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Stealing Elections: The Underlying Assumption behind Billy Barr’s Flip-Flop on the Materiality of Flynn’s Lies

Marty Lederman has a very long piece assessing DOJ’s motion to dismiss the Mike Flynn case, one that pulls together a lot of the public record (including details, like about DOJ’s January 24, 2017 sentencing memorandum, that haven’t gotten attention other than at this site). As a very sober assessment that criticizes the FBI but lays out the national security implications, it’s well worth reading.

Even after he wades through all those details, though, Lederman argues that the important takeaway isn’t whether Flynn will do prison time or not (he notes, as I have, that Flynn will be pardoned in any case), but instead what this incident says about Bill Barr.

Unfortunately, just as with the public’s anticipation of and reaction to the Mueller investigation, the inordinate focus on whether a particular individual committed one or another offense under the U.S. criminal code is diverting attention from where it ought to be, on much more significant matters of constitutional governance.

Most importantly, as I’ll explain, what’s most alarming and troubling about the DOJ brief itself is not that it asks the court for leave to dismiss the charge against Flynn, but that it depends upon the rather shocking view of the Attorney General and the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia that Flynn’s underlying conduct in 2016 and 2017 was unobjectionable and that therefore there wasn’t a “legitimate” basis for the FBI to be investigating Flynn’s secret communications with the Russian Ambassador at all, even though Russia had just completed an elaborate effort to manipulate the American electoral process in order to help elect Donald Trump.

[snip]

There is, however, at least one other possibility—one that’s much more troubling but that doesn’t involve prosecutorial “bad faith,” as such:  It could be, as Charlie Savage recently put it, that Attorney General Barr sincerely “considers to be illegitimate the government’s counterintelligence effort to understand the scope of Russian election interference in 2016 and any links to the Trump campaign.”  That would explain the astounding assertions in the DOJ motion that Flynn’s calls with Kislyak “were entirely appropriate on their face” and that there wasn’t any “legitimate” basis for a counterintelligence investigation, even after Flynn lied to the Vice-President-Elect about the content of the calls.  Indeed, in a recent interview, Attorney General Barr asserted that the FBI investigation was “based on a perfectly legitimate and appropriate call [Flynn] made as a member of the transition.”  According to Barr, there “was nothing wrong with it whatever. In fact, it was laudable.”

If that’s the reason Barr insisted on moving to dismiss the Flynn charge, it raises a far, far greater problem than whether Michael Flynn is or isn’t convicted of a criminal offense.  Such a view reflects an alarming disregard for the constitutional difference between an incumbent President and the incoming administration.  It ignores the harms of engaging in such private diplomacy in secret, without the knowledge of the State Department.  It treats as “laudable” an effort to undermine the incumbent President’s conduct of foreign affairs in real time—and to do so in order to accommodate a hostile nation that had just engaged in a concerted effort to distort the U.S. presidential campaign in order to secure the election of the very President whose agent is engaged in the stealth diplomacy, and where that very President (and/or his agent engaged in the shadow communications) might possibly be in debt to that nation, and/or compromised by it.  It also assumes that the FBI should have turned a blind eye to all this even after several top officials of the new administration made repeated false representations to the public about the new National Security Advisor’s communications with that foreign power, either knowing that the statements were false or, more troubling still, having been assured by Flynn that the communications were very different from what the Bureau knew them to be.  If the Attorney General of the United States believes all of that conduct was “legitimate,” “appropriate” and “laudable,” and that there wasn’t any “legitimate” basis for investigating it, then how can anyone be confident that the Department of Justice under his stewardship will faithfully fulfill its constitutional responsibilities?

I think Lederman is right: Even more than the question of whether Flynn does time is the question of what it means that Barr intervened and — based off no new evidence — weighed in to say that it was laudable that Flynn called up Russia and undermined the punishment Obama imposed after Russia tampered in the election and illegitimate for FBI to investigate why he did so (predictably, the motion to dismiss doesn’t deal with Flynn’s work for Turkey).

But I would go further.

Lederman is rightly offended that Bill Barr has just given sanction to undermining the constitutional transition between one administration and another.

But that’s not all that the FBI was investigating, nor is it what the record suggests Barr is sanctioning.

In his post, Lederman suggests the FBI didn’t take any of the logical steps to chase down Flynn as a counterintelligence concern.

As I hoped I’ve shown above, that was precisely correct—the principal objective of any interview with Flynn should have been to get to the bottom of the potential counterintelligence threat.  FBI Director Comey himself later testified that he sent his agents to interview Flynn on January 24, 2017 at least in part because there was a “disconnect” between what the Vice President was saying in public and what Flynn had in fact said to Kislyak, and Comey wanted his agents “to sit before [Flynn] and say ‘what is the deal?’”  And FBI Counterintelligence Chief Bill Priestap apparently agreed.  His notes from that morning state his view that “if [Flynn] initially lies, then we present him [redacted] and he admits it, document for DOJ, and let them decide how to address it.”

As far as the available public record shows, however, the agents who interviewed Flynn didn’t take that route.  Instead, it appears that Bureau leadership apparently decided before the interview that if Flynn didn’t confirm to the agents what they knew he had said to Kislyak, “they would not confront him or talk him through it.”  (The quote is from a later 302 report of an interview with one of the agents, Peter Strzok.  Unfortunately, the reasons for that decision appear to be redacted from Strzok’s 302 Report.  Nor is it clear who made this tactical decision.)  In the interview itself, Flynn said he couldn’t recall any discussion with Kislyak of the sanctions and expulsions, even after the agents used his own words from those conversations in order to jog his memory (and/or to subtly signal to him that they had a recording).  And then the agents left it at that.  They didn’t confront Flynn with evidence of what he had said to Kislyak; didn’t ask him why he said such things; about who else, if anyone, he discussed the call with, before or after; why he had disregarded the Obama administration’s pointed request that he not have such conversations; why he had lied to Pence, et al.; etc.  In other words, they didn’t do any of the things one might expect investigators to do if their goal was to get to the bottom of the case, and assess the scope and degree of any possible counterintelligence threat, during that interview.  Instead, all they appeared to accomplish was to confirm that Flynn was committed to lying about his calls with Kislyak.

This is the one part of Lederman’s post that I believe is wrong.

On January 24, 2017, the FBI would have learned that Flynn was going to continue to lie about his discussion of sanctions. But the evidence would still have supported an interpretation that Flynn had gone rogue, that he — someone who had been paid directly by Russia in the previous year and met directly with Putin — had decided to undermine all of US policy in response to the Russian operation all by himself.

That interpretation would change.

Moreover, the record shows the FBI did take next steps, but next steps that served to get at the key purpose for Flynn’s lies, to hide that he had consulted with Mar-a-Lago before calling Kislyak. As I have laid out here, the FBI did some call records analysis (on Flynn’s private phone, because he hadn’t used his government issue BlackBerry). That would have disclosed a bunch of calls to Mar-a-Lago beforehand, calls that were clearly inconsistent with Flynn’s claims to the FBI. Ultimately, FBI obtained the devices that first Flynn, and then other members of the Transition had used. Those would show emails explicitly discussing strategy on sanctions. Between getting those communications and getting Flynn to flip, FBI would eventually have gotten KT McFarland to tell her version of the story.

After a year of work, the FBI would have substantiated that Flynn’s lies served to hide his consultation with Mar-a-Lago. Mueller never got him or McFarland or Steve Bannon to admit that Trump weighed in ahead of time (and Mueller was deliberately coy about whether he has phone records suggesting he did).

Ultimately, though, Mueller was never able to answer a key question: whether Trump had ordered Flynn to do what he did.

Although transition officials at Mara-Lago had some concern about possible Russian reactions to the sanctions, the investigation did not identify evidence that the President-Elect asked Flynn to make any request to Kislyak.

As Lederman himself notes, Trump blew off questions about his role in all of this when asked.

Although it’s therefore almost certain Trump knew at least roughly what Flynn planned to say to Kislyak, the Mueller investigation did not find any evidence that Trump directed Flynn to say anything about sanctions.  (Mueller asked Trump specifically about these incidents (see Questions V(b)-(e)), but in his written responses the President … simply ignored those questions, as though they hadn’t even been asked.)  Several weeks later, then-President Trump said in a press conference that although he didn’t direct Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak, “it certainly would have been okay with me if he did.  I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him because that’s his job.”

And Lederman notes the part of the January sentencing memo that describes how central a question sanctions were to Mueller’s investigation.

In a sentencing memorandum it filed in January 2020, the Department of Justice explained that after Flynn’s calls with Kislyak and the false stories that Pence and others were purveying, the FBI “did not know the totality of what had occurred between the defendant and the Russians,” and that “determining the extent of [Flynn’s] actions, why [he] took such actions, and at whose direction he took those actions, were critical to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.”  This was particularly true because “[a]ny effort to undermine the recently imposed sanctions, which were enacted to punish the Russian government for interfering in the 2016 election, could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia.”

What he doesn’t consider, however (though he comes awfully close), is the aspect of Mueller’s investigation that considered whether there was a quid pro quo.

In particular, the investigation examined whether these contacts involved or resulted in coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia providing assistance to the Campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future. Based on the available information, the investigation did not establish such coordination.

That is, Mueller wasn’t just investigating whether Trump was friendly to Russia because he was friendly to Russia or whether he was friendly to Russia out of tacit acknowledgement that Russia had helped him.

Mueller was also investigating (and parts of DOJ may still be investigating) whether Trump entered into one or more quid pro quos in which he accepted help getting elected in exchange for implicit or explicit pay-offs later.

Whether or not Mueller proved a quid pro quo (and there are aspects of this that remain ongoing, or recently were ongoing before Barr’s latest efforts to undermine them), that was an obvious, legitimate topic for investigation after a campaign advisor got approached about Russia’s help in April and after Trump asked Russia for help in the same press appearance where he offered to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

That’s what FBI’s investigation ultimately became. That’s the question the answer to which Flynn’s lies about consulting with Mar-a-Lago have obscured. That is the part of the investigation that Flynn’s lies had a material impact on.

Bill Barr is saying it was illegitimate for the FBI to investigate whether the incoming President engaged in a quid pro quo to get elected and therefore Flynn’s lies that hid key details needed to answer that question are not material to any investigation that FBI should be engaging in.

And he’s saying it just before campaign season begins again in earnest.

Steve Bannon’s Bas-Relief Confession that Trump Told Him to Deny Discussing Sanction Relief

After a week of writing about Mike Flynn and more Mike Flynn, I’m finally getting around to the transcripts the House Intelligence Committee wrote last week. A bunch of frothy right wingers have pointed to the transcripts as PROOF OF NO COLLUSION, which is hilarious. I’ve barely begun reviewing them, but some glaring holes in the investigation include:

  • The key players — Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort, but also Rick Gates — did not testify
  • Two witnesses (Michael Cohen and Roger Stone) were convicted for the lies they told to the committee and a third (Erik Prince) is reportedly under investigation, even if Billy Barr’s DOJ doesn’t prosecute Trump flunkies
  • Multiple witnesses (Michael Caputo, Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner, for starters) denied knowing people or having evidence their Mueller materials show they had

Republicans mostly asked each witness, “did you collude?” which predictably elicited the “no” answers the frothers are now pointing to as PROOF. Democrats spent most of their time trying to get recalcitrant witnesses to answer questions they refused to answer rather than trying to corner them into something useful.

The investigation was a shit-show.

The craziest thing (thus far, anyway), is Steve Bannon’s two appearances. Bannon testified in January 2018 and invoked White House guidance to refuse to answer questions from both the transition and post-inauguration periods, periods others had addressed. He also claimed any communications of interest would have been turned over by the campaign, thereby hiding emails he had with Roger Stone using his personal email where they explicitly discussed Julian Assange.

When Bannon went back a month later, having consulted with Devin Nunes in the interim and after Nunes appears to have shared a transcript of Bannon’s first appearance with the White House, he provided the committee a bunch of questions he would answer — all “no” answers.

Here’s how just some of those questions parroted back (for the second time in the hearing) looked:

MR. CONAWAY: After November 8th, 2016, did you meet with Ambassador Kislyak?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: On March 27, 2017, The New York Times reported that in mid-December of 2016 Kushner met with Sergei Gorkov of the VEB. Were you aware of this meeting?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Did you attend a December 2016 meeting with Kushner that Kushner had with Gorkov?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Did Mr. Prince have any role in the current administration?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Was there any discussion on January 27th, 2017, at the White House regarding Mr. Papadopoulos, who was contacted by the FBI that day?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Has Mr. Papadopoulos had any contact with anyone at the White House concerning the fact that the FBI had approached him?

MR. BANNON: Not to my knowledge.

MR. CONAWAY: Was the fact that the FBI approached Mr. Papadopoulos on January 27th communicated to President Trump?

MR. BANNON: Not to my knowledge.

MR. CONAWAY: Did Mr. Trump ever discuss with you any conversations between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks after the election?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Did you ever meet with Devin Nunes about the Russia investigation?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: While at the White House, were you ever instructed to take any action that you believe could hinder the Russian investigation in any way?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Were you ever given any instruction at the White House that you felt might amount to an effort to obstruct justice?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Did you have any conversations with Director Comey after the election about whether he would remain the head of the FBI?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Once you were part of the administration, were you a part of any discussions about how to approach the Russian, vis-à-vis the sanctions, whether to do away with them or in any way minimize the effects of the sanctions?

MR. BANNON: No.

Here’s how Adam Schiff got Bannon to admit that he was literally reading from a script the White House gave him (remember that Bannon’s lawyer, William Burck, also represented White House Counsel Don McGahn).

MR. SCHIFF: Mr. Bannon, who wrote these questions?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: My understanding, Mr. Schiff, is that these came from the transcript.

MR. SCHIFF: No, no, no. The questions that Mr. Conaway just asked you the questions. I asked you earlier if you had been authorized by the White House to answer all in the negative. Who wrote these questions?

MR. BANNON: Same answer.

MR. SCHIFF: What’s the same answer? Who wrote the questions?

MR. BANNON: My understanding is they came from the transcript.

MR. SCHIFF: What transcript are you talking about?

MR. BANNON: This transcript of my first interview.

[snip]

MR. SCHIFF: Well, how were they produced? How do you know that the White House has authorized you to answer them? [Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: My counsel informed me that these were the questions the White House authorized me to answer.

MR. SCHIFF: But you didn’t write these questions?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. SCHIFF: And your counsel didn’t write these questions?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. SCHIFF: So these questions were supplied to you by the White House?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: As far as I know.

The thing is, most of these are now recognizably misdirection from some known damning detail. For example, Bannon did not attend the November 30, 2016 meeting with Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower, but he was invited. Bannon’s lack of knowledge of Jared Kushner’s December meeting with Sergei Gorkov doesn’t make the meeting itself less damning — arguably, it suggests Kushner kept it on a close hold — and it doesn’t rule out Bannon being involved in a meeting with Gorkov sometime after that. Bannon’s narrow denial that Erik Prince had a role in the administration distracts from Prince’s role as a go-between with Russia during the transition, something Bannon was personally involved with (and covered up by deleting his relevant text messages). There was a discussion among senior campaign officials of the link that WikiLeaks sent Don Jr in September 2016, but it was during the election, not after it. Bannon didn’t have conversations with Jim Comey about firing him, but he had a ton of conversations about firing Comey, eight times on May 3 and 4, 2017 alone. Even the questions about obstruction of justice are consistent with explicit requests that Bannon obstruct, but that took place somewhere else, like Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster (and it’s notable that Bannon’s initial testimony dramatically backed off some of the claims Bannon made to Michael Wolff that had just been published in Fire and Fury).

As Adam Schiff begins to figure out what happened, he asks questions that make it clear that Bannon did not meet — in person — with Nunes, but did speak to him on the phone.

MR. SCHIFF: Now, I see there’s a question on here, did you ever meet with Devin Nunes about the Russia investigation, and you’ve answered that “no.” But you’ve also answered, when my colleague asked you, that you have discussed — you had discussions with Mr. Nunes and you refused to answer the question about whether it was about the Russian investigation. Is that correct?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: However I answered, it’s in the transcript.

MR. SCHIFF: Let me just ask you again. Did you ever meet with Devin Nunes about the Russian investigation?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. SCHIFF: Did you ever discuss the Russia investigation with Devin Nunes?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: That’s not a question I’m authorized to answer.

Even before that, Schiff cops on to Bannon’s denial about something — whether George Papadopoulos alerted the White House after he was first questioned about the FBI — that Bannon knows nothing about.

MR. SCHIFF: So one of the questions that you were supplied by the White House was, has Mr. Papadopoulos had any contact with anyone at the White House concerning the fact that he had been — that the FBI had approached him? How do you know the answer to that, Mr. Bannon?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: Can you just ask the question again?

MR. SCHIFF: Yes. One of the questions that the White House gave you to answer to our committee was, has Mr. Papadopoulos had any contact with anyone at the White House concerning the fact that the FBI had approached him?

MR. BANNON: I think I said, “Not to my knowledge.”

MR. SCHIFF: So you really did don’t know, do you?

MR. BANNON: That’s — not to my knowledge.

MR. SCHIFF: Why did the White House propose a question to you that you couldn’t answer within your knowledge?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: You have to ask the White House that.

In Papadopoulos’ Congressional testimony (which took place in October 2018, so six months after Bannon’s second HPSCI interview), the coffee boy would admit that he emailed Marc Kasowitz, who was then Trump’s personal attorney, sometime after his FBI interview.

Q And you didn’t talk to anyone from the Trump organization about that interview with the FBI?

A I don’t think I did, no.

Q So you were interviewed again by the FBI —

A I can’t remember if I reached out to Marc Kasowitz about either that or my subpoena from the Senate. And I emailed him and I said, Look, would you be interested in representing me? I think that’s what happened. But I don’t — I can’t remember exactly why I emailed him, but I think I emailed Marc Kasowitz’ firm sometimes after the interview, but I don’t remember if he ever responded or anything like that.

This post writes up what we know about Papadopoulos’ testimony.

This makes it clear, then, that the script Bannon was given was a ham-handed attempt to get a bunch of denials in the record, denials of things that actually did happen.

Among the questions the White House included was one designed to get him to deny he had discussed eliminating sanctions on Russia.

MR. CONAWAY: Once you were part of the administration, were you a part of any discussions about how to approach the Russian, vis-à-vis the sanctions, whether to do away with them or in any way minimize the effects of the sanctions?

MR. BANNON: No.

Of course, this “no” answer only says Bannon didn’t continue to discuss ending sanctions on Russia after inauguration, but he did beforehand.

There is testimony on the Mueller Report about Bannon’s personal involvement in discussions about the Russian sanctions imposed on December 28, 2016. But Bannon — in testimony on February 12, 2018, so three days before he read this script before HPSCI — claimed to have forgotten those conversations.

Shortly thereafter, McFarland and Bannon discussed the sanctions. 1235 According to McFarland, Bannon remarked that the sanctions would hurt their ability to have good relations with Russia, and that Russian escalation would make things more difficult. 1236 McFarland believed she told Bannon that Flynn was scheduled to talk to Kislyak later that night. 1237

[snip]

In addition to her conversations with Bannon and Reince Priebus, at 4:43 p.m., McFarland sent an email to Transition Team members about the sanctions, informing the group that “Gen [F]lynn is talking to russian ambassador this evening.” 1251 Less than an hour later, McFarland briefed President-Elect Trump. Bannon, Priebus, Sean Spicer, and other Transition Team members were present. 1252

[snip]

Flynn recalled discussing the sanctions with Bannon the next day and that Bannon appeared to know about Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak. 1274 Bannon, for his part, recalled meeting with Flynn that day, but said that he did not remember discussing sanctions with him. 1275

[snip]

Flynn recalled discussing the sanctions issue with incoming Administration official Stephen Bannon the next day. 100 Flynn said that Bannon appeared to know about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak, and he and Bannon agreed that they had “stopped the train on Russia’s response” to the sanctions. 101

1275 Bannon 2/12/18 302, at 9.

101 Flynn 1/19/18 302, at 4-5. Bannon recalled meeting with Flynn that day, but said he did not remember discussing sanctions with him. Bannon 2/12/18 302, at 9.

The White House gave Bannon a script, telling him to deny his involvement in reaching out to Russia on sanctions. And the specific form of the question — which asks about doing away with them — suggests those conversations on December 28, 2016 went further than the Mueller Report describes.

Which explains why Trump is trying to ensure Flynn avoids prison time for hiding that detail.

The Roger Stone Prosecution Was One Step in an Ongoing Investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Investigate the spooky stuff (May to August 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It does not appear that Stone is currently aware of the full nature and scope of the ongoing FBI investigation. Disclosure of this warrant to Stone could lead him to destroy evidence or notify others who may delete information relevant to the investigation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The warrants

August 7, 2017: Stone’s Twitter Accounts

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

September 11, 2017: Stone’s Hotmail Account

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

October 17, 2017: Stone’s Gmail

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

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

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

*December 19, 2017: Ted Malloch’s Gmail

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

This warrant included a gag on the provider.

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

March 14, 2018: Two Apple Accounts used by Stone

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

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

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

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

*May 4, 2018: Mystery Israeli Gmail

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

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

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

July 27, 2018: Roger Stone’s OpSec emails

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

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

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

August 2, 2018: Roger Stone marketing Facebook accounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*September 26, 2018: Mystery Twitter Account

*September 27, 2018: Mystery Facebook and Instagram Accounts

*September 27, 2018: Mystery Microsoft include Skype

*September 27, 2018: Mystery Google

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

*September 27, 2018: Mystery Twitter Accounts 2

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

*September 27, 2018: Mystery Apple ends in R

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

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

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

*October 5, 2018: Mystery Multiple Googles

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

January 24, 2019: Stone’s NY property

January 24, 2019: Stone’s FL property

January 24, 2019: Stone’s FL office

February 13, 2019: Three of Stone’s devices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At First, KT McFarland Told a Similarly Misleading Version of the Story Mike Flynn Will Be Pardoned For

In his abundant free time, the President tweeted about pardoning Mike Flynn on Sunday.

According to Matt Gertz, this was a response to a Lou Dobbs segment with John Solomon where Dobbs said there are 302s that “can’t be found.” Per transcripts Gertz shared, this is a reference to Sidney Powell’s claim — repeated with Dobbs the day before — that the first draft of Flynn’s 302 is missing (she also complained that Flynn never received a January 2017 memo stating that DOJ did not believe Flynn was an agent of Russia, which is unrelated to whether he was an agent of Turkey or lied to the FBI about his interactions with Russia).

Emmet Sullivan has already judged Trump’s complaint to be baseless

In December, Emmet Sullivan already judged this complaint to be baseless because the notes written before any “original 302” and all the 302s already provided Flynn track each other and the 302s consistently capture Flynn’s lies.

Mr. Flynn speculates that the government is suppressing the “original 302” of the January 24, 2017 interview, Def.’s Reply, ECF No. 133 at 28; he claims that the lead prosecutor “made it sound like there was only one 302,” id. at 29; and he makes a separate request for the FBI to search for the “original 302” in one of the FBI’s databases, id. at 28-30. In Mr. Flynn’s view, the “original 302”—if it exists—may reveal that the interviewing FBI agents wrote in the report “their impressions that [Mr.] Flynn was being truthful.” Id. at 28. Mr. Flynn claims that the FBI destroyed the “original 302” to the extent that it was stored in the FBI’s files. Id. at 30. Comparing draft FD-302s of Mr. Flynn’s January 24, 2017 interview to the final version, Mr. Flynn claims that the FBI manipulated the FD-302 because “substantive changes” were made after reports that Mr. Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian Ambassador “contrary to what Vice President Pence had said on television previously.” Id. at 14-15. Mr. Flynn points to the Strzok-Page text messages the night of February 10, 2017 and Ms. Page’s edits to certain portions of the draft FD-302 that were “material.” Def.’s SurSurreply, ECF No. 135 at 8-9.

To the extent Mr. Flynn has not already been provided with the requested information and to the extent the information exists, the Court is not persuaded that Mr. Flynn’s arguments demonstrate that he is entitled to the requested information. For starters, the Court agrees with the government that there were no material changes in the interview reports, and that those reports track the interviewing FBI agents’ notes.

[snip]

Having carefully reviewed the interviewing FBI agents’ notes, the draft interview reports, the final version of the FD302, and the statements contained therein, the Court agrees with the government that those documents are “consistent and clear that [Mr. Flynn] made multiple false statements to the [FBI] agents about his communications with the Russian Ambassador on January 24, 2017.” Gov’t’s Surreply, ECF No. 132 at 4-5. The Court rejects Mr. Flynn’s request for additional information regarding the drafting process for the FD-302s and a search for the “original 302,” see Def.’s Sur-Surreply, ECF No. 135 at 8- 10, because the interviewing FBI agents’ notes, the draft interview reports, the final version of the FD-302, and Mr. Flynn’s own admissions of his false statements make clear that Mr. Flynn made those false statements.

Even though a judge has already ruled that this complaint is baseless, Trump took a break from mismanaging a pandemic to inch closer to a Flynn pardon based on it.

Given the increasing likelihood Trump will use the cover of the epidemic to pardon Flynn, it’s worth pointing to another set of evidence that Flynn’s prosecution for lying was sound: he’s not the only one who tried to cover up the Trump Transition’s efforts to undercut President Obama’s sanctions on Russia.

Like Flynn, KT McFarland hid Trump Transition efforts to undercut sanctions at first

In FBI interview reports (302s) released in the BuzzFeed/CNN FOIAs, some details of KT McFarland’s interviews prior to his guilty plea have been released. McFarland was interviewed four times before Flynn’s plea deal became public: August 29 (this 302 has not yet been released), September 14, October 17, and October 19, 2017.  Those 302s show that, at first, KT McFarland downplayed the Trump Transition efforts to undermine Obama’s sanctions on Russia that Mike Flynn got fired and prosecuted for (as well as tried to protect Jared Kushner in his role trying to undercut Obama policies on Israeli settlements).

McFarland’s first interview, on August 29, came in the wake of Mueller’s team acquiring Transition emails from the General Services Administration without notice to the campaign, followed by a warrant to read them. It’s likely her (still unreleased) initial interview and the beginning of her second one were based off a presumption that some emails making it clear the Transition had discussed sanctions would not get shared with Mueller’s team. When she got showed them, she claimed not to remember all details about them.

Her initial interview, as noted, has not been released. The unredacted passages from her second one (she did all pre-Flynn interviews without a lawyer, but in the presence of her spouse, who is a lawyer) show she shaded the truth about things she should have known the FBI had counter-evidence to. (In what follows, I’m bolding things she said in early interviews that her later testimony contradicts.)

For example, in that second interview, McFarland professed to not recall who attended a Presidential Daily Brief on December 28, 2016 where sanctions were discussed.

McFarland was shown a calendar entry for December 28, 2016 and confirmed the entry would have represented a PDB. She sat in the briefing, but did not recall who was there besides [Deputy Director of National Intelligence Edward] Gistaro. It was a small number of people and it took place in a basement studio apartment in the hotel.

Note: Gistaro had already testified at least once before this interview, on June 14, but that was likely focused on Trump’s demand that Dan Coats “help with the [Russian] investigation.” But it’s certainly possible his is one of the interviews in the interim that remain undisclosed.

In addition to her vague memories about meetings at Mar-a-Lago, McFarland also claimed she “did not recall any conversations she may have had with Flynn the day sanctions were announced.” While her description of what Flynn told her about his call with Sergey Kislyak is largely redacted, it’s clear she told the FBI it pertained to “Russian President Putin’s desire for a contemporary video conference after the inauguration.” This is the cover story Flynn asked her to tell the press in January 2017, and it’s part of what Flynn got fired for. Yet she was still relying on it in an interview with the FBI seven months later.

In her third interview, McFarland admitted that sanctions may have come up, but claimed again not to have specific knowledge of it.

News that the Obama Administration planned to impose sanctions on Russia started to come out on December 28, 2016, but they had not been officially announced and specifics were unknown. Sanctions were just one of “several and many things” going on at that time. McFarland, who was in Mar-a-Lago with the President-elect, did not recall what specific conversations she had at which times or to whom she spoke, but sanctions were in the news so it would make sense to her they were among the topics discussed.

In this interview report, McFarland’s explanation for an email involving Tom Bossert discussing sanctions is redacted, but the unredacted parts claim,

McFarland never discussed the specific terms of the sanctions with anyone. She would have told Michael Flynn about how the session with the President-elect went during one of their phone calls.

This claim would have been especially sketchy to the FBI since Flynn had already told the FBI, in January, that he only learned about sanctions from those at Mar-a-Lago.

McFarland also claimed not to remember what she discussed with Flynn when.

She did not have specific recollections about the times of the calls with Flynn or what was discussed in which call. Flynn mentioned several times several issues he intended to discuss with the Russians, and McFarland believed she would have given her theories about the sanctions.

McFarland’s memory started to grow clearer after outlines of Flynn’s testimony were released when he pled guilty on December 1, 2017.

McFarland’s post-Flynn plea memories grow significantly clearer

As the Mike Flynn cooperation addendum laid out, one reason Flynn’s reluctant cooperation was useful is it led others — including, but not limited to, McFarland — to unforget the truth.

[T]he defendant’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate likely affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming with the SCO and cooperate. In some instances, individuals whom the SCO interviewed before the defendant’s guilty plea provided additional, relevant details about their knowledge of key events after his cooperation became publicly.

Days after Flynn’s guilty plea, on December 5, she must have realized that he had given testimony that contradicted hers and informed FBI agents she was in the process of lawyering up. McFarland asked one of the FBI Agents she had been interacting with for the Tom Bossert and Mike Flynn emails she had already testified about, which were included in a December 2 NYT story on Flynn’s plea.

McFarland asked whether SSA [redacted] could provide two emails which he and SA [redacted] had shown to her in her interviews. She did not have the emails, but they were now apparently widely held, including by the New York Times, which published, but grossly misrepresented them. The emails were one from her dated December 29, 2016 in which she discussed President Obama’s three political objectives in imposing sanctions and mentioned Flynn’s scheduled call with the Russian ambassador that evening; and an email from Flynn to her the next day, December 30, 2017, in which Flynn reported on his conversation with the ambassador. McFarland felt she was at a a disadvantage since “everyone in the world” had copies of the emails except for her.

McFarland’s fourth 302 — which the Mueller Report heavily relies on — is heavily redacted. But what’s not redacted shows McFarland remembering details about conversations she had had about sanctions that she had professed not to remember in her earlier interviews.

McFarland and Bannon met on December 29. [redacted] but they also talked about sanctions. [redacted] Bannon told McFarland the sanctions would hurt their ability to have good relations with Russia. [redacted] Bannon thought a Russian escalation would make things more difficult. McFarland thought she told him Flynn was scheduled to talk to the Russian ambassador later that night. [redacted]

McFarland stated that she may have run into Priebus and given him a short version of her conversation with Bannon about the sanctions. [redacted] She may have told Priebus that Flynn was scheduled to talk to the Russian ambassador that night, but was not sure.

[redacted]

McFarland and Flynn spoke on the telephone at around 4:00 pm on December 29.

[redactions and snip]

McFarland knew before the [sic] Flynn’s call that Flynn was going to feel out the Russian ambassador on the overall relationship, knowing that the sanctions would influence it.

There’s a heavily redacted section that nevertheless shows that McFarland provided significant details about the meeting with Trump on December 29 (including that Trump “said he had reason to doubt it was the Russians” who had hacked the DNC). Even with the redactions, it’s clear she discussed what might happen with the sanctions at that meeting. And she admitted that “someone may have mentioned Flynn’s scheduled call with Kislyak as they were ending the meeting.”

Additionally, McFarland laid out all the details of conversations with Flynn she had previously claimed not to remember, both before and after his calls with Kislyak.

[Flynn] told McFarland the Russian response was not going to be escalatory because they wanted a good relationship with the Trump administration.

[snip]

When Flynn and McFarland spoke on December 31, Flynn told McFarland he talked to the Russian ambassador again. He said something to the effect of “Well, they want a better relationship. The relationship is back on track.” Flynn said it was a good call and he thought his own call had made a difference but not the only difference. [redacted] McFarland congratulated Flynn for his work.

In short, contrary to what she claimed in her earlier interviews, McFarland proved she had memories of:

  • Discussions she had with at least Steve Bannon about sanctions before Flynn’s call with Sergey Kislyak, and possibly Reince Priebus
  • The specific times of at least some of her calls with Flynn
  • Details of the meeting at which sanctions were discussed with Trump
  • Specific details of calls between her and Flynn, both before and after his calls with Kislyak

McFarland is not the only one whose memory grew clearer after it became clear Mueller had heard at least one truthful version of what had transpired in late December 2017; the story Bannon initially told, even after Flynn’s plea, almost certainly evolved as well (his later interviews have been withheld thus far, but we know his memories about the WikiLeaks releases got clearer over time). Reince Priebus’ first interview, on October 13, 2017, has not yet been released. The tiny unredacted bits of Priebus’ Janaury 18, 2018 interview, conducted in the wake of Flynn’s plea, showed that he hedged but did admit they may have discussed Flynn’s call in advance.

The consistency with which those who were present at Mar-a-Lago on December 29, 2017 tried not to remember discussing sanctions in advance of General Flynn’s calls, much less what might have gone down with Trump, suggests this is not a matter of Flynn being a rogue liar. Rather, it suggests a concerted effort to downplay what happened and to minimize any involvement Trump had in it, one that was undercut by Flynn’s plea deal.

One story downplaying efforts to undermine sanctions is a lie; multiple stories is a cover-up

That’s why no one should credit Trump’s claims to believe that Flynn was mistreated in his prosecution. Not only has Judge Sullivan ruled that it’s not true, but the available evidence — even with proof that Bill Barr’s DOJ is abusing the FOIA response process to hide the true extent of all this — shows that multiple people with consistent memories of what happened at Mar-a-Lago on December 29, 2017 initially professed not to remember what happened that day.

That’s not Flynn being ambushed and improperly prosecuted. That’s Flynn — who up until he decided to plead guilty was part of the Joint Defense Agreement with the President and others — being the first break in an effort to cover-up what really went down.

And the public record has one more highly damning detail that shows Flynn knew from the start that this was a cover-up.

In the section of the Mueller Report incorporating details Flynn and McFarland unforgot in November and December 2017, it reveals that Flynn intentionally excluded the details about the Kislyak follow-up call about sanctions when he sent McFarland a text message reporting on the call.

The next day, December 30, 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov remarked that Russia would respond in kind to the sanctions. 1262 Putin superseded that comment two hours later, releasing a statement that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time. 1263 Hours later President-Elect Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin).” 1264 Shortly thereafter, Flynn sent a text message to McFarland summarizing his call with Kislyak from the day before, which she emailed to Kushner, Bannon, Priebus, and other Transition Team members. 1265 The text message and email did not include sanctions as one of the topics discussed with Kislyak. 1266 Flynn told the Office that he did not document his discussion of sanctions because it could be perceived as getting in the way of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.1267

[snip]

According to McFarland, Flynn remarked that the Russians wanted a better relationship and that the relationship was back on track. 1270 Flynn also told McFarland that he believed his phone call had made a difference. 1271 McFarland recalled congratulating Flynn in response. 1272 [my emphasis]

In her second interview, months before she unforgot that they had had a self-congratulatory conversation about Flynn’s success in undermining Obama’s efforts to punish Russian for interfering in the election, McFarland also claimed not to be concerned that Flynn hadn’t mentioned sanctions in a text he sent her after the call. “She did not recall being concerned that Flynn did not mention sanctions in this email.”

Except that it would not be a matter of concern. It would be a matter of knowing that Flynn had created a false record of what happened. And months later, she would admit that she did know that was a false record. This appears to be the text (which she forwarded as an email) that she tried to obtain from the FBI once she realized that Flynn had flipped.

None of this will prevent Trump from pardoning Flynn. But it does provide reason why Judge Reggie Walton should review the 302s of those involved in the December 2017 events even as he reviews the full Mueller Report, which almost certainly includes an explanation of why Mueller did not charge McFarland for her initial misleading comments. The public deserves to have all the evidence that, in pardoning Flynn, Trump won’t be pardoning someone he believes to have been ambushed and who as a result told a misleading story. He’ll be pardoning the one person who paid a price for covering up the Trump Transition’s efforts to undercut sanctions imposed to punish Russia for tampering in the 2016 election.

DOJ Is Abusing FOIA Exemptions to Hide Later, More Damning Testimony of Trump Aides

The government has now “released” around 200 302s (FBI interview reports) in response to BuzzFeed/CNN’s FOIA. The vast majority of those, however, are heavily and at times entirely redacted. DOJ is using an unprecedentedly broad interpretation of the already badly abused b5 (deliberative) FOIA exemption to keep much of this hidden. This includes treating communications with the following people as “presidential communications:”

a. Donald Trump, President

b. Michael Pence, Vice President

c. John Kelly, Chief of Staff

d. Reince Priebus, Chief of Staff

e. Donald McGahn, Counsel to the President

f. Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor

g. Emmett Flood, Special Counsel to the President

h. Sean Spicer, Press Secretary

i. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Deputy Press Secretary; Press Secretary

j. Robert Porter, Staff Secretary

k. Stephen Bannon, Chief Strategist and Senior Adviser to the President

l. Richard Dearborn, Deputy Chief of Staff

m. John Eisenberg, Deputy Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council

n. K.T. McFarland, Deputy National Security Advisor

o. Uttam Dhillon, Deputy Counsel to the President

p. Annie Donaldson, Chief of Staff to the Counsel to the President

q. Jared Kushner, Senior Adviser to the President

r. Ivanka Trump, Senior Adviser to the President

s. Hope Hicks, Director of Strategic Communications; Director of Communications

t. Stephen Miller, Senior Adviser to the President

DOJ has offered a similar — albeit smaller — list (pages 16-17) of people covered by “Presidential” privileges during the Transition (yes, both Ivanka and Jared are on that list, too).

This is outright abuse, and given yesterday’s opinion stating he will review the existing redactions in the Mueller Report, I expect Judge Reggie Walton to deem it as such once the litigation rolls around to that point.

All the more so given that it can be demonstrably shown that DOJ is selectively releasing 302s such that Trump aides’ false statements are public, but their later more accurate (and damning) statements are hidden. There are at least three examples (Steve Bannon, KT McFarland, and Mike Flynn) where DOJ is still withholding later, more accurate statements while releasing earlier deceitful ones, and two more cases (JD Gordon and Sam Clovis) where DOJ may be hiding discussions of Trump pro-Russian policy stances. And in one case (Clovis), DOJ appears to have used a b3 (protected by statute) exemption that doesn’t appear to be justifiable.

Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon was interviewed on at least five occasions:

  • February 12, 2018: large swaths unredacted
  • February 14, 2018: Heavily redacted under both b5 and (pertaining to WikiLeaks, Stone, and Cambridge Analytica, ongoing investigation), but with key passages revealed
  • October 26, 2018: Not yet released
  • January 18, 2019: Proffer released, but 302 not yet released
  • Unknown date (in advance of Stone trial): Not yet released

There are significantly redacted discussions (protected under ongoing investigation redactions) in Bannon’s February 14 302 that conflict with his later public admissions. And Bannon’s testimony in the Roger Stone trial shows that his 302s — including the trial prep one — conflict with his grand jury testimony. What has thus far been made public includes denials of coordination on WikiLeaks that both his October 2018 and January 2019 302s must contradict. Yet DOJ has not released the later, more damning 302s yet.

KT McFarland

As has been publicly reported, KT McFarland at first lied to the FBI but — in the wake of Mike Flynn’s plea deal — unforgot many of the key events surrounding discussions about sanctions during the Transition. While DOJ has not yet released her first 302, the others are, in general, lightly redacted. They show how she appears to have told a cover story about discussions about sanctions during the Transition. The 302 in which she cleaned up her testimony, which would show what really happened during the Transition, is largely redacted.

  • August 29, 2017: Not yet released
  • September 14, 2017: Lightly redacted (though hiding details of Tom Bossert email and her claims about the Flynn sanctions discussion)
  • October 17, 2017: Lightly redacted, though with some Mar-a-Lago and sanctions cover story details redacted
  • October 19, 2017: Significantly redacted
  • December 5, 2017: Lightly redacted; this captures McFarland’s panic in the days after Flynn’s plea
  • December 22, 2017: Very heavily redacted

Mike Flynn

Mike Flynn’s initial 302, from January 24, 2017, has been public for some time. Flynn has twice admitted, under oath, that he lied in that 302.

None of his other Russia-related 302s, including those where he corrected his story in November 2017, have been made public (though DOJ may be withholding these because he has not yet been sentenced). Among the 302s DOJ is withholding involves at least one describing how the Trump campaign discussed reaching out to WikiLeaks after the John Podesta emails dropped.

JD Gordon

JD Gordon’s testimony was critical to Mueller’s finding that Trump and Paul Manafort had no personal involvement in preventing convention delegate Diane Denman from making the RNC platform more hawkish on Ukraine. Details of this investigation into Gordon’s role appear entirely unredacted in the DOJ IG Report on Carter Page as part of the case that FBI should have removed any claim that Page was involved in the platform.

Gordon’s first interview is largely unredacted. It soft-pedals Trump’s pro-Russian stance on the campaign.

GORDON flagged DENMAN’s amendment because TRUMP had mentioned not wanting to start World War III over Ukraine. TRUMP had mentioned this both in public and in private, including at the campaign meeting on March 31, 2016. This was not GORDON’s stance but TRUMP’s stance on Ukraine.

[snip]

DENMAN [redacted] and asked GORDON what he had against the free people. GORDON explained TRUMP’s statements regarding World War III to her. She asked why they were there and who GORDON was on the phone with. GORDON told her he was on the phone with his colleagues but didn’t provide names.

But Gordon’s final 302 is largely redacted, though it leaves unredacted the World War III excuse. Some of the redactions appear to hide Gordon’s testimony about the things Trump said in campaign appearances that Gordon used to explain his intervention in the Convention.

There is also discussion in his last interview about whether he consulted with Jeff Sessions on the platform issue during phone calls placed at the time (which he denied he had).

The Mueller Report also describes how Sergey Kislyak invited Gordon to his residence in DC shortly after the convention; that reference is based entirely on emails exchanged between the two; it would be worthwhile to know what he said if he was asked about the invite in his FBI interviews, but if so, it is redacted.

Sam Clovis

Sam Clovis appears to have had three interviews, though it seems Mueller’s team may never have trusted his testimony. The interviews are cited just three times in the Mueller Report, and he makes denials in his interviews that conflict with communication-based evidence laid out in the Mueller Report and what he is reported to have told Stefan Halper in the DOJ IG Report on Carter Page (PDF 367-370). Clovis’ testimony is particularly important because he claims there was a shift in policy towards Russia during the campaign, but his released testimony is inconsistent on that point.

Clovis was first interviewed on October 3, 2017 at his office at USDA. The 302 makes clear that “about a quarter of the way through the interview, CLOVIS was warned that lying to the agents could constitute a federal offense.” In that interview, Clovis makes extremely strong denials about Russia.

CLOVIS started off the interview by explaining that he hates Russia and that should be clear throughout his interview.

[snip]

Russia was never a topic between CLOVIS and TRUMP. They would occasionally discuss it in debate prep. CLOVIS did most of the debate prep during the primaries. They talked about a Ukrainian policy and discussed having a bipartisan approach to this because of the divided based on Ukraine.

[snip]

A lot of people approached the campaign with ideas about foreign policy topics. Some of them wanted to approach and engage Russia but CLOVIS never trusted RUSSIA.

[snip]

CLOVIS thought interacting with Russia was a bad idea on any level because of comments TRUMP made.

[snip]

CLOVIS thinks the Special Counsel investigation is more political than practical. From CLOVIS’ perspective he didn’t see anything that warranted an investigation. CLOVIS said the campaign didn’t have anything to do with Russians. No one advised anyone to meet with Russians. CLOVIS wanted nothing to do with Russia and would never approve a meeting with the Russians. CLOVIS explained that Russians are different with Russia. You can’t just sit down at the table with them.

[snip]

CLOVIS does not recall Russia being brought up in the March 31, 2016 meeting.

[snip]

PAGE had an interesting background, including time in the Navy, experience in energy policy and Russian business. They were rushed into putting a foreign policy team together. CLOVIS thought PAGE was pretty harmless but also didn’t provide much value. CLOVIS said he never talked to PAGE about meetings with Russia and doesn’t remember PAGE ever bringing up Russia.

[snip]

CLOVIS didn’t think the change [in platform] was in line with TRUMP’s stance. CLOVIS thought their plan was to support Ukraine in their independence by engaging their NATO allies. CLOVIS is concerned PUTIN is trying to establish a Soviet empire.

That very same day, the FBI interviewed Clovis a second time, also in his USDA office. In the second interview, Clovis made comments that probably conflict with what Clovis told Stefan Halper in August 2016.

CARTER PAGE and GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS were not involved with the campaign team. They were not players in the campaign.

More importantly, in the second interview — on the same day!! — Clovis admitted that Trump did want better ties with Russia.

TRUMP wanted improved relations with Russia. The “bromance” TRUMP had with PUTIN bothered CLOVIS but the press and the public fed on it. CLOVIS felt like he had to cleanup with a shovel because TRUMP played up his bromance with PUTIN for the public.

Clovis also denied discussions of a trip to Russia that the FBI had proof he was personally involved in.

CLOVIS was asked about emails regarding an “unofficial trip” to Russia which were discussed in a Washington Post article. CLOVIS indicated this was info he was not privy to. CLOVIS said he doesn’t know who would have authorized such meetings but he never gave PAPADOPOULOS any indication to setup meetings.

CLOVIS denied learning about any dirt on Hillary, something that Papadopoulos provided conflicting testimony on.

CLOVIS was asked if he ever heard anyone discuss Russians having dirt on HILLARY CLINTON. CLOVIS said he wasn’t aware of that and if someone had that info they probably wouldn’t bring it to CLOVIS. CLOVIS pointed out that he was never asked to do anything untoward.

And in this second interview, Clovis softened on whether anyone had been compromised by Russia.

CLOVIS further explained how Russia can be very sneaky and will try to distract you on one side while sneaking by you on the other side. They will use any mechanism they can. CLOVIS fought them for years. CLOVIS didn’t feel like there was anything going on with the campaign though.

The interview ends with what may to be a discussion about a subpoena.

CLOVIS asked the agents [redacted] since he had cooperated. He was concerned about his travel plans and indicated he planned on leaving [redacted] and returning to D.C. [redacted] Agents agreed to [redacted] but said they would contact him later with information [redacted].

Note, the most substantive redactions in these two 302s have b3 redactions, which covers information “exempted from disclosure by statute.” While some of the last paragraph might be a discussion about serving a grand jury subpoena, none of the rest of it should be. And in other 302s, discussions of the same events (such as the March 31 meeting) are not redacted under b3 exemptions. It is hard to see how that redaction is permissible.

Clovis’ October 26 interview is entirely redacted under b5 exemptions.

Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl’s Pathetic Disinformation May Finally Matter

Yesterday, Jack Burkman (he of the press conference with his fly down) and Jacob Wohl (he of the precocious financial fraud) had a press conference at CPAC yesterday to spew disinformation.

Again.

They claimed they were releasing all sealed documents from the Roger Stone trial, not just juror questionnaires, but also grand jury testimony. Their statements were inconsistent about whether, by “sealed documents,” they meant everything that had been loaded onto the docket (which might include just Steve Bannon and Randy Credico’s grand jury transcript, both of which were litigated before the trial), or everything released in discovery to Stone.

They purported to be journalists exposing a miscarriage of justice of an American hero, by which they meant Roger Stone.

They were given to us, they did not come from Roger Stone, they did not come from anyone on his defense team, we’ve never met Roger Stone. … What happened was court packing.

They claimed they had a journalistic duty to release these documents to show a systematic conspiracy, led by Judge Amy Berman Jackson, against Stone, to pack the jury. They claimed, “Not a single juror” on Stone’s trial, “watches Fox News,” that they are instead “religious Rachel Maddow viewers.” They also claimed one could never have a lawyer on a jury.

The documents released (which I won’t link) demonstrated, once again, that their implementation was embarrassingly shoddy and their claims were false. All they released were juror questionnaires, and they didn’t release the questionnaires all 12 jurors. They uploaded the questionnaire of one juror twice (making ten total). Those jurors described their media diet this way:

  • occasionally a CNN headline
  • DC Fox 5 News
  • Fox 5 News
  • New York Times, established news sources that appear in my Google Feed (WSJ, Washington Post, etc.)
  • Wall Street Journal
  • NYT, Washington Post, NPR
  • Washington Post, NPR
  • Washington Post, Facebook, Twitter
  • Washington Post, PBS Newswire, NPR
  • Washington Post, Apple News Service, Twitter, Facebook, New York Times, CNN, Politico, The Hill, CBS News, “not regularly, but CNN Shows (Anderson Cooper), MSNBC — Rachel Maddow/Chris Hayes

Admittedly, local Fox News is not the same thing as Fox News Channel, but at least two of the jurors listed it as their primary news diet, a refutation of Wohl and Burkman’s entire premise.

The last bullet — the only one specifically naming Rachel Maddow — is from the foreperson, the woman on whose selection Stone based his bid for a new trial (and for more juror information on which Mike Cernovich is attempting to intervene in Stone’s case). But all the foreperson’s questionnaire shows is that Stone had notice of her liberal news watching diet during voir dire, and his team didn’t choose to disqualify her. That is, they are to blame for her presence on the jury, not ABJ or the DC District Court or anyone but Stone.

Likewise, just four or five jurors said they had heard anything about Stone’s case.  Three who had seen coverage of Stone had generally remembered his arrest (which, given the right wing propaganda suggesting he was ill-treated, would have been helpful to Stone). Again, the foreperson is the one person who commented negatively, describing that he “is accused of inappropriate contact Russian officials in the effort of helping Mr. Trump’s campaign for President.” She is also the person who had the most family members — a niece and a brother — who had been prosecuted for a crime.

Wohl and Burkman claimed that the jury was packed with CIA people and lawyers. In reality, that consisted of two people (including the foreperson) who each said they had a single friend who worked for the FBI, one person whose father had worked for CIA for 2-3 years in the 1960s before the juror was born, and one person whose son is in the Coast Guard.

This is the frothy right’s idea of a Deep State plot against Roger Stone.

Wohl and Burkman did not mention that the juror with the most direct, high level current political connection has a spouse who appears to work for a conservative Republican Senator.

In short, like all their hoaxes, this one was badly executed and based on lies.

But the poor execution may be the downfall. The released documents don’t actually reveal anything beyond what had already been identified during the initial frenzy against he foreperson (and since the foreperson gave credible responses in the hearing, backed by the testimony of two other jurors who said she was one of the last jurors to vote to convict). But Wohl and Burkman failed to redact the handwritten notes about a potential juror on one of the questionnaires.

This is going to make it easier to identify the potential sources for this document, something that ABJ was already trying to do in the hearing earlier this week.

There is a concerted effort on the part of the frothy right to violate every single norm of jury service, all to discredit a slam-dunk case against Roger Stone that even Bill Barr said was righteous. And for once these shithole hoaxsters may have done some good — in the form of helping the FBI figure out who’s behind it all.

DOJ Is Withholding the Mike Flynn 302 Describing How the Campaign Considered Reaching Out to Julian Assange after the Podesta Leaks

As DOJ continues to respond to the BuzzFeed/CNN Mueller FOIAs by releasing big swaths of 302s (FBI interview reports) almost entirely redacted under b5 (deliberative) exemptions, there are a number of issues on which it is withholding information that are utterly critical to current debates.

For example, Trump renewed his claim the other day that Robert Mueller had interviewed for the FBI job before being named Special Counsel, which he claims presented a conflict. According to the Mueller Report, Steve Bannon, Don McGahn, and Reince Priebus all rebutted that claim, either on the facts or whether it presented a conflict. But Bill Barr’s DOJ has withheld all of McGahn’s 302s, as well as the Bannon one (from October 26, 2018) cited in the Mueller Report on this topic. And DOJ redacted all the substantial discussion of what Reince Priebus told the President about this purported conflict in his.

Plus there’s substantially redacted material in the Rod Rosenstein 302 that pertains to this topic (and possibly also in Jody Hunt’s 302). Which is to say that DOJ is letting the President make repeated assertions about this topic, while withholding the counter-evidence under claims of privilege.

A more glaring example, however, involves Mike Flynn. In response to the FOIA, DOJ has only released the same January 24, 2017 302 that got released as part of Flynn’s sentencing. Even as Barr has planted outside reviewers in the DC US Attorney’s office to second-guess Flynn’s prosecution, DOJ is withholding 302s that — the government has suggested — show that Flynn wasn’t even all that forthcoming after he was purportedly cooperating with Mueller.

Based on filings and assertions made by the defendant’s new counsel, the government anticipates that the defendant’s cooperation and candor with the government will be contested issues for the Court to consider at sentencing. Accordingly, the government will provide the defendant with the reports of his post-January 24, 2017 interviews. The government notes that the defendant had counsel present at all such interviews.

Even Flynn himself released a sworn declaration revealing that his Covington lawyers told him his first interview with Mueller, on November 16, 2017, “did not go well.”

More urgent, given today’s news that Julian Assange’s lawyers will claim that when Dana Rohrabacher met with Assange in August 2017 about trading a pardon for disinformation about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 operation, DOJ is withholding details about conversations Flynn participated in during the campaign about WikiLeaks, including a possible effort to reach out to them after the John Podesta release.

The defendant also provided useful information concerning discussions within the campaign about WikiLeaks’ release of emails. WikiLeaks is an important subject of the SCO’s investigation because a Russian intelligence service used WikiLeaks to release emails the intelligence service stole during the 2016 presidential campaign. On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. Beginning on October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks released emails stolen from John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. The defendant relayed to the government statements made in 2016 by senior campaign officials about WikiLeaks to which only a select few people were privy. For example, the defendant recalled conversations with senior campaign officials after the release of the Podesta emails, during which the prospect of reaching out to WikiLeaks was discussed.

Assange has created a firestorm with the mere allegation — one already reported in great depth in real time — that Trump was involved in the 2017 Rohrabacher effort.

Except Mike Flynn’s 302s report something potentially more inflammatory: that the campaign started pursuing this effort in October 2016.

The President’s Conspiracy Theories Get More Whacko than George Papadopoulos’

Perhaps because the entire legal establishment is pushing back against Bill Barr’s wholesale politicization of DOJ, the President is disturbed on Twitter. After launching a 3-tweet tirade against juror Tameka Hart and Judge Amy Berman Jackson based off a Judge Andrew Napolitano appearance on Fox on Friends (that perhaps unsurprisingly neglects to remind his followers that Napolitano made a case in favor of Trump’s removal by the Senate). he then launched a 3-tweet tirade against the Stone prosecution more generally.

I’m interested in it because of the way Trump attempts to deploy all the other conspiracy theories he has against the Russian investigation to the Stone prosecution, to which they simply don’t apply.

Start with the way Trump claims that 1) the Mueller investigation was “illegally set up” based on the Steele dossier and 2) “forging documents to the FISA Court.”

This is a conceit that has worked well since Paul Manafort, fresh off a meeting with an Oleg Deripaska deputy, suggested Trump could use attacks on the dossier to attack the Mueller Report.

Except one glaring fault of the dossier is that Roger Stone, who had already made comments that suggested he had a direct role in the operation by the time FBI opened investigations on the four initial subjects of it, doesn’t appear in the Steele dossier.

Moreover, whatever else the DOJ IG Report on the Carter Page FISA applications showed, it also showed that the predication of the investigation had nothing to do with the Steele dossier; in fact, Steele’s reports didn’t make it to the investigative team until about six weeks after opening the investigation.

Further, the suggestion that Kevin Clinesmith’s alteration of an email in June 2017 to claim that Page was “not a source” for CIA had anything to do with Roger Stone’s investigation falls flat given that Mueller’s team obtained the first warrant targeting Roger Stone on August 4, 2017, and there’s no insinuation anywhere that Stone ever spoke with Carter Page. (Indeed, in spring 2016, Stone was bitching to Rick Gates that he was not in the loop of foreign policy discussions.) In fact, had Roger Stone been more closely associated with Trump’s freebie foreign policy team, than both Page and George Papadopoulos’ claims to know nothing of campaign efforts to optimize WikiLeaks’ releases would be anything but exculpatory, as DOJ IG treated them, since Stone was doing just that in the time period when they were asked by informants.

Plus, Robert Mueller testified under oath that his team didn’t have anything to do with the Carter Page FISA order. And the investigative record shows that the investigation into Page was largely done by the time Mueller took over.

There’s simply no tie between either the Steele dossier or the Page FISA warrants and Roger Stone’s prosecution.

Trump continues to claim that Mueller interviewed to be FBI Director, even after evidence showing that Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, and Don McGahn debunked this in real time, not to mention Rod Rosenstein’s 302 that shows that Mueller specifically said he did not want to be interviewed before he met with Trump about Jim Comey’s replacement. That is, a bunch of witnesses — all Republicans — say Trump is wrong.

The most interesting accusation is that the prosecutors who won a conviction against Stone “were Mueller prosecutors.”

Two were: Aaron Zelinsky and Adam Jed.

But two weren’t. Jonathan Kravis (the sole prosecutor who quit DOJ entirely) and Michael Marando were career DC prosecutors brought in to prosecute the case after Mueller shut down. These were, pointedly, not Mueller prosecutors, and the case still went off without a hitch.

In fact, in his interview the other day, Bill Barr made quite clear that this prosecution happened on his watch, and he believes it’s a righteous prosecution.

BARR: Well, as you know, the Stone case was prosecuted while I was attorney general. And I supported it. I think it was established, he was convicted of obstructing Congress and witness tampering. And I thought that was a righteous prosecution. And I was happy that he was convicted.

If Trump has a problem with the guy who prosecuted the case against Roger Stone, he has a problem with his Attorney General Bill Barr.

Which may be why Trump — who shouldn’t be affected by mere lies by Roger Stone to Congress — is threatening to “sue everyone all over the place.” Of course, he is affected by Stone — Stone is going to prison to protect the President, to avoid describing the multiple conversations they had about optimizing the WikiLeaks releases. And suing (whom?!?!) won’t help Trump suppress that.

The President sounds crazier than George Papadopoulos in this rant, and his conspiracy theories are just as unhinged. Which is, I guess, what happens when all the conspiracy theories you’ve been using to undermine the prosecution implicating you turn out to be utterly irrelevant to the most important firewall to protect.

Steve Bannon Employee Lee Stranahan Purportedly Convinced Roger Stone to Love Guccifer 2.0

As I’ve been laying out, there are discrepancies between what Steve Bannon told the FBI in his second interview on February 14, 2018 and the fragments of his grand jury appearance on January 18, 2019 revealed during his testimony at the Roger Stone trial on November 8, 2019. (His first interview on February 12, 2018 contains similar convenient forgetfulness, and his second on October 26, 2018 remains unavailable; he reportedly had a trial prep interview where he backtracked on some of what he had said under penalty of perjury in early 2019.)

Bannon and the campaign were more interested in WikiLeaks than he initially let on.

Bannon tried to hide his role and knowledge of Stone’s back channel to WikiLeaks

While the 302s currently redact Stone’s name, in his first interview, Bannon claimed — after a discussion of the email about WikiLeaks that Don Jr forwarded to others on the campaign — that he didn’t remember anyone else in contact with WikiLeaks, and didn’t remember anyone reaching out to Stone.

Bannon did not remember anyone else in contact with WikiLeaks or trying to get in contact with WikiLeaks. There was discussion during the campaign on how WikiLeaks would impact the race. Bannon did not think anyone had any ideas on where WikiLeaks had got their information. Bannon did not remember anyone reaching out to [redaction, probably Stone], WikiLeaks, or any other intermediary to see what information might be coming.

In the grand jury testimony that prosecutors made him hew to during the trial, however, Bannon admitted that the campaign understood that Stone was the access point, if one were pursued, to WikiLeaks.

Q. Now, I want you to turn to page 14, line 4. I’m going to read line 4 through 8 on page 14. And you’re asked, “And just within the campaign, who was the access point to WikiLeaks?”

And you responded, “I think it was generally believed that the access point or potential access point to WikiLeaks and to Julian Assange would be Roger Stone.”

Did I read that correctly?

A. That’s correct.

Q. And did you, at that time, did you personally believe or you personally view Roger Stone as the access point between Trump campaign and WikiLeaks?

A. Yes.

Bannon likely first began to admit this in October 2018, when prosecutors showed him the email reflecting Bannon emailing Stone (via his non-campaign email) on October 4, 2016 to ask why WikiLeaks hadn’t dumped anything on that day, as predicted. Bannon seemed less squirmy about admitting that at Stone’s trial.

Q. Why then, why did you send this email then, that date on October 4th, 2016, to Mr. Stone?

A. I don’t believe — I think the press conference was about another topic or it wasn’t about the topic that everybody had hyped it about.

Q. Was one of the reasons why you sent this email to Mr. Stone because he was the access point to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange in the campaign?

A. Yes, he had a relationship or told me he had a relationship with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, so it would be natural that I would reach out to him.

Q. So were you sending this email to try to find out why there wasn’t any announcement that day?

A. I think it’s twofold. One is to find out why there’s no announcement, and the other was a little bit of a heckle.

But at the trial, Bannon was also squirmy about admitting the timing of his knowledge that Stone claimed to have a back channel to WikiLeaks.

Q. So you were asked at page 7, line 15, “And when you had private conversations with him about his connection to Julian Assange, approximately how far in advance of your joining the campaign did that conversation take place?”

And you responded, “Oh, I think the first time it was months before, but I think it all the way led up to right before I joined the campaign. It was something he would, I think, frequently mention or talk about when we talked about other things.”

Did I read that correctly?

A. That’s correct.

Q. All right. Now, in any of your conversations with Mr. Stone, did he ever brag to you about his connections to Assange?

A. I wouldn’t call it bragging, but maybe boasting, I guess the difference between bragging and boasting, but he would mention it.

Q. What do you mean by “boast”?

A. That he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

On its face, that’s damning because it puts Stone’s claimed awareness of WikiLeaks’ plans back to around June 2016, when (according to trial evidence) Stone was calling Trump just as Guccifer 2.0 started dropping emails on June 14, 2016 and also calling Rick Gates to get Jared Kushner’s email so they could strategize the release.

Q. Did you know why Mr. Stone was asking you for Mr. Kushner’s contact information at that time?

A. Mr. Stone indicated that he wanted to reach out to Mr. Kushner and Mr. Murphy to debrief them on the developments of the DNC announcement.

I’ve come to realize that that line from Bannon — “it all the way led up to right before I joined the campaign” — is actually more damning. That’s because of the role of Lee Stranahan in this story. I also suspect Bannon is a key player in what I suspect is Roger Stone’s use of stolen emails in his social media campaigns sowing racial division.

When I’ve thought of the dumps of stolen emails in the past, I’ve thought of the DNC emails, the DCCC emails about state races, and the Podesta emails.

Then Breitbart reporter Lee Stranahan’s outreach to Guccifer 2.0 coincided with Stone’s efforts to learn what WikiLeaks had coming

But as the GRU indictment reminds (in a paragraph that immediately precedes the one discussing Roger Stone’s interactions with Guccifer 2.0), the persona also gave then Breitbart journalist Lee Stranahan access to some documents on Black Lives Matter over a week before releasing them publicly.

On or about August 22, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, sent a reporter stolen documents pertaining to the Black Lives Matter movement. The reporter responded by discussing when to release the documents and offering to write an article about their release.

What is believed to be the entirety of Stranahan’s exchanges with Guccifer 2.0 appear here. The first of those DMs is one from August 2, 2016, where Stranahan introduces himself.

In the wake of the Roger Stone trial, the date is more interesting. Days earlier, Stone had ratcheted up his efforts to learn — and possibly get — the emails that would soon be dumped, with key emails with Jerome Corsi on July 25 and 31, and Corsi’s response hours earlier on August 2 to Stone promising Podesta emails. There are also calls from Stone to Gates (on July 31). Stone wrote Manafort on July 29 promising “Good shit happening.” In the wake of Corsi’s email about Podesta emails, Stone had calls with Trump on on August 2, and a text to Gates reporting as much. Then the next day, after Stranahan had introduced himself to get no response, Stone wrote Manafort boasting he had “an idea to save Trump’s ass.”

The Breitbart column that led Stone to interact with Guccifer 2.0

Days later (and after Stone claimed to Sam Nunberg that he had dined with Julian Assange on August 3), Stone wrote a column in Breitbart — still under the direction of Steve Bannon — claiming that Guccifer 2.0 was the lone culprit behind the DNC hack, not Russia.

I have some news for Hillary and Democrats—I think I’ve got the real culprit. It doesn’t seem to be the Russians that hacked the DNC, but instead a hacker who goes by the name of Guccifer 2.0. The original Guccifer famously hacked Hillary’s home email server, you might remember.

[snpi]

Then Guccifer 2.0 even did an interview going into detail about how they had done the hacking and tried to get some media traction but the media wasn’t biting. Someone from The Hill did a piece, but that was about it. For some strange reason, the establishment press didn’t want to take on the establishment Democrat machine.

[snip]

Inspiration stuck: ignore Guccifer 2.0. The DNC being hacked by one person didn’t look sinister enough. Time for the victim card! Blame the Russians! Blame Putin! Blame Trump!

No, it didn’t make any sense. Yes, the evidence about Guccifer 2.0 was already out there. But it’s good to the be the Queen.

Now, common sense would inform most sane people that if Russia were dong what Hillary says they were doing they simply would have gone straight to Wikileaks. However, common sense didn’t fit Hillary’s narrative and so the press went all in with her fable.

Bannon now admits, when pressed to adhere to his sworn grand jury testimony, that in precisely this period he and Stone remained in discussions about his back channel to WikiLeaks.

The Breitbart column became the public impetus for Stone and Guccifer 2.0’s own exchanges over the weekend of August 12. At 10:23PM, Guccifer 2.0 tweeted publicly to Stone, “Thanks that u believe in the real #Guccifer2,” a reference to that Breitbart post. At 11:40 ET (I believe Stranahan was in Idaho at the time, but these DMs appear to be printed out on ET), Stranahan DMed Guccifer 2.0 taking credit for convincing Stone that Guccifer 2.0 was not Russian.

But Guccifer 2.0 didn’t respond to Stranahan right away. Instead, over the weekend, Stone  Tweeted that “Gruccifer is a HERO.” The next day, Stone complained that Guccifer 2.0 had been banned by Twitter (technically he did so after Guccifer had been reinstated, if indeed he was actually banned). Then, sometime that same day, Stone DMed Guccifer 2.0 and told the persona he was “Delighted you are reinstated.”

At 1:33AM on August 15, Stone tweeted about John Podesta for the first time ever. “@JohnPodesta makes @PaulManafort look like St. Thomas Aquinas Where is the @NewYorkTimes ?” Sometime on August 15, Guccifer 2.0 DMed Stone, “thank u for writing back, and thank u for an article about me!!  . . . do u find anyting interesting in the docs I posted?” Stone responded, asking Guccifer to RT a story on how the election could be hacked. Guccifer followed up with more platitudes on August 17.

All the while, Stone kept bragging publicly that he had a back channel to WikiLeaks.

Steve Bannon consults with the Mercers before joining the Trump campaign

Even as that was happening, Steve Bannon was consulting with his bosses about whether he should go save the Trump campaign. Before he joined the campaign, someone he consulted (given the reference to an anti-Hillary Super PAC and the timing of the June meeting, this is almost certainly the Mercers, then the owners of both Breitbart and part owners of Cambridge Analytica) worried about Breitbart being blamed if Trump lost.

Bannon had read a NYTimes article describing the Trump campaign being in disarray, so he started to make a few phone calls. At the time, Trump was 12-16 points down, there was talk of the Republican National Committee (RNC) cutting Trump loose, and the Republicans were distancing themselves from Trump for fear of losing control of the House of Representatives. Bannon called [redacted] and there was worries that if Bannon became involved in the Trump campaign, Breitbart could be blamed if Trump lost. Bannon had previously talked to [redacted] back in June 2016 in an effort for them to make peace with Trump.

Ultimately, he joined the campaign at a time — he says over and over again in his interviews that have been made public — the campaign was badly underwater in the polls and broke.

Bannon was hired on August 14, but it became public on August 17, then Paul Manafort resigned on August 19.

Who did what with social media on August 18?

At 1:02 AM on the morning of August 18, Stone wrote Bannon at his arc-ent email.

Trump can still win –but time is running out.

Early voting begins in six weeks.

I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty.

Campaign has never been good at playing the new media.

Lots to do–let me know when u can talk.

R

Bannon replied at 6:14 AM: “Let’s talk ASAP.”

In my opinion, this is the most puzzling public email from the entire Mueller investigation. That’s because the date and content seems to be the subject of a different DOJ investigation, about which Manafort at first provided details, seemingly implicating Kushner, and then reneged, seemingly blaming it all on Stone. The email to Bannon makes it clear this is about “new media” — the social media we’ve heard so much about, where the Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica which led to a social media strategy that purportedly found new Republican voters and suppressed black turnout. It’s possible that’s what the other DOJ investigation was into, as references to Cambridge Analytica in Bannon’s 302 are redacted under an ongoing investigation redaction.

Indeed, when Bannon was first asked about such things (indeed, about joining the campaign), Bannon said Kushner — the guy that Manafort implicated — was “in charge of the digital campaign.”

In August 2016, Kushner was in charge of the digital campaign and fundraising. Bannon was the CFO of the campaign with Jeff DeWitt. The campaign had almost no cash and they were receiving only a small amount from cash contributions. The campaign was losing cash at the time and they were down by a double digit lead with the 1st debate coming. They needed $50 million from Trump, which eventually became $10 million.

The reference within the 302 was out of context, but it seems that Bannon offered up that at a time when the campaign was broke and underwater, the candidate’s son-in-law embraced a strategy that turned things around.

Remarkably, prosecutors at Stone’s trial didn’t get Bannon to explain precisely what this email meant — aside from suggesting that he agreed there was a tie to WikiLeaks and used a bunch of nice words to explain this had to do with Stone’s rat-fucking.

Q. When Mr. Stone wrote to you, “I do know how to win 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 withWikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

Rather than getting Bannon to explain what this email was about in more detail, they instead moved to talk about the October 4 email where Bannon asked about why WikiLeaks had not yet dropped the promised October surprise.

Likewise, prosecutors did not ask Bannon what Stone meant by the end of that October 4 email, where Stone demanded Bannon get Bannon to give him money for his own digital campaign.

I know your surrogates are dumb but try to get them to understand the Danney Williams case

chick mangled it on CNN this am

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3819671/Man-claiming-Bill-Clinton-s-illegitimate-son-prostitute-continues-campaign-former-president-recognize-him.html

I’ve raise  $150L for the targeted black digital campaign thru a C-4

Tell Rebecca to send us some $$$

On August 18, Stone complained about the campaign’s paltry new media campaign. On October 4, Stone demanded Bannon help him raise money for a digital campaign. It’s unclear what the modifier “black” refers to, but in the context of Stone’s focus on Danney Williams — a black man that Stone was focusing on to suggest Bill Clinton had a secret child of a prostitute — suggests the digital campaign was about sowing division based on race (not coincidentally, the same strategy the IRA’s trolls were using).

In fact, Stone had started that campaign at least as earlier as October 16, 2015 (when he first tweeted about Williams), and he continued it persistently through the campaign. At times, he tied it to an effort to source the Black Lives Matter movement on Hillary, which Stone also used Hillary’s record in Haiti and Libya to do.

Incidentally, that demand for money from the chair of the campaign probably amounts to illegal coordination, as would Stone’s repeated demand from Rick Gates for voter lists, which was also revealed at the trial.

Stranahan obtains files pertinent to Stone’s social media focus

On 9:24 AM on August 21, Stone tweeted the “time in the barrel” tweet that first raised questions about his foreknowledge that WikiLeaks would release the John Podesta emails. Almost 12 hours alter, Guccifer 2.0 finally responded to Stranahan’s DMs. Guccifer offers Stranahan “exclusive files,” as the persona had for journalists and a Republican Florida lobbyist.

They DM back and forth for an hour and a half, after which Guccifer says he’s sending “some exclusive files” to Stranahan’s Gmail. Guccifer makes sure to get Stranahan to confirm he has received them. Stranahan almost immediately focuses on a Black Lives Matter “thing,” something that Breitbart had been stoking just as long as Stone had been stoking the Danney Williams thing.

The next day, Guccifer gets Stranahan to confirm that the Black Lives Matter documents are important. The go back and forth about what the optimal timing for their release is. On August 30 at 10:41AM, Guccifer asks Stranahan, “how about doing it today?”

An hour and a half later, at 12:17 PM, Stone tweets, “BLACK LIVES MATTER- unless you are in Libya in which case @HillaryClinton bombs you,” a lead up to his efforts to get stolen emails on Libby from WikiLeaks via Credico in the following weeks. Sometime that afternoon, Stone emails Corsi asking him to call; Stone would ask Corsi to create a cover story for their discussions of Podesta earlier that month, which he did in one day.

At 4:03, Guccifer DMs Stranahan and offers to release the Black Lives Matter file at any particular time. But ultimately, Guccifer publishes the file — purporting that it came from Pelosi’s computer — on August 31, without getting Stranahan’s advance okay.

There’s no reason to believe Stone was in the loop with Stranahan on this, particularly given their dramatically different response to the next exchange. On September 9, the same day Guccifer floats the DCCC turnout models to Florida that Stone judges are “Pretty standard” to Guccifer, Stranahan says that “it’s great” but adds he’s “having trouble with my company right now so let me figure out the right way to break this.”

Stranahan would go on to quit Breitbart — in part because they wouldn’t let him attend White House press briefings to pester Sean Spicer about Crowdstrike hoaxes — and move to his own radio show at Sputnik.

But it was not just Stranahan at Breitbart that remained in the loop of Stone’s focus on WikiLeaks. Before Bannon emailed Stone about WikiLeaks on October 4, Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle exchanged emails with Stone. He asked Stone what Assange had, Stone implied he knew and complained that “Bannon … doesn’t call me back.” Boyle forwarded the email to Bannon and told him he “should call Roger.” Which Bannon tried to brush off by saying he had “important stuff to worry about.”

Yet he did write Stone (the context of that earlier exchange did not come up at Stone’s trial). And Stone came right back and asked for money for his “black digital campaign.”

I don’t know what to make of all this. But Stone’s actions with respect to Guccifer 2.0 look far more damning when viewed in parallel with Stranahan’s actions.

Curiously, even in spite of his mention in the GRU indictment, that incident doesn’t appear to be mentioned even in the redacted passages of the Mueller Report, as Stranahan doesn’t appear in the glossary at all.

Which may suggest his import had more to do with the August 2 column, written with Stone for Bannon, than his ongoing exchanges with Guccifer 2.0.

Steve Bannon’s Grand Jury Secrets

In preparation for several other posts, I want to follow up on this post — Steve Bannon’s 302 of Laughter and Forgetting — and lay out what we know of Bannon’s other testimony to Mueller.

I said in that post there are four known Bannon interviews.

  • February 12, 2018 (26 pages)
  • February 14, 2018 (37 pages)
  • October 26, 2018 (16 pages; the interview list lists three different interviews, but they are likely just copies of the same one)
  • January 18, 2019 (4 pages)

But that’s not right. Bannon was asked by Stone lawyer Robert Buschel in cross-examination at the Roger Stone trial whether he had “sat down with” prosecutors recently.

Q. You just gave an interview in preparation for your testimony today, right, with the government, with the Department of Justice?

A. What do you mean, an interview?

Q. Did you sit down with them recently?

A. Yes.

So one of the six 302s that post-date the end of the Mueller investigation must be from Bannon (at least two are presumably Randy Credico, there were two other non-governmental witnesses who testified, Rick Gates and Margaret Kunstler, and Andrew Miller was flown into DC to testify but did not ultimately do so).

The government got Amy Berman Jackson to approve the partial redaction of the grand jury transcript of one witness on August 26, 2019. That may well be Bannon (in which case his interview must have been on July 26, 2019), because as I’ll explain, prosecutors had to use his grand jury testimony to get him to adhere to his previously sworn testimony.

Before I get there, consider that the government is still withholding Bannon’s first interview report, from February 12, 2018 (I suspect, based on the unredacted content of the February 14, 2018 one, that that first one focuses on Trump’s obstruction). As I laid out in my “Laughter and Forgetting” post, Bannon clearly shaded the truth significantly in his February 14 one.

On October 26, 2018, we know Bannon admitted to details about the WikiLeaks dump that he hadn’t before, most notably an October 4, 2016 email from his non-campaign “arc-ent” email (which he described in his February 14 testimony) asking Stone why Assange hadn’t released emails as promised that day, because in the week after his testimony he and Stone floated competing half-truths and lies on the pages of the WaPo, NYT, and DailyCaller.

But Bannon likely still didn’t tell the full truth on October 26, because on his next known interview, January 18, 2019 (so just days before Stone’s arrest), he signed a proffer with Mueller covering that day’s interview and an appearance the same day before the grand jury. The government has released the proffer but not the actual interview. That means that, apparently for the first time in hours and hours of testimony, Bannon’s competent lawyers either expressed concern about his legal exposure or that he had lied in a past interview and Mueller was using that to finally get the truth out of him.

There were two topics in Bannon’s testimony that prosecutor Michael Marando used to get Bannon to adhere to the sworn testimony he was willing to give in a secret grand jury. First (though it came second in his testimony), that he regarded Stone as the campaign’s access point to WikiLeaks.

Q. While you were CEO of the Trump campaign, who, if anyone, was the campaign’s access point to WikiLeaks?

A. The campaign’s access point?

Q. Yes.

A. I don’t think we had one.

Q. I want to refer back to Government’s Exhibit 209 that’s in front of you. This is the same grand jury transcript that I showed you before, correct? Am I correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Okay, this is your testimony in the grand jury. This was the Robert Mueller grand jury, correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, I want you to turn to page 14, line 4. I’m going to read line 4 through 8 on page 14. And you’re asked, “And just within the campaign, who was the access point to WikiLeaks?”

And you responded, “I think it was generally believed that the access point or potential access point to WikiLeaks and to Julian Assange would be Roger Stone.”

Did I read that correctly?

A. That’s correct.

Q. And did you, at that time, did you personally believe or you personally view Roger Stone as the access point between Trump campaign and WikiLeaks?

A. Yes.

This what the testimony where Buschel described Bannon reversing his prior testimony in his more recent interview.

Q. And did they ask you that precise question, whether you thought Roger Stone was an access point to WikiLeaks?

A. I think they asked me the exact question they just asked me a few minutes ago.

Q. And you gave a different answer than you just gave right now, didn’t you? You said that Roger Stone — you and the Trump campaign did not view Mr. Stone as an access point between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.

A. The campaign had no — had no official access to WikiLeaks or to Julian Assange, but Roger would be considered, if we needed an access point, an access point because he had implied or told me that he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

In addition, Bannon had to be forced to adhere to his grand jury testimony describing that Stone had boasted of his relationship with Julian Assange going back months before Bannon joined the campaign on August 14, 2016.

Q. Does that date sound like the time that — I’m sorry. January 18th, 2019. My apologies. Did you testify on January 18th, 2019?

A. I have no idea.

Q. Does that sound correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, there were prosecutors that were present there, correct?

A. They were, yes.

Q. Andrew Goldstein, does that sound correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And you were the witness that was there, correct?

A. Yes.

Q. There was a court reporter that was taking down everything you said, correct?

A. That’s correct.

Q. And there were grand jurors there; isn’t that right?

A. That’s correct.

Q. You took an oath — the defendant, Mr. Stone, was not there; is that right?

A. That’s correct.

Q. You took an oath to tell the truth; isn’t that right?

A. That’s correct.

Q. And the prosecutor asked you a number of questions; isn’t that right?

A. That’s correct.

Q. But before he asked you any questions, he advised you of your rights as a witness; is that correct?

A. That’s correct.

Q. All right. And he told you that if you failed to tell the truth before the grand jury, you could be charged with perjury; isn’t that right?

A. That’s correct.

Q. And you told the grand jury that you understood that right; isn’t that correct?

A. That’s correct.

Q. I want to turn to page 7, if you can. Let me know when you’re on page 7.

A. I’m at page 7.

Q. Line 15?

A. Yes.

Q. So you were asked at page 7, line 15, “And when you had private conversations with him about his connection to Julian Assange, approximately how far in advance of your joining the campaign did that conversation take place?”

And you responded, “Oh, I think the first time it was months before, but I think it all the way led up to right before I joined the campaign. It was something he would, I think, frequently mention or talk about when we talked about other things.”

Did I read that correctly?

A. That’s correct.

Q. All right. Now, in any of your conversations with Mr. Stone, did he ever brag to you about his connections to Assange?

A. I wouldn’t call it bragging, but maybe boasting, I guess the difference between bragging and boasting, but he would mention it.

Q. What do you mean by “boast”?

A. That he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

As noted, one witness — and Bannon is the only witness who had to be steered using a grand jury transcript — had selected bits of his grand jury released to Stone (though Amy Berman Jackson ultimately did not let prosecutors send the transcript to the grand jury).

That suggests there are other parts of that grand jury transcript in which he admitted to things he has otherwise tried to shade.