislyak [Missing]

Mueller attendees: Brandon Van Grack, James Quarles

Entered: 2/22/18

Starts with admonishment.

In Flynn’s first interview after pleading guilty, Mueller’s team asked him more generic details — about how he used his classified phone, whether he used encrypted apps, whether he knew about the Seychelles meeting. It’s not clear he told truth about those questions or not, but he did provide other useful information, such as how often Erik Prince was at Transition headquarters.

Topics:

  • Classified emails
  • Flynn claims he only used classified phone with Susan Rice
  • Encrypted apps (he preferred Signal), especially whether Bannon and Kushner used them
  • Kislyak meeting, starting w/12/1/16 (obtained his bio), still claimed no back channel, did not recall sanctions discussion
  • UN calls (including Nikki Haley’s, Bannon’s involvement)
  • Rebuff of Manafort’s 1/15/17 email (Manafort at National Prayer Breakfast)
  • UAE meeting
  • Another discussion of fire-the-CIA guy (could be Prince)
  • Prince at Trump Tower on daily basis, no knowledge of Seychelles
  • Kevin Harrington: Russia trying to usurp US role
  • Gitmo transfer
  • Parscale meeting in September 2016
  • Whom he has heard from post-plea

Backup:

Ongoing: Two b7A paragraphs between discussion of Manafort and Egyptian.

7. January 19, 2018: Flynn did not have specific recollection about telling POTUS on January 3, 2017

Mueller attendees: Brandon Van Grack, James Quarles, Andrew Goldstein

Entered: 6/21/18 [note: several other 302s have an entry date of 5/21, so this may be a typo]

In Flynn’s January 19, 2018 interview, he protected the President. He said, over and over, that he had no idea if he had spoken directly with Trump about sanctions, or even what he had said to KT McFarland. The Mueller team did not prompt him with information that might have been useful to force him to admit that he had told Trump.

Flynn did, however, admit that Trump had a better understanding of the timeline of Flynn’s calls with Kislyak than Flynn did, including a probable reference to Trump’s involvement in the December 22 call about Egypt.

This 302 was not finalized until June 21, a testament to how important Flynn’s claim not to remember discussing this with Trump was to Mueller’s case.

Topics:

  • Contacts with Mar-a-Lago, claims he assumed McFarland talked to Priebus and Bannon
  • Meeting with Bannon on 1/1/17
  • Whether it came up on 1/3/17
  • Ignatius, now says he’s worried he broke the law
  • His interview (with b5 that may have covered discussion within WH afterwards)
  • Trump corrects his date
  • Whether Trump specified calls with Daily Caller
  • Correcting Nikki Haley on Crimea

Backup:

  • Possibly Ignatius article

8. January 24, 2018: [New] Questions about George Nader and Erik Prince

Mueller attendees: Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad

Entered: 2/22/18

This interview took place in the wake of the George Nader detention at the airport, and reflects the first review of Nader’s phone. Prince was also a focus.

Topics:

  • Whether he recognized Nader
  • How Flynn arrived to the MbZ meeting and what was discussed
  • Whether Russia was discussed
  • Flynn’s meeting with Rick Gerson in December (which Tony Blair attended)
  • Erik Prince’s plans to outsource the IC and whether he was getting $$ from UAE
  • Prince’s presence in Trump Tower after the election
  • Extended b7A discussion

Backup:

9. April 25, 2018: Peter Smith

Mueller attendees: Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad, Andrew Weissmann, Aaron Zelinsky

Entered: 5/21/18

On April 25, 2018, after most Trump associates had had their first interviews and the Mueller team had begun to unravel Roger Stone’s role, Flynn had his first interview discussing those issues. It appears he shaded the truth, disclaiming to have been certain that Russia had hacked the DNC and disclaiming awareness of all the discussions in the campaign about WikiLeaks.

Nevertheless, Flynn likely said things at this interview that betrayed knowledge of far more, even if he didn’t understand that.

Topics:

  • How he got involved in the campaign, including discussions of Russia and Sam Clovis’ role in it, dates involvement from 2/22/16; officially joined June 2016
  • RT trip
  • Regular contact with retired military officer, including email 6/29/16
  • DNC hack, Flynn claims he was uncertain abt attribution [break to walk Flynn through specific dates], Ledeen on missing emails, no memory of Stone, contact with FBI
  • Debate prep included “leverage” discussions about Assange, Flynn did not know under indictment (??)

Backup:

10. May 1, 2018: Peter Smith

Mueller attendees: Brandon Van Grack, Aaron Zelinsky

Entered: 5/21/18

In this interview, Stone prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky tried to pinpoint Flynn’s vague memories from August 2016, specifically regarding his first flight with the campaign on August 3, 2016, in the middle of a period when Stone was in close contact with the campaign about WikiLeaks. In this interview, Flynn admitted that he had much higher certainty that Russia had done the hack than he had said weeks earlier.

Mueller’s team also asked him what amount to counterintelligence questions and started to figure out who in the FBI was undermining their case in Flynn’s name.

The meeting ended with a question about who used his IC badge to enter a classified facility on April 3, 2017.

Topics:

  • First trip on plane was 8/3/16, to Jacksonville, Flynn’s own assessment would be high likelihood Russia did the hack
  • Russian born investment capitalist talked about Clinton’s emails a lot
  • WikiLeaks reaches out to Flynn on 6/22/16 via publisher (recurring)
  • Flynn email 7/24/16 about attribution showing certainty–he walked back his certainty by August 3
  • Series of emails with someone military who moved to DIA, around first meeting with Manafort on 6/23/16
  • Question abt bots and social media
  • Email 11/2/16 may have clicked on the link
  • Trump’s 7/27/16 comment, specifically asked if Stone put it in his head
  • Contact in USDI
  • Retired general
  • 6/29/16 email from someone he was respectful of
  • Email 9/10/16 about speaking to Russia on Syria, someone pro-Russian
  • Dmitri Simes
  • Email sent to someone he met in August 2015 on 8/20/16
  • Contacts in FBI
  • Digital response team v. Parscales
  • Email 10/9/16 with link to Podesta
  • Extended discussion of Erik Prince, including transition
  • DIA visit on 4/3/17 (discussion about his IC badge)

Backup

Ongoing: Two b7A paragraphs abt discreet subject/person between discussion about WikiLeaks and about Prince.

11. May 4, 2018: [New: Manafort, Ledeen, and badging]

Mueller attendees: Brandon Van Grack, Aaron Zelinsky

Entered: 5/21/18

The next meeting started with the unexplained use of his badge (Flynn claimed he still hadn’t found it). It hit on his efforts to find Hillary’s emails with Barbara Ledeen, their search for the emails on servers in Ukraine, and a long call Flynn had with Manafort in June, when the WikiLeaks effort first began.

Topics:

  • Use of his badge 4/3/17
  • Barbara Ledeen, including password protected email on 10/29/16
  • Servers in Ukraine
  • Micro-targeting
  • Hour-long call with Manafort on 6/23/16; first met Manafort on 6/30/16
  • The dossier and ICA briefing
  • Transition meeting, some Captain sharing information, and KT McFarland

Backup:

12. May 17, 2018: [New: Ledeen’s tampering]

Mueller attendees: Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad

Entered: 6/1/18

Most of this meeting focused on ways that Flynn’s people were undermining the investigation, with a focus on Barbara Ledeen and Sara Carter (who published several false stories about the investigation). It also returned to the issue of what secure communications he used.

Topics:

  • Ledeen’s probes of the investigation
  • Sarah Carter’s propaganda (starting with possible immunity on 3/30/16)
  • Discussions about the investigation
  • Secure communications

Backup:

13. May 23, 2018:

Mueller attendees: Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad

Entered: 5/29/18

While this meeting returned focus to two key prongs of the Middle Eastern part of this investigation, UAE and Qatar, it also probed more about Flynn’s current job and the FBI agents tracking his case.

Topics:

  • Qatar
  • 12/12/16 Trump Tower meeting, possibly with QIA
  • His then-current consulting gig
  • FBI agents, including retired, who are tracking his case

Backup

  • Picture from QIA meeting

b3: An entire discussion covered by b3

14. June 13, 2018: [EDVA, Missing]

15. June 14, 2018: [EDVA, Missing]

16. June 25, 2018: [EDVA, Missing]

17. July 26, 2018, [EDVA, Missing, possibly two 302s]

18. September 17, 2018: [New: someone else’s tampering, probably Derek Harvey]

Mueller attendees: Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad

Entered: 9/28/18

The entirety of this, Flynn’s last meeting with the Mueller team, seems to focus on the role of Derek Harvey, whom Flynn hired into the NSC, and who played a key role in helping Devin Nunes undermine the entire investigation.

Topics:

  • Relationship with someone on HPSCI, probably Derek Harvey

September 26, 2018: Proffer response on meetings with Foresman

January 28, 2019: [EDVA Missing]

February 28, 2019: EDVA

April 5, 2019: [EDVA Missing]

June 6, 2019: EDVA — Flynn blows up his plea deal

Government Refuses to Let Steve Bannon Sneak Away from His Federal Fraud Indictment

On February 11, Steve Bannon’s pardon was lodged in his federal docket with no explanation, entered with a date of January 19. As compared to the Mike Flynn pardon, there was no DOJ request to dismiss the prosecution nor an indication that Bannon had accepted it.

Apparently, on February 18, Bannon’s lawyer wrote Judge Analisa Torres an email requesting that she dismiss the indictment against Bannon. In response, yesterday the government submitted a letter agreeing that Bannon can be terminated from the docket and have his bond returned, but opposing that the indictment be dismissed.

As prosecutors explain, a pardon is only meant to forgive punishment, it is not intended to forget the crime. And if the court dismissed the indictment, prosecutors point out, it would have consequences beyond the pardon.

The fact that Bannon was pardoned does not extinguish the fact that a grand jury found probable cause to believe that he committed the offenses set forth in the Indictment, nor does it undercut the evidence of his involvement therein which the Government expects to elicit as part of its presentation at trial. Were the Court to dismiss the Indictment against Bannon, it could have a broader effect than the pardon itself, among other things potentially relieving Bannon of certain consequences not covered by the pardon.

[snip]

Accordingly, because Bannon does not set forth any legal authority for the proposition that a court should dismiss an indictment following a pardon, and the only stated basis for his request is to “clarify” his status, the Court should deny the request.

The government also demands that Bannon file the letter in the docket.

Finally, the Court should direct Bannon to publicly file his February 18th letter on the docket. Bannon’s counsel submitted the letter to the Court by email—and therefore effectively under seal—because, in his view, “Bannon should no longer be a defendant in the case.” However, until the defendant is administratively terminated, he remains a named defendant and more important, Bannon’s status in the case is not a basis to make his submission under seal.

The government submitted the filing on the same day that CNN reported an accelerating state investigation into Bannon for the same crimes.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has subpoenaed financial records related to Steve Bannon’s crowd-funding border-wall effort, signaling that its criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s chief strategist is advancing, according to people familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors sent the subpoenas after Trump pardoned Bannon in late January for federal conspiracy crimes tied to the southern border-wall project, making Bannon among the Trump world figures — including the former president — subjects of criminal investigations by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance.

The grand jury subpoenas were sent to Wells Fargo, one of the financial institutions that handled some of the accounts used in the fundraising effort, and to GoFundMe, the crowdfunding platform where Bannon’s project, “We Build the Wall,” once operated, the people said.

The state grand jury investigation revives the possibility that Bannon, the conservative and outspoken political strategist, could face state criminal charges after shedding the federal case last month.

In addition to the criminal investigation, the New Jersey attorney general’s office has launched a civil inquiry into We Build the Wall. In September, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs subpoenaed We Build the Wall for documents seeking a wide range of records, according to court filings.

This all suggests that Bannon may be in a far worse place for having obtained a Trump pardon.

In mentioning its intent to elicit testimony of Bannon’s actions in the letter, the government seems to be alluding to the fact that Bannon is a named co-conspirator. They will want (and need) to introduce his actions and statements as a co-conspirator into evidence to convict the others. Thus, it is important for prosecutors that he remain a named — albeit pardoned — co-conspirator in the Federal crimes.

Forcing Bannon’s attorney to submit the letter in the docket itself will effectively force him to officially accept the pardon, which prosecutors will then argue is admission of guilt, making the co-conspirator evidence from him even more valuable by association.

The public filing may also be necessary before Cy Vance can request the grand jury materials from Judge Torres, as referenced in the CNN piece.

And, of course, rather than facing a sentence at some Club Fed prison, Bannon might now be facing a crappier New York State prison like Rikers.

All that’s before any other federal charges facing Bannon related for foreign influence peddling.

It was never going to be easy for Bannon to pull off a Trump pardon. Thus far, his attorney Robert Costello may be making things worse.

Productive Ways to Hold Trump Accountable

On Friday, Jonathan Rauch published a god-awful argument for pardoning Trump. Today, Quinta Jurecic published a much better argument that a Truth Commission would be the ideal way to hold Trump accountable, but because that probably won’t work, we need to pursue other alternatives, including prosecution.

I’ve already laid out one reason why I think we need to prosecute Trump for his role in the insurrection: because if we don’t, it’ll hamper the ability to hold dangerous people accountable. Another reason is that so many defendants are excusing their actions because the then-President ordered them to storm the Capitol (indeed, that’s one reason, according to a new WaPo report, why DOJ might not charge some of the insurrectionists), the government must make it clear that order was illegal.

Still, I think there are solutions to the problem that both Rauch and Jurecic want to resolve: how to find accountability without derailing President Biden’s Administration.

Jurecic acknowledges that Republican resistance to accountability measures will exacerbate current political divisions.

[A] post-Trump investigation pursued along partisan lines could be doomed from the start. This is the irony: The exact conditions that led to and sustained the Trump era—white grievance, a polluted media ecosystem, and political polarization—are the same conditions that will likely prevent a truth commission from succeeding.

[snip]

In the short run, any of these measures could risk making the country’s social and political divisions worse.

Rauch argues that prosecutions will derail the Biden Administration.

If we want Biden’s presidency to succeed, accountability to be restored and democracy to be strengthened, then a pardon would likely do more good than harm.

Consider, first, Biden’s presidency.

Biden has made clear in every way he can that he does not want or intend to be President Not Trump. He has his own agenda and has been impressively disciplined about not being defined by opposition to Trump. He knows Trump will try to monopolize the news and public discourse for the next four years, and he needs Trump instead to lose the oxygen of constant public attention.

Legal proceedings against Trump, or even the shadow of legal proceedings, would only keep Trump in the headlines.

Rauch also argues (fancifully, for precisely the reasons Jurecic gives that a Truth Commission would be undermined by polarization) that a non-criminal counterintelligence investigation will succeed in a way criminal investigations won’t.

It is important, then, that Trump’s presidency be subjected to a full-scale, post hoc counterintelligence scrub. There should be a public element, modeled on the 9/11 commission, and also a nonpublic, classified element. Both elements could be complicated and hindered by the criminal investigation of Trump. The criminal and counterterrorism investigations would need to be continually deconflicted; Congress would be asked to back away from inquiries and witnesses that step on prosecutors’ toes; Trump himself could plead the Fifth Amendment—an avenue not open to him were he to accept a pardon.

Ignoring for the moment the necessity of including Trump in an investigation into January 6, I agree that, to the extent possible, there needs to be some kind of accounting of what happened during the Trump Administration without turning it into partisan warfare.

Here are some ways to contribute to doing that.

Drain the swamp

Investigations into Trump for things that either are already (Russia or Ukraine) or can be (the election) turned into a tribal issue will absolutely exacerbate political division.

But there are some topics where former Trump supporters can quickly be shown how he hurt them.

For example, an inquiry into Trump’s trade war, especially into the harm done to farmers, will provide a way to show that Trump really devastated a lot of the rural voters who, for tribal reasons, nevertheless support him.

Or Trump’s grifting. In the wake of the Steve Bannon pardon, a number of Trump supporters were furious that Bannon was pardoned for cheating them, even while rioters or other more favored pardon candidates were not. Bannon’s not the only Trump grifter whose corruption demonstrably hurt Trump voters. There’s Brad Parscale’s grifting. There’s Jared Kushner’s favoritism in COVID contracting, which made the country less safe. There’s PPP abuse by big corporations at the expense of small businesses. None of this has to be explicitly about Trump; it can instead be an effort to crack down on corruption generally which by its very nature will affect Trump’s flunkies.

Have Trump dead-enders approve charges

With the exception of some egregious US Attorneys, Biden has asked the remaining US Attorneys to stay on for the moment. That defers any political blowback in the case of John Durham (who in addition to being CT US Attorney is also investigating the Russian investigation) and David Weiss (who is investigating Hunter Biden).

But it also allows people who are nominally Trump appointees to preside over at least the charging of existing investigations targeting Trump or his flunkies. The one place this is known to be true is in Southern District of New York (where Rudy is being investigated). It might be true in DC US Attorney’s office (though Billy Barr shut a lot of investigations, including into Roger Stone and Erik Prince, down). There’s Texas, where Ken Paxton is under investigation.There were hints of investigations into Jared in Eastern District of New York and, possibly, New Jersey.

If Trump US Attorneys aren’t replaced before they charge Trump or his allies, then the act of prosecution will be one approved by a Trump appointee.

Give Republicans what they think they want

Because they’re gullible, Republicans believe that the record of the Russian investigation shows corruption. What is in fact the case is that a cherry-picked and selectively-redacted set of records from the Russian investigation can be gaslit to claim corruption.

But since they’ve been clambering for Trump to declassify it all (even while both John Ratcliffe and Andrew McCabe have suggested that might not show what Republicans expect), it gives Biden’s Administration a way to declassify more. For example, there’s at least one Flynn-Kislyak transcript (from December 22, 2016) that Trump’s Administration chose not to release, one with closer Trump involvement then the others. There are materials on Alex Jones’ interactions with Guccifer 2.0. There are Peter Strzok notes showing him exhibiting no ill-will to Mike Flynn. There are records regarding Paul Manafort’s interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik on April 2016. That’s just the tip of an iceberg of very damning Russian-related records that Trump chose not to release, but which GOP demands for more can be used to justify.

Fully empower Inspectors General

One particularly absurd part of Rauch’s piece is his claim that we know all of Trump’s criminal exposure.

If he committed crimes that we don’t already know about, they are probably not of a new kind or magnitude.

As for what we do know about, it seems clear that he committed criminal obstruction of justice, for example by ordering his White House counsel to falsify federal records. But his obstruction was a process crime, already aired, of limited concern to the public and hard to get a conviction on as a stand-alone charge. There might be more to the Ukraine scandal than we know, but that matter, too, has been aired extensively, may not have been a legal violation and was appropriately (if disappointingly) handled by impeachment. Trump might have committed some form of sedition when he summoned his supporters to the streets to overturn the election, but he would have a colorable First Amendment defense, and sedition is a complicated and controversial charge that would open a legal can of worms. The real problem with Trump is not that we do not know his misdeeds but that we know so much about them, and yet he remained in office for a full term.

One piece of evidence Rauch is mistaken is his certainty that Trump’s only exposure in the Russian investigation is regarding obstruction, when (just as one example) there’s an ongoing investigation into an Assange pardon that appears to be closer to a quid pro quo; or the closed investigation into a potential bribe from Egypt. Democrats were denied a slew of documents pertaining to the Ukraine scandal, especially from the State Department. Democrats were similarly denied records on Trump’s abuse of clearance and non-official records.

One way to deal with the outstanding questions from the Trump Administration is simply to fully staff and empower the Inspectors General who have been undermined for four years. If, for example, State’s IG were to refer charges against Mike Pompeo or DOD’s IG were to refer charges pertaining to Kash Patel’s tenure, it wouldn’t be Democrats targeting them for investigation, it would be independent Inspectors General.

DOJ must be a key part of this. DOJ’s IG has already said it is investigating BJ Pak’s forced resignation. Democrats should insist this is expanded to review all of Barr’s politicized firings of US Attorneys.

As part of an effort to make sure Inspectors General do the work they should have done in real time, Biden should support the end of the OPR/IG split in DOJ, which means that the decisions of lawyers at DOJ (including those pertaining to the Ukraine scandal) are only reviewed by inspectors directly reporting to the Attorney General.

Respect FOIA

Joe Biden might not want to focus on Trump. But the press will continue to do so.

And if Biden orders agencies to treat FOIA like it is supposed to be treated, rather than forcing the press to sue if they want anything particularly interest, the press will do a lot of the accountability that courts otherwise might (and might provide reason for prosecutions). The press already has FOIAs in that have been undermined by improper exemption claims. For example, Jason Leopold has an existing FOIA into Bill Barr’s interference into the Roger Stone and Mike Flynn prosecutions. American Oversight has a FOIA into why Paul Manafort was sprung from jail when more vulnerable prisoners were not. FOIA into Trump’s separation policies have been key at reuniting families.

If such FOIAs obtained more visibility than they currently do, it would provide the visibility into some of the issues that people would love criminal investigations into.

One of the biggest scandals of the Trump Administration is how he undermined normal institutions of good governance, especially Inspectors General. If those institutions are restored and empowered, it will likely do a surprising amount of the accountability work that is so badly needed.

Bannon Turned Out to Be the Irreplaceable One

All outlets are reporting that after equivocating all day and all week, Trump has decided to pardon Steve Bannon (along with Eliot Broidy and Paul Erickson). Here’s the WaPo version:

President Trump has pardoned Stephen K. Bannon, the firebrand architect of his 2016 campaign who was charged last year with defrauding donors to a private fundraising effort for construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a senior White House official involved in the process.

Trump approved Bannon’s pardon late Tuesday, after days of frantic deliberations. Some aides said as recently as Monday night that the move appeared unlikely. Trump vacillated throughout the day Tuesday, and even after he said he was going to sign off on the pardon, it remained unclear for some time that he would actually do so, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

WaPo correctly notes, it won’t be clear what this really means until we see how broadly it is written. The White House language seems to suggest it covers just the already charged crimes for fraud, though.

Stephen K. Bannon – President Trump granted a full pardon to Stephen Bannon. Prosecutors pursued Mr. Bannon with charges related to fraud stemming from his involvement in a political project. Mr. Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen.

If it just excuses his fraud charges in SDNY, it’ll end that federal prosecution, leave him open for state prosecution on the same crimes plus civil suits, and/or make him the star witness against his co-defendants.

If it is broader, it will cover some of Bannon’s activities leading up to the insurrection, something that is likely to make a Trump conviction in the Senate more likely (as the Bannon pardon may all by itself).

One way or another, it probably doesn’t end Bannon’s legal woes (there’s also an investigation into his foreign influence peddling). Plus, there’s still the matter of his grand jury testimony in the Mueller investigation, just some of which was unsealed for the Roger Stone trial.

But Bannon, alone among Trump’s closest associates, got a pardon after the coup attempt made such pardons more risky.

Which makes the reasons for the pardon all the more interesting.

Update: There’s been some chatter that Trump might issue his spawn or himself “pocket pardons,” which I think was irresponsible speculation. There’s no way a Trump pardon that is not formally lodged with DOJ by noon will be deemed valid.

That said, the means by which he pardoned Bannon (and others) would allow room for Trump to have pardoned Bannon for more than the existing fraud charges against him. While some of the pardons Trump signed last night enumerated the crimes, Bannon and Broidy were pardoned

It’s possible that DOJ “enumerated” other crimes for Bannon which would then be covered under this language.

I doubt it though — and in any case, everything will be lodged in the next day or so, presumably in time to be included in impeachment considerations in the Senate.

The Three Types (Thus Far) of Trump Mueller Pardons

To date, Trump has pardoned five people who were prosecuted by Mueller. I’m seeing a good deal of misunderstanding about what those pardons mean for any legal proceedings going forward, so I’d like to address some of that.

First, a lot of people say that accepting a pardon is tantamount to accepting guilt, under Burdick v.United States. It’s not. It’s narrower, though importantly goes to questions about whether a witness who has been pardoned has to testify or not. It also says that someone who has been pardoned must inform the court of the fact for it to be valid in any legal proceeding before the court.

That said, claims that Trump flunkies who’ve been pardoned have to testify are also too broad. If the people have any remaining legal exposure (as I’ll explain, Roger Stone and Paul Manafort do), they can still invoke the Fifth. That’s also true if they have state exposure for something like fraud or tax evasion. But in cases where the pardoned crime is only federal, such as Papadopoulos’ lies, it would be easy for prosecutors to immunize him in case he invoked his Fifth Amendment privileges, effectively forcing him to testify on penalty of contempt.

Thus far, Trump has issued three kinds of pardons for people prosecuted by Mueller:

  • Pardons for people with no further known (Mueller) legal exposure
  • Pardons for people with potentially grave further legal exposure
  • Fruit of the poison tree pardon for anything Mueller touched

Alex Van der Zwaan and George Papadopoulos:

Both Van Der Zwaan and Papadopoulos were pardoned for the single False Statements charge against them. Neither is known to have committed another crime. In Papadopoulos’ case, however, things could get dicey on several points. Trump forgave his $9,500 fine, which was the amount Papadopoulos accepted from suspected Israeli spooks. If he asks for that back that may raise questions about his exposure on FARA grounds. In addition, Papadopoulos has already testified before Congress that he called Marc Kasowitz after he was first interviewed by the FBI. If there were a larger prosecution about Trump’s obstruction, he might have been able to plead the Fifth for making that call — except he has already testified to it.

Papadopoulos withheld documents from Congress. With a DOJ that can enforce subpoenas, he might be asked to share those documents, which may require him to testify contrary to his 2018 OGR/HJC testimony.

If DOJ decided to reopen the investigation into a suspected Egyptian bribe to Trump because serving a subpoena on Trump Organization would now be less controversial than it was last summer, then Papadopoulos might be a key witness in that investigation, though since that’s unrelated to his charged false statements, he could still invoke the Fifth if questioned about it.

Roger Stone and Paul Manafort:

Like Van der Zwaan and Papadopoulos, Stone and Manafort were just pardoned for the crimes that they were found or pled guilty to, the money laundering, tax evasion, and FARA crimes in Manafort’s case, and the cover-up crimes in Stone’s case. For both, however, that’s not the full extent of what they were investigated or might be witnesses for.

Before I get there, let me note that multiple sources are claiming that, because Trump included Manafort’s criminal forfeiture in the language of his pardon, he’ll get his ill-gotten gains back. I’m not an expert on this, but I do know that Manafort also civilly forfeited these goods in his plea agreement.

So to attempt to reverse this forfeiture, Manafort would have to spend a great deal of money litigating it, and it’s not at all clear it’d work.

Manafort was also referred for suspected FECA violations involving two PACs that, prosecutors suspected, he got paid through via a kickback system. These cases must be closed, because they were unsealed in the Mueller Report back in September. But Manafort may face more scrutiny on them if DOJ investigates Trump’s other corrupt PACs.

Unless he, too, is pardoned, Konstantin Kilimnik remains under investigation. That’s an area where things might get more interesting for Manafort, because during the period when he was purportedly cooperating, he lied about the fact that he had conspired with Kilimnik. In any case, until the Kilimnik and Oleg Deripaska investigations are closed, Manafort has some exposure.

Things are more complicated still for Stone. There were at least two investigations into Stone — probably on conspiracy and foreign agent crimes — still active in April. If the redactions if Mueller 302s are any indication, Barr shut parts of that investigation down since, which will be of interest on its own right (Congress learned of these ongoing investigations when they got unsealed portions of the Mueller Report that have only recently been made public, and I know there is some interest in learning what those investigations were or are, and that was true even before any discussions about Trump’s abuse of pardons).

In any case, the investigation into a pardon for Julian Assange was active at least as recently as October. Stone has already called on Trump to pardon Assange since his own pardon, potentially a new overt act in a conspiracy. And Trump might well pardon Assange; even pardoning him for the crimes currently charged would be a new overt act in that conspiracy, which would implicate Stone. So even if Barr shut that investigation down, there is already reason to reopen it.

So while Barr may have tried to clean up the remaining criminal exposure against Stone, it’s not clear he could succeed at doing so, much less without creating problems for others going forward.

Mike Flynn:

As I have written, Mike Flynn’s pardon was constructed in a way that attempted to eliminate all criminal exposure that might arise from anything associated with the Mueller investigation for him. In addition to pardoning Flynn for the false statements charge he pled guilty to, it pardons him for lying about being an Agent of Turkey, for being an Agent of Turkey, and for lying to Judge Sullivan.

But it also attempts to pardon Flynn for any crime that might arise out of facts known to Mueller. While, generally, I think the pardon power is very broad, this effectively tried to pardon Flynn for an investigation, not for crimes. Plus, the broadness of the pardon may backfire, insofar as it would strip Flynn of the ability to plead the Fifth more broadly. Even just a retrial of Bijan Kian (unless Trump pardons him and Mike Jr) might force Flynn to commit new crimes, because both telling the truth and lying about his secret relationship with Turkey would be a new crime.

Given his seditious behavior, Flynn might have entirely new criminal exposure by the time Joe Biden is sworn in any case. But the attempt to be expansive with Flynn’s pardon might backfire for him.

Of the five Mueller criminals pardoned so far, only Van der Zwaan is clearly free of danger going forward.

And these five don’t even cover some of the most complex pardon recipients. Any Assange pardon may be the most obviously illegal for Trump (save a self-pardon), because it would involve a quid pro quo entered before he was elected. With Steve Bannon, Trump will need to pardon for another crime, fraud associated with Build the Wall, but if it covers Mueller, it may make it easier for Bannon to repeat what truths he already told to the grand jury. With Rudy Giuliani, Trump will need to pardon for unidentified crimes currently under investigation, but also Rudy’s efforts to broker pardons, which may make the pardon itself more dicey. With Trump’s children (including Jared Kushner), I assume he’ll offer a Nixon type pardon for all crimes committed before the day of pardon. But there may be ways to make them admit to these crimes.

Billy Barr is the best cover-up artist in the history of DOJ. But Trump is attempting to pardon himself out of a dicier situation than Poppy Bush was in Iran-Contra. Plus, even assuming Mueller’s team left everything available for Barr’s discovery, Barr may be hamstrung by the fact that he doesn’t believe in most of the crimes Trump committed, something that could become especially problematic as the full extent of Trump’s dalliance with Russia becomes known going forward. Barr didn’t support some of these pardons, like a hypothetical Assange one. And now, in his absence, Trump has grown increasingly paranoid about Pat Cipollone, who will have to shepherd the rest.

The pardon power is awesome and fairly unlimited. But it’s not yet clear the Mueller pardons will do what Trump hopes they will. With virtually all of them, there are loose strings that, if they get pulled, may undo the immunity Trump has tried to offer.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Steve Bannon?

Axios reported that PardonPalooza would accelerate yesterday. But it didn’t happen. Not yet, at least.

I wonder if that’s because Trump got new visibility on his own lingering jeopardy from the Mueller investigation.

There’s a section of the Mueller Report that got declassified in the last batch which may explain why Jerome Corsi wasn’t charged. In advance of three people whose prosecution was declined — which definitely includes KT McFarland, along with two others (Erik Prince or Sam Clovis may be one, George Nader may be the other) — the report explains,

We also considered three other individuals interviews–redacted–but do not address them here because they are involved in aspects of ongoing investigations or active prosecutions to which their statements to this office may be relevant.

Corsi obviously lied to Mueller, but his lies served, in part, to support the head fake the Mueller Report used to address how Roger Stone optimized the Podesta files.

Another of those liars could be Paul Manafort.

But the third may be Steve Bannon, who told a rolling series of lies that over time approached the truth, at least about some issues. Bannon even tried to lie again to back off his grand jury testimony in advance of the Roger Stone trial.

Bannon would be interesting for several reasons. Bannon knew about Stone’s interactions with “WikiLeaks” even before he formally joined the campaign. Bannon was a key player in setting up the fall 2016 meeting with Egypt, which preceded what the government thinks could have been a foreign bribe that kept the campaign afloat (indeed, one thing Bannon seems to have always lied about was his work with George Papadopoulos on that).

But most of all, Bannon was the fourth witness — with the others being Mike Flynn, KT McFarland, and Jared Kushner — to Trump’s interactions with Russia during the Transition four years ago. He was, with Jared, the person who most consistently used his personal email to conduct discussions of back channels with Russia (though all four took measures to keep their actions hidden from the Obama Administration and other Transition team members).

And Bannon was, for testimony before HPSCI the transcript of which got shared with Mueller’s team shortly before they closed up shop, scripted to deny any discussion of sanctions (among other things). You could get a clear understanding of what the White House was trying to deny by the wording of the questions.

Mueller’s team would have had this script in time for Bannon’s grand jury appearance in January 2019. We know one thing that Bannon was asked about, and begrudgingly told the truth about, pertained to the campaign’s enthusiasm about WikiLeaks (something about which he had lied in the past and tried to again). But we don’t know what else he got asked; Stone’s prosecutors got just the part pertaining to the Stone prosecution unsealed.

At the time of his grand jury testimony and until quite recently, Bannon was represented by Bill Burck. At least with Don McGahn, whom Burck also represented, Burck did not share details of his testimony with Trump’s lawyers. We know that because Trump was blind-sided when he learned about the extent of McGahn’s testimony. If that’s true of Bannon as well, then it would mean that grand jury appearance has been a blind spot for Trump and his lawyers.

Until now. After Bannon threatened Chris Wray and Anthony Fauci with execution, Burck fired Bannon as a client. Bannon recently hired Robert Costello to represent him in his Build the Wall fraud case. On top of being the guy who brokered a pardon to Michael Cohen in an attempt to silence him, Costello’s also Rudy’s personal lawyer. So Costello now has privilege with both Bannon and Rudy, and Rudy has privilege (by dint of being Trump’s defense attorney) with Trump.

The old gang’s back together.

Thing is, if Bannon told the truth about sanctions in that grand jury appearance, it’ll make it a lot easier to unwind a bunch of expected pardons, because Bannon’s testimony could be used to push Flynn, McFarland, Jared, and Trump himself to tell the truth about what they tried with Russia four years ago, exposing each to a fresh perjury charge they would no longer be pardoned for. Even if Biden’s Attorney General was disinterested in that, I expect there to be more transparency about these issues going forward.

That makes Bannon one of the most interesting, if not the most interesting, pardon candidates, because he knows where all the bodies are buried, but he also told the truth, once.