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Fun with Dr. Corsi’s “Forensics”!

By far the most ridiculous part of Jerome Corsi’s book is where he spends an entire chapter pretending that he figured out on his own that WikiLeaks had John Podesta’s emails rather than being told that by someone whose identity he’s trying to avoid sharing with Mueller’s team.

The chapter is one of three in the book that he presents as having been written in real time, effectively as diary entries. Corsi presents it as the fevered narrative he writes on November 18, 2018, at a time when Mueller’s team was cracking down on him for his continued lies but before he refused the plea deal, after a night of nightmares.

Last night, I was plagued by nightmares that caused me to sleep very poorly.

His change in voice is followed with an even more direct address to readers, which he returns to as an interjection in the middle of his crazed explanation.

I am going to write this chapter to explain to you, the reader, how I used my basic intuitive skills as a reporter to figure out in August 2016 that Assange had Podesta’s emails, that Assange planned to start making the Podesta file public in October 2016, and that Assange would release the emails in a serial, day-by-day fashion, right up to election day.

[snip]

Now, I know this is tedious and will tax many readers, so I’ve decided here to take a break. You have to understand what I am going through is a roller-coaster. Sometimes I feel like everything is normal and that the federal government will understand that I am a reporter and should be protected by the First Amendment. Then, I realize that the next ring of the doorbell could be the FBI seeking to handcuff me and arrest me in full view of my family.

Resuming after a much-needed break, we need only a few more dates to complete the analysis.

The chapter consists of three things, none of which even remotely presents a case for how he could have concluded WikiLeaks was sitting on John Podesta’s emails:

  • An argument that claims he simply reasoned it all out, without proof
  • A chronology that makes no sense given the July and August 2016 emails he’s trying to explain away
  • Other crap theories designed to undermine Mueller’s argument about Russian involvement, most of which post-date the date when Corsi claims to have figured out the Podesta emails were coming

Corsi’s “argument”

Corsi’s main argument is this:

Clearly, I reasoned there had to have been Podesta emails on that server that would have discussed the Clinton/DNC plot to deny Bernie Sanders the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2016. Where were these Podesta emails, I wondered?

[snip]

I felt certain that if Assange had Podesta’s emails he would wait to drop them in October 2016, capturing the chance to stage the 2016 “October Surprise,” a term that had been in vogue in U.S. presidential politics since 1980 when Jimmy Carter lost re-election to Ronald Reagan, largely because the Reagan camp finessed Ayatollah Khomeini to postpone the release of the hostages from the American embassy in Tehran until after that year’s November election. I also figured that Assange would release the Podesta emails in drip-drip fashion, serially, over a number of days, stretching right up to the Election Day. In presidential politics, the news cycle speeds up, such that what might take a month or a week to play out in a normal news cycle might take only a day or two in the heightened intensity of a presidential news cycle—especially a presidential news cycle in October, right at Election Day is nearing.

In spite of his claims, elsewhere, to have done forensic analysis that told him John Podesta’s emails were coming, ultimately his argument boils down to this: he figured out that Podesta’s emails (which he purportedly hadn’t read) would be the most damning possible thing and therefore WikiLeaks must have and intend to release them in a serial release because it made sense.

Corsi’s chronology

From there, Corsi proceeds to spin out the following bullshit about how he came to that conclusion:

  • Starting in February 2016, a woman named LH whose ex-husband was a former top NSA figure told him [why?] incorrect things about how the Democrats organize their servers. This information seems to be inflected by the flap over VAN space the previous December, but Corsi doesn’t mention that. This information is wrong in many of the ways later skeptics of the Russian hack would be wrong, but Corsi claims he had that wrong understanding well in advance of the crowd.
  • When Assange announced on June 12 that he had upcoming Hillary leaks, Corsi was “alerted to the possibility Assange had obtained emails from the DNC email server,” which he took to mean VAN.
  • When the WaPo reported on the DNC hack on June 14, 2016, Corsi took Democrats’ (false) reassurances about financial data to be true, matched it to his incorrect claimed understanding of how the Democrats organized their data, and assumed VAN had been hacked (this is the day before Guccifer 2.0 would claim he got in through VAN, remember). Corsi also claims to have noted from the WaPo story that Perkins Coie and Crowdstrike were involved, the latter of which he tied to Google’s Eric Schmidt (who was helping Dems on tech), which together he used to suggest that in real time he believed the Democrats had “manufactured” evidence to pin the hack on the Russians. Again, Corsi is suggesting he got to the conspiracy theories it took the rest of Republicans a year to get to, but in real time.
  • Corsi incorrectly read the Crowdstrike white paper (on which the WaPo story was obviously based and which Ellen Nakashima had had for about a week, and which includes an update written in response to the appearance of Guccifer 2.0) as a response to Guccifer 2.0’s post on June 15 and — in spite of the WaPo report that Cozy Bear had been “monitoring DNC’s email and chat communications” — concluded that the hackers had not taken email.
  • After the DNC emails were released, Corsi had what he claims was his big insight: that these emails largely came from DNC’s Comms Director and their finance staffers, which meant Podesta’s (and DWS’, which he logically should but did not, pursue) had to be what was left. Mind you, the former point is something WikiLeaks made clear on its website:

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks began releasing over two days a total of 44,053 emails and17,761 email attachments from key figures in the DNC. What I noticed immediately was that the largest number of emails by far came from DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda (10,520 emails), who had approximately three-times the emails released for the next highest on the list, National Finance Director Jordon Kaplan (3,799 emails) and Finance Chief of Staff Scott Corner (3,095 emails). What I noticed immediately was that emails from Debbie Wasserman Schultz and John Podesta were missing. Yet, by analyzing the addresses in the emails, it was clear the “From,” “To,” and or “CC” listings indicate the email was sent by or to an addressee using the DNC email server, identified as @dnc.org.

  • In his narrative of how he “figured out” there must be Podesta emails, he relies not on the July 25 NBC story he cites earlier in his book, quoting Assange saying there was “no proof” the emails came from Russia (and suggesting his set were a different one than the ones analyzed by cybersecurity experts), but a CNN story he dates to July 26 but which got updated early morning July 27, citing Assange saying, “Perhaps one day the source or sources will step forward and that might be an interesting moment some people may have egg on their faces. But to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are;” Corsi also cites a July 27 NYMag story citing the CNN one. Corsi claims that as he was listening to this interview, he realized that Assange had Podesta emails “lifted from the DNC server,” which would be incorrect even if it were true, given that Podesta’s emails were from his Gmail account.

Listening to this interview on CNN, all the pieces fit in place for me. Assange had Podesta emails that were also lifted from the DNC server and these were the emails he was holding to drop later in the campaign.

  • Corsi describes “the last piece of the puzzle” to be Seth Rich’s death on July 10, 2016, but which occurred before Assange’s post DNC release interviews, in one of which Assange suggested his sources were still alive to “step forward,” then points to Assange’s offer of a reward for information leading to a conviction on August 9. This happened after he had already suggested to Stone that Podesta’s emails were coming.

None of this explains how Corsi would not have decided that Clinton Foundation emails were what was missing, which is what Stone believed when he instructed Corsi to reach out to Ted Malloch on July 25, the day before the Assange interviews Corsi says led him to conclude WikiLeaks instead had Podesta’s emails. And much of it assumes that a unified hack occurred (otherwise it would be impossible to decide what was coming from what had already been released), an assumption he claims not to believe in much of the rest of his crap.

Corsi’s crap

In addition to that chronology, though, Corsi throws in a bunch of crap meant to discredit the evidence laid out in the Mueller GRU indictment. Much of this evidence post-dates the moment he claims he figured out that WikiLeaks had Podesta’s emails, which makes it irrelevant to his theory, nevertheless Corsi throws it out there.

  • Corsi takes the Guccifer 2.0 leak of DCCC files to Aaron Nevins — which didn’t happen until over a month after he told Stone that WikiLeaks had Podesta emails — to be “proof” not just that Guccifer 2.0 only hacked DNC files, which he again asserts incorrectly came from VAN, but also that Guccifer 2.0 had not hacked emails.
  • Corsi claims that Guccifer 2.0 “never bragged that he hacked the DNC email server that contained the Podesta emails,” even though Guccifer 2.0 did brag that WikiLeaks had published documents he gave them after the DNC leak.
  • Corsi claims that Guccifer 2.0 published donor lists and voter analysis at DCLeaks, which is generally inaccurate (indeed, some Podesta files came out via DCLeaks!), but also admits a tie between Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks that would either rely on contemporary reporting that asserted a tie, the GRU indictment, or some personal knowledge not otherwise explained.
  • Corsi claims that, unlike Marcel Lazar, “Guccifer 2.0 has never been positively identified let alone arrested,” without explaining how he’s sure that the 12 GRU officers Mueller indicted don’t amount to positively identifying the people running Guccifer 2.0. Indeed, rather than addressing that indictment, Corsi instead tries to rebut the Intelligence Community Assessment’s “high confidence” attribution of Guccifer 2.0 to GRU, which he claims relies on ‘tradecraft’ that relies on circumstantial evidence at best, presuming a hacker leaves a signature.” In the ICA, that discussion appears in a section that also notes that “Some analytic judgments are based directly on collected information,” as the Mueller indictment makes clear the GRU one was.
  • Corsi claims the Vault 7 release suggesting the CIA has a tool to falsely attribute its own hacks “undermined” the IC’s attribution of Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, without realizing that’s a different issue from whether the CIA, NSA, and FBI can correctly attribute the hack (though if the Russians obtained those files in the weeks after Joshua Schulte allegedly stole them in 2016, it would have made it harder for CIA to chase down the Russians).
  • Corsi initially argues, providing no evidence except that he’s sure the DNC emails come from the DNC email server and not NGP-VAN or Hillary’s private server, that, “While the DNC email server could have been hacked by an outside agent, what is equally plausible is that the emails could have been stolen by someone on the inside of the DNC, perhaps an employee with their own @dnc.org email address.” He then feeds the Seth Rich conspiracy.
  • Corsi uses what he claims to have learned about serialization in a college course covering Dickens (but details of which, regarding the history of Dickens’ serialization, he gets entirely wrong) to explain how he knew the Podesta emails would come out in a serialized release.
  • Corsi dismisses the possibility the Russians used a cut-out with this garble:

The attempt to distinguish is disingenuous, suggesting the Russians may have been responsible for the hack, turning the information to a third party, not the Russians or a state actor, who handed WikiLeaks the emails and thus became “the source.”

  • Corsi cites the Nation’s August 9, 2017 version of the Bill Binney theory purportedly proving that a set of files purporting to be from the DNC — which were never released by WikiLeaks — were copied inside the US and also noting that the Russian metadata in the first Guccifer 2.0 documents was placed there intentionally. As I noted at the time, the two theories actually don’t — at all — disprove the claim that Russia hacked the DNC. But they’re even worse for Corsi’s claims, because (even though the set of files were called NGP/VAN) they undermine his false claim about the Democrats’ servers and they acknowledge that the files he said disproved that Guccifer 2.0 had Podesta files actually were Podesta files.

These things are utterly irrelevant to the soundness of Corsi’s own claim to have been able to guess that the Podesta emails were coming and — as I note — a number of them sharply contradict what he claims to believe.

Corsi’s mistaken notion of his role in proving “collusion”

But the crap does serve Corsi’s larger point, which is to undermine what he imagines Mueller’s theory of “collusion” to be.

Mueller & Company had decided the Trump campaign somehow encouraged Russia to steal the DNC emails and give them to Assange, so WikiLeaks could publish them. Then to establish “Russian collusion” with the Trump campaign, Mueller was out to connect his own dots. The Mueller prosecutors had been charged with the mission to grill me until

I would “give up” my source to Assange. I was their critical “missing link.” If Rhee, Zelinsky, and Goldstein only got me to confess, Mueller figured he could connect the dots from Roger Stone to me to Assange, and from Assange back again to me, and from me to Roger Stone, who would feed the information to Steve Bannon, then chairing the Trump campaign.

The final dots, the Mueller prosecutors assumed, would connect Bannon to Trump and the “Russian collusion” chain of communication would be complete. The only problem was that I did not have a source connecting me to Assange, so Mueller’s chain-link narrative does not connect.

While I actually think it possible that Corsi’s shenanigans may have harmed the neatness of Mueller’s case against Stone, perhaps even leading Mueller to charge Stone only with the obstruction charges rather than in a larger conspiracy, it doesn’t affect the understanding with which Mueller seems to be approaching the Don Jr side of any conspiracy, in which Trump’s son accepted a meeting offering dirt, thinking the family might make $300 million off it, and promised policy considerations that — even before he was sworn into office — his father took steps to pay off.

That conspiracy remains, even if Mueller can’t show that at the same time, Trump was maximizing the advantage of the WikiLeaks releases via his old political advisor Roger Stone.

But who knows? Perhaps Mueller may one day prove that, too?

One other thing that’s worth noting, however: As I laid out above, Corsi doesn’t just attempt to explain how he came to guess that WikiLeaks would release John Podesta’s emails. In the guise of doing that, he lays out what amounts to the Greatest Hits of the Denialist Conspiracies, throwing every possible claim mobilized to undermine the conclusion that Russia hacked the Democrats out there, even the ones that undermine Corsi’s own claimed beliefs.

And, as Corsi himself notes, Mueller has Corsi’s Google searches.

Truthfully, I was astounded because it seemed as if the FBI had studied me down to knowing the key strokes that I had used on my computer to do Google searches for articles. I realized my Google file would have much information about my locations and my Internet searches, but the way Zelinsky drilled down on how I wrote this article was shocking.

Repeatedly Zelinsky had warned me that I had no idea how truly extensive the Special Counselor’s investigation had been. Now, I imagined an army of FBI computer specialists at Quantico mapping out my every electronic communication in 2016, including my emails, my cellphone calls, and my use of the laptop and the Internet to conduct my research and write my various articles and memos.

They actually know whether he read this stuff (notably, the NBC, CNN, and NYMag articles he cites from late July 2016) in real time or only after the fact. They know when Corsi downloaded a bunch of other things (including the Guccifer 2.0 releases), and they know whether he read the GRU indictment. The FBI has also likely obtained what he was doing in November, 2018, as he was writing this stuff.

So it may be that when Corsi’s book comes out in hard cover on March 12, Mueller’s team will  already have put together the forensic evidence to prove that Corsi’s claims about how he came by his own forensic analysis — and the rest of these conspiracies — are absolute bullshit. It is, admittedly, frightening how much the government can obtain about our contemporaneous thinking.

But it would be an ironic and just outcome for Corsi if Mueller’s best demonstration about the power of FBI’s forensic analysis comes not in the GRU indictment Corsi so studiously avoided mentioning in the entire book attempting to discredit it, but in proving Corsi’s own claims about forensics to be utterly false.

Corsi’s Timeline

March 16, 2016: WikiLeaks indexes FOIAed Hillary emails

June 12, 2016: Assange announces he has more information on Hillary

In that interview, Assange disclosed that WikiLeaks has “upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton,” though Assange distinguished the Hillary Clinton emails WikiLeaks possessed pending publication came from a different source than the emails from Hillary’s private email server. This alerted me to the possibility Assange had obtained emails from the DNC email server.

June 14, 2016: WaPo announces the DNC hack

June 15, 2016: Crowdstrike publicly releases white paper on DNC hack and Guccifer 2.0 first posts

July 10, 2016: Seth Rich’s murder

July 22, 2016: WikiLeaks releases the DNC emails

July 25, 2016: Stone emails Corsi asking him to Get to Assange to “get the pending WikiLeaks emails;” Corsi forwards the email to Ted Malloch

July 26, 2016: Assange tells CNN a lot more material is coming and refuses to exclude Russia as a source because “to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are”

July 28, 2016: Corsi and his wife leave for Italy

July 31, 2016: Stone emails Corsi to “call me MON” instructing him to get Malloch to see Assange

August 2, 2016: Corsi emails Stone,

Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.… Time to let more than Podesta to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke — neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.

August 9, 2016: WikiLeaks offers $20,000 reward for information leading to conviction for murder of Seth Rich

August 12, 2016: Corsi returns from Italy

March 7, 2017: WikiLeaks starts to release Vault 7 documents, including an Umbrage file showing that CIA uses disinformation to hide which attacks it launches

May 25, 2017: WSJ reports on Aaron Nevins files that Guccifer 2.0 noted in real time; Corsi deems this (in a Murdoch paper) to be part of the anti-Stone narrative

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

Jerome Corsi’s Theory of Roger the Rat-Fucker’s Mule Prosecution

I did something rash recently. I bought Jerome Corsi’s book, Silent No More.

It’s a … remarkable work of autobiographical fiction. It has two unbelievable chapters — one on how he met Stone and one claiming to describe how he figured out WikiLeaks had John Podesta’s emails; I’ll deal with the former in this post, and do a follow-up on the latter.

The rest of the book is a narrative of Corsi’s botched cooperation that is fairly clearly designed to provide all the details of his interactions with Mueller’s team to others, without, however, even clarifying details about events that should be central to the story.

Corsi continues to hide details of his Strip House trip with Stone

One of those missing details is what date Corsi introduced Stone to Ted Malloch over dinner at the Strip House in NYC. After that dinner, Stone had Corsi email two requests to Malloch, one of which is the email that appears in Corsi’s botched plea:

a. On or about July 25, 2016, Person 1 sent an email to CORSI with the subject line, “Get to [the founder of Organization 1].” The body of the message read: “Get to [the founder of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” On or about the same day, CORSI forwarded Person 1’s email to the overseas individual.

b. On or about July 31, 2016, Person 1 emailed CORSI with the subject line, “Call me MON.” The body of the email read in part that the overseas individual “should see [the founder of Organization 1].”

c. On or about August 2, 2016, CORSI responded to Person 1 by email. CORSI wrote that he was currently in Europe and planned to return in mid-August. CORSI stated: “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.… Time to let more than [the Clinton Campaign chairman] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton]. That appears to be the game hackers

A second request from Stone — which Corsi says was sent August 16 — Corsi describes as being limited to Bernie Sanders’ brother, but at least one other description I’ve heard about may also include a reference to WikiLeaks.

Here’s the context of Corsi’s two references to that dinner and his description of the August 16 email:

After meeting Roger Stone in February 2016, I arranged a dinner in New York City with Roger and Ted Malloch, a strong supporter of Donald Trump, for the next time both were in New York City at the same time. Malloch was anxious to assist the Trump campaign and he hoped Malloch [sic] could arrange to have him appointed to Trump’s presidential advisory staff—a hope that never materialized.

[snip]

On Tuesday, August 16, 2016, I sent Ted Malloch an email in the U.K., asking Ted if he could find Bernie Sanders’ brother who was in the U.K. at that time. My email to Malloch continued: “He (Bernie Sanders brother) is on the record of saying he plans to vote for Trump. Roger Stone suggested you might track down Sanders’ brother.” This was the third request Stone made of Malloch. At the dinner in New York City when I introduced Roger to Ted, Roger asked Ted to research Bill Clinton’s time as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Roger believed Bill Clinton had been dismissed from the program because Clinton had raped a female graduate student at Oxford. Then, on July 25, 2016, I passed Roger’s email onto Ted, asking Ted to go see Assange in London. Ted waned [sic] an advisory position with the Trump campaign and Stone believed Malloch could improve his chances by scoring on one of these three requests. To the best of my recollection, Ted never said anything to me to suggest he had succeeded on any of the three requests.

One published version of the dinner puts it in late February or March, almost immediately after Corsi met Stone.

Corsi told the Guardian he introduced Malloch to Stone over steaks at the Strip House in midtown Manhattan in late February or March 2016. Mueller’s investigators “wanted to know about the dinner”, he said. When asked if Assange was discussed during the meal, Corsi said he was not a “human tape recorder”.

I think the actual date of the meeting is later, but if that date is right — given the possibility that WikiLeaks came up at the meeting — it would have Stone pursuing information about what WikiLeaks had around the same time as (possibly even before) the Russians first hacked John Podesta on March 19.

Update: One other detail of Corsi’s suppression of details about Malloch. In the book, he describes the only time he met with Trump during the campaign.

During the campaign, I only recall seeing Trump once up close, and that was as Trump was entering the elevator at Trump Tower. On that occasion, Trump jokingly pointed at me and said, “That’s trouble there.” The last time I recall having a telephone conversation with Trump was in 2011.

Elsewhere, however, he made it clear that that exchange happened with Malloch.

Corsi said he spoke to Trump only once during the 2016 presidential campaign. It happened when he brought London-based conservative author Ted Malloch to Trump Tower to show him the campaign headquarters and possibly meet Trump. Corsi said Malloch was interested in potentially doing policy work for the campaign.

Shortly after Corsi and Malloch entered the lobby, Trump happened to be getting into the elevator, Corsi said.

“We said hello. Trump points to me and he points to Malloch and he says, ‘There’s trouble there,'” Corsi said. “And he laughs, we laugh, and that’s the only time I spoke to Donald Trump [during the campaign].”

Corsi never explains what crime he stopped short of committing with Stone

The book is also entirely inconsistent with the fact that before Corsi first lied to Mueller’s prosecutors, his lawyer, David Gray, suggested that Corsi had had the opportunity to engage in, but stopped short of, committing some crime.

Gray said he was confident that Corsi has done nothing wrong. “Jerry Corsi made decisions that he would not take actions that would give him criminal liability,” he added, declining to elaborate.

Asked if Corsi had opportunities to take such actions, Gray said, “I wouldn’t say he was offered those opportunities. I would say he had communications with Roger Stone. We’ll supply those communications and be cooperative. My client didn’t act further that would give rise to any criminal liability.”

As I note here, Gray’s pre-interview comments make it really hard for Corsi to claim faulty memory.

Corsi emphasizes Stone’s ongoing, yet deniable, role in Trump’s campaign

I raise those two details as background to what Corsi lays out in the chapter called, Meet Roger Stone. It describes:

  • Meeting Stone for the first time on February 22, 2016
  • Claiming that Stone’s campaign role as an “outside adviser” was intentionally designed to give Trump plausible deniability regarding Stone’s “various maneuvers”
  • Learning that — at least in February 2016 — Stone spoke to Trump every day and got him to adopt about 70% of his suggestions
  • Giving Stone the credit for getting Paul Manafort hired

And then it goes into a theory of Stone’s crime, real or imagined, I’m not sure which.

Corsi avoids the GRU indictment like the plague but nevertheless suggests Stone could be the mule

Mind you, I’m not sure if this is Corsi’s theory about what Stone actually did or what he thinks Mueller thinks Stone did (the theory is somewhat inconsistent with what Corsi suggests Mueller thinks Stone did as presented later in the book, which is more focused on Julian Assange). In part, it addresses what he seems to think Democrats suspect about Stone.

Democratic opponents of Trump raised the question that if Roger Stone had known in advance that Assange was holding the Podesta emails, as evidenced by his tweet on August 21, was it possible Stone had colluded with the Russians and with WikiLeaks? Had all this happened by accident or were the WikiLeaks DNC email drops just Roger Stone’s crowning achievement in a career distinguished by dirty tricks. Put simply: Did Roger Stone coordinate with Russia to steal the DNC emails and give them to WikiLeaks, having having arranged with Assange in advance a strategy to use the hacked DNC emails to prevent Hillary from achieving the White House?

But it ends by suggesting that when he was first subpoenaed, he “suspected immediately” that he was a key link in a theory that (bizarrely) had Stone serving as a mule between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks (it’s worth noting that Corsi claims to believe, erroneously, that the Podesta emails came from a DNC server, in which case the reference could be about the Podesta emails).

On August 28, 2018, when I was served the subpoena from the Mueller grand jury, I suspected immediately the prosecutors in the Special Counsel office were in possession of evidence that suggested I might have been the link between Stone and Assange. As David Gray and I prepared to go to Washington, we speculated Mueller may have targeted me as the link who provided Stone his advance knowledge in August 2016 that Assange possessed DNC emails from John Podesta that WikiLeaks planned to release serially over a number of days as the 2016 “October Surprise,” designed to deal a knock-out punch to the Clinton campaign. If I was Stone’s link to Assange, was this the connection with WikiLeaks that Stone used to get WikiLeaks the Guccifer 2.0 hacks of the DNC computers?

The theory relies on a really weird timeline of the relevant events, which I’ve reproduced below. Several things stick out about the timeline. First, Corsi dates WikiLeaks’ indexing of Hillary’s FOIAed emails as part of WikiLeaks’ election year activities (something he continues later in the book). That’s interesting because of Cambridge Analytica’s related efforts in that early period (not to mention the funding of an attack on Hillary as being close to Russia), as well as the way a WikiLeaks’ request for Hillary’s speech transcripts precedes the John Podesta hack. If Corsi knows that that indexing was part of a larger campaign (and as I’ll show in the follow-up post, he does know stuff about WikiLeaks he should not), then it suggests that he knows that WikiLeaks knew the hacks were coming.

The timeline is also weird for the way it jumps over all the exchanges between Stone and Corsi in the aftermath of the DNC email release, details that are absolutely central to the rest of the narrative in the book.

It’s oddest, however, in the way this chapter makes no mention of the initial Guccifer 2.0 posts, even though in his chapter purporting to explain how he knew Podesta’s emails were coming, Corsi admits to having tracked those releases very closely (and links two of the posts). Just as notably, Corsi’s narrative only mentions Mueller’s GRU indictment indirectly (an odd habit he continues in his Podesta explanation), instead relying on the 2018 coverage of the indictment for his claims about what’s in it. Even there, however, Corsi doesn’t link the coverage (not even Fox!) where Stone admitted he’s the person cited in the GRU indictment. This leads Corsi to treat the mention of Stone in the GRU indictment to be merely “suspect” rather than confirmed.

Clearly, Stone’s tweets with Guccifer 2.0 target him as a likely suspect for that person, especially given that Stone remained in regular contact with Trump even after Stone resigned as Trump’s political advisor.

Perhaps both those choices are just attempts to avoid acknowledging familiarity with the evidence that would utterly disprove his later whack theories about the Podesta emails (which go well beyond the Podesta emails). But it seems to adopt a very indirect method to avoid admitting that, yes, Stone was DMing with  Guccifer 2.0, but that nothing in the public record suggests those DMs were criminal in any way.

Let me be clear: There’s nothing in the public record that suggests Stone had a role in getting any files from the Russians to WikiLeaks (though I considered the possibility Guccifer 2.0 was a source for the men here). But the handoff of the Podesta emails is part of the operation that remains unexplained. And even while Corsi goes to great lengths to spin up this theory of Stone’s prosecution, he (a guy who puts his PhD in his Twitter handle) studiously avoids the primary sources that make this case.

Timeline

February 22, 2016: Stone and Corsi first meet

March 16, 2016: First WikiLeaks drop (in reality, indexing of documents obtained via FOIA)

July 13, 2016: Guccifer 2.0, a hacker who previously claimed to have breached the computers of the DNC, released a cache of purported DNC documents to The Hill

July 14, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 sends WikiLeaks link to archive of DNC documents [Corsi botches this section badly, in part by getting the year of the GRU indictment wrong]

July 22, 2016: DNC release “Julian Assange timed the release of the DNC emails to be the Friday before the DNC National Nominating Convention”

July 24, 2016: DWS resigns

July 24, 2016: Robby Mook announces Russia hacked emails “for the purpose of helping Donald Trump”

July 25, 2016: Assange tells NBC “there is no proof whatsoever” he got emails from Russia

August 21, 2016: Stone tweets “Podesta’s time in the barrel”

October 7, 2016: WikiLeaks starts dumping Podesta files

November 7, 2016: “final WikiLeaks post … dropped by WikiLeaks on November 7, 2016, three days after the presidential election was held.”

March 10, 2017: Stone post Corsi relies on to describes his DMs with Guccifer 2.0

July 13, 2018: WaPo story on Stone and the GRU indictment

July 15, 2018: NYT story on GRU indictment

August 28, 2018: Corsi subpoena

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

Things Not Said in Roger Stone’s Indictment: “Trump Directed” and Other More Damning Details

I’m a leading purveyor of the theory that Robert Mueller is producing his mythical “report” via one after another speaking indictments. That said, it has always been true that some of the most interesting parts of his indictments involved what didn’t get said. That’s especially true in today’s Roger Stone indictment. Before I explain what didn’t get said, let me review what got said. The indictment shows that Stone was asked to figure out what emails on Hillary Julian Assange had, and using at least Jerome Corsi and Randy Credico as go-betweens, Stone did so, providing information (most explicitly) to Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon. When Congress asked Stone about all this, he lied, first hiding any of his go-betweens, and then seemingly using Randy Credico to hide Jerome Corsi. Mueller provides a lot of the communications between Stone and his go-betweens and the communications from October 2016, as well as some of the ones from the cover-up period.

But he doesn’t provide us everything.

I have argued that the early morning raid, not to mention the larding on of charges, suggest this is an effort to get Stone to flip, both against Jerome Corsi (which is why Meuller locked in testimony from Corsi’s stepson yesterday) and Trump himself.

With that in mind, here are the things that Mueller doesn’t say.

With whom — besides Campaign Manager Steve Bannon — at the Trump Campaign did Roger Stone speak

The word “campaign” shows up 52 times in Stone’s indictment, of which (by my count) 7 are generic references, 16 are to Hillary’s campaign or a descriptor for John Podesta, and 29 are to Trump’s campaign or associates of it. The indictment describes Stone’s discussions with people on the campaign over and over. While a number of those are to identified individuals — most notably Steve Bannon — a number of those are generic, including the following references.

During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about Organization 1 and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. STONE was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organization 1.

[snip]

STONE also continued to communicate with members of the Trump Campaign about Organization 1 and its intended future releases.

[snip]

By in or around June and July 2016, STONE informed senior Trump Campaign officials that he had information indicating Organization 1 had documents whose release would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign.

[snip]

STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1.

It does so in an indictment that alleges (correctly, obviously) that one of Stone’s lies to the House Intelligence Committee that was material was whom he was speaking with on the campaign. The description of that lie cites the October 4 Bannon communication and the “supporter.” But it still leaves who else he spoke with unstated.

STONE’s False and Misleading Testimony About Communications with the Trump Campaign

35. During his HPSCI testimony, STONE was asked, “did you discuss your conversations with the intermediary with anyone involved in the Trump campaign?” STONE falsely and misleadingly answered, “I did not.” In truth and in fact, and as described above, STONE spoke to multiple individuals involved in the Trump Campaign about what he claimed to have learned from his intermediary to Organization 1, including the following:

a. On multiple occasions, STONE told senior Trump Campaign officials about materials possessed by Organization 1 and the timing of future releases.

And, of course, there’s this reference, which uses the word “directed” exactly a week after BuzzFeed got pilloried for using it about Trump.

After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign.

Mind you, this indictment had to have been approved in advance by Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker, and the last time he permitted prosecutors to name Individual-1 in an indictment, he got chewed out for it.

So maybe Mueller is not saying who else on the Trump campaign Stone was talking to (though we know he had frequent calls with Trump all through the campaign) to hide what else he knows. Maybe the Big Dick Toilet Salesman wouldn’t let Mueller lay this out (though I doubt that’s the case). Or maybe Mueller is just trying to avoid a second week in a row featuring headlines about what Trump “directed” his associates to do as part of the Russian conspiracy.

Corsi’s (and possibly Credico’s) role in the conspiracy

As I noted above, Mueller got aggressive with Stone to get him to flip on others. Obviously, the big prize is Trump. But there’s space for Stone to take his revenge on Jerome Corsi (and possibly even Randy Credico).

I suspect that Credico is not in any danger here. That said, he is described as a potential co-conspirator, Person 2, and did clearly discuss a conspiracy to obstruct HPSCI’s investigation. “‘Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan’ . . . Richard Nixon,” Stone wrote as he tried to persuade Credico not to testify to HPSCI.

There’s just one detail that makes me wonder if Credico was not fully truthful with Mueller. When Credico discussed Stone’s September request that he ask Assange about emails pertaining to Hillary’s efforts to undermine a Libyan peace effort with WSJ last year, he denied he had sent the request to either Assange or his lawyer Margaret Kunstler.

“Please ask Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30–particularly on August 20, 2011,” Mr. Stone wrote to Randy Credico, a New York radio personality who had interviewed Mr. Assange several weeks earlier. Mr. Stone, a longtime confidant of Donald Trump, had no formal role in his campaign at the time.

Mr. Credico initially responded to Mr. Stone that what he was requesting would be on WikiLeaks’ website if it existed, according to an email reviewed by the Journal. Mr. Stone, the emails show, replied: “Why do we assume WikiLeaks has released everything they have ???”

In another email, Mr. Credico then asked Mr. Stone to give him a “little bit of time,” saying he thought Mr. Assange might appear on his radio show the next day. A few hours later, Mr. Credico wrote: “That batch probably coming out in the next drop…I can’t ask them favors every other day .I asked one of his lawyers…they have major legal headaches riggt now..relax.”

Mr. Credico said in an interview with the Journal that he never passed the message on to Mr. Assange or his lawyers, but “got tired” of Mr. Stone “bothering” him, and so told Mr. Stone he had passed along the message.

The indictment says he in fact did forward the request to Kunstler.

On or about September 20, 2016, Person 2 forwarded the request to a friend who was an attorney with the ability to contact the head of Organization 1. Person 2 blind-copied STONE on the forwarded email.

That said, the indictment clearly remains silent about a lot of the details Mueller has incriminating Corsi in a cover-up (who, remember, prosecutors threatened to charge in a conspiracy to suborn perjury with respect to Stone’s testimony, and whose stepson Mueller locked into testimony before this indictment). The indictment includes this reference to a November discussion between Stone and Corsi.

On or about November 30, 2017, STONE asked Person 1 to write publicly about Person 2. Person 1 responded, “Are you sure you want to make something out of this now? Why not wait to see what [Person 2] does. You may be defending yourself too much—raising new questions that will fuel new inquiries. This may be a time to say less, not more.” STONE responded by telling Person 1 that Person 2 “will take the 5th—but let’s hold a day.”

But it remains silent on the report that Stone asked Corsi to write in August 2016 to establish a cover story, and it remains silent on whether Stone paid Corsi hush payments to stay silent after that.

Farage and Malloch and any other go-betweens

The indictment names Ted Malloch, though not as a co-conspirator.

On or about the same day, Person 1 forwarded STONE’s email to an associate who lived in the United Kingdom and was a supporter of the Trump Campaign.

[snip]

The body of the email read in part that Person 1’s associate in the United Kingdom “should see [the head of Organization 1].”

It doesn’t, however, put the Malloch references into context.

For example, it doesn’t reveal that — around the time someone “was directed” to get Stone to find out what WikiLeaks had — Stone and Alex Jones met with Nigel Farage at the RNC, which ultimately led to Farage joining Trump at a campaign event.

One night during the convention, Farage was introduced to Trump’s longtime adviser, the infamous political trickster, Roger Stone, at an Italian restaurant in The Flats district of Cleveland, according to both men.

Stone, who was accompanied that night by the Internet radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, said Farage’s main goal appeared to be to get a meeting with Trump.

The next day, Stone said, he tried to help by calling his former business partner, Paul Manafort – then Trump’s campaign chairman – and suggested that the Republican nominee get together with Farage. Manafort’s response was something along the lines of, “I’ll put a good word in,” Stone recalled.

Then, Stone met Ted Malloch — with Corsi — for dinner in NYC.

Asked about the nature of his relationship with Malloch, Stone said he did not know the other man well. He initially said he met Malloch three times but later said he recalled only two meetings with him.

Stone’s and Malloch’s first meeting was at a New York restaurant, Strip House, during the 2016 campaign. The two men dined with Jerome Corsi, a far-right political commentator and conspiracy theorist, Stone said.

Stone said his conversation with Malloch and Corsi at dinner was friendly but not memorable, and that they discussed “Brexit and globalism.” He added that they never discussed WikiLeaks, Assange, or Russia.

Stone, at least, is very sketchy about the timing of this, though it may actually precede when Stone asks Corsi to reach out to Malloch (indeed, might be the very reason he thought Corsi could get to Assange via Malloch).

That led to Farage’s campaign appearance with Trump on August 23.

Note, too, that the Stone indictment actually doesn’t say that Corsi is the go-between that Stone was hiding when he instead claimed Credico was his link to Assange. Indeed, of that go-between, he says he had only phone contact (though as I’ll write in a follow-up, that may have been for other reasons).

Particularly given Stone’s move to begin setting up a cover-story in August 2016, I’m not yet convinced we know who Stone’s real go-between is (and I’m still fairly certain that he and possibly Corsi had actual Podesta emails by then). He could have been working with Malloch directly. Or it could be someone else entirely.

Whoever it is, nothing in the Stone indictment tells us that for sure.

The Assange pardon

The Stone indictment is also silent about something that they have evidence — in the form of texts between Credico and Stone, surely among other things — that Stone tried to get Assange a pardon early last year.

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

The recipient of the messages was Randy Credico, a New York-based comedian and left-leaning political activist whom Stone has identified as his back channel to WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign—a claim Credico strongly denies. During the election, Stone, a political provocateur who got his start working for Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign, made statements that suggested he had knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to publish emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, and other Democrats, and his interactions with WikiLeaks have become an intense focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian election interference. As Mueller’s team zeroes in on Stone, they have examined his push for an Assange pardon—which could be seen as an attempt to interfere with the Russia probe—and have questioned at least one of Stone’s associates about the effort.

Particularly given that any pardon would have had to involve the one guy in the United States who can pardon Assange, it seems relevant to Mueller’s investigation. And yet it doesn’t show up in this indictment.

That’s something, then, that Stone could walk Mueller through as an effort to get rid of the 20-year witness tampering charge he faces.

Russia

Finally, the indictment remains mostly silent about Russia, particularly Roger Stone’s 180-turn on August 1 to claim that Russia may not have been behind the hack of the DNC. That’s all the more interesting given the way the indictment lays out the attribution to Russia made in mid-June.

On or about June 14, 2016, the DNC—through Company 1—publicly announced that it had been hacked by Russian government actors.

And then included Stone’s denial that Russia had hacked the DNC in his statement before HPSCI.

“These hearings are largely based on a yet unproven allegation that the Russian state is responsible for the hacking of the DNC and [the Clinton Campaign chairman] and the transfer of that information to [Organization 1].”

The indictment makes these two nods to attribution even as (as a number of people have observed) in their motion to seal Stone’s indictment, prosecutors deemed Stone’s indictment to be related to the GRU indictment, and his docket includes one of the DC AUSAs also on the Internet Research Agency case, Jonathan Kravis. (I’ve updated my running docket of Mueller and potentially related cases here.)

Remember, the GRU indictment describes (but doesn’t charge) Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0.

On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who wasin regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, “thank u for writing back . . . do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?” On or about August 17, 2016, the Conspirators added, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow . . . it would be a great pleasure to me.” On or about September 9, 2016, the Conspirators, again posing as Guccifer 2.0, referred to a stolen DCCC document posted online and asked the person, “what do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign.” The person responded, “[p]retty standard.”

So prosecutors are saying that Stone’s crimes are more closely related to the actual Russian hack (which, remember, continued into September, after Stone deemed the DCCC analytics Guccifer 2.0 released to be “standard”) than they are to Flynn or Manafort or Papadopoulos or anyone else’s indictments.

Mind you, WikiLeaks appears as an unindicted co-conspirator in both the Stone and the GRU indictments, which may explain the connection.

But for some reason, Mueller thinks it important to note in Stone’s indictment that he pretended to believe Russia didn’t hack the DNC long after the hack had been attributed, without ever once mentioning that he had also spoken with the GRU persona dumping files.

Update: I’ve taken out the reference to Sam Nunberg, who says he’s not the person listed in this indictment.

Update: I’ve corrected this to reflect it was Jerome Corsi’s stepson who appeared before the grand jury Thursday. h/t AK

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

On the Apparent Complexities of Charging Roger Stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mueller Tells Guy Who Legally Can’t Be a Target That He’s Not a Target, Perhaps in a Bid to Make Him Legally Targetable

The WaPo has a fascinating report describing that Robert Mueller informed Trump’s lawyers “in early March” that he doesn’t consider Trump a target in his investigation. That news made Trump even more determined to sit for an interview with Mueller, a decision which some of Trump’s less appropriate lawyers seem to have supported. That’s what led John Dowd to quit on March 22 (which would presumably have been two weeks or so later).

John Dowd, Trump’s top attorney dealing with the Mueller probe, resigned last month amid disputes about strategy and frustration that the president ignored his advice to refuse the special counsel’s request for an interview, according to a Trump friend.

Of course, as many people have pointed out, a sitting President can’t be indicted. NYCSouthpaw pointed to the appropriate section of the US Attorney’s Manual, which states that, “A ‘target’ is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.”

If Trump, as President, can’t be indicted, then he can’t be a putative defendant. So he’ll never be a target so long as he remains President. Dowd is likely the only lawyer on Trump’s team who has enough defense experience to understand that this should offer the President zero assurance at all.

He left when the other, ill-suited attorneys refused to believe him on this point.

Which is why the other main thrust of the story is so interesting. Mueller has also indicated that Mueller wants to start writing his report on obstruction — according to Robert Costa, with the intent of finishing it by June or July, just before Congress breaks for August recess, the official start of campaign season — with plans for a second report on the election conspiracy to follow.

The special counsel also told Trump’s lawyers that he is preparing a report about the president’s actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice, according to two people with knowledge of the conversations.

Mueller reiterated the need to interview Trump — both to understand whether he had any corrupt intent to thwart the Russia investigation and to complete this portion of his probe, the people said.

[snip]

Mueller’s investigators have indicated to the president’s legal team that they are considering writing reports on their findings in stages — with the first report focused on the obstruction issue, according to two people briefed on the discussions.

Under special counsel regulations, Mueller is required to report his conclusions confidentially to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who has the authority to decide whether to release the information publicly.

“They’ve said they want to write a report on this — to answer the public’s questions — and they need the president’s interview as the last step,” one person familiar with the discussions said of Mueller’s team.

Trump’s attorneys expect the president would also face questions about what he knew about any contacts by his associates with Russian officials and emissaries in 2016, several White House advisers said. The president’s allies believe a second report detailing the special counsel’s findings on Russia’s interference would be issued later.

That leads us to the question of how a report that Rod Rosenstein has authority to quash could be assured of “answering the public’s questions.” One option is Mueller could propose charges he knows Rosenstein won’t — or can’t — approve, which guarantees that the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Judiciary Committees (currently, Bob Goodlatte, who is retiring, Jerry Nadler, Chuck Grassley, and Dianne Feinstein, who faces a real challenge this year) will get at least a summary.

Mueller could trigger a reporting requirement in the special counsel regulations under which the attorney general must inform “the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the Judiciary Committees of each House of Congress” — both parties, in other words — at the end of the special counsel’s investigation, of any instance in which the attorney general vetoed a proposed action. Simply by proposing to indict Trump, Mueller could ensure that Congress gets the word. But this would be of only limited scope: instead of an evidence dump, it need only be a “brief notification, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them.”

Alternately, Mueller could recommend impeachment, but Rosenstein would be bound by grand jury secrecy rules.

If Mueller believes he has information that could warrant impeachment, he could weave it into a narrative like the Starr Report. But even if Rosenstein wanted to make the report public, he would be limited by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), which imposes strict limits on the disclosure of grand jury materials. This rule, which has the force of law, is intended to preserve the integrity of grand jury investigations and encourage witnesses to testify fully and frankly. Rosenstein could, if he chose, issue a redacted report that conveys the gist of Mueller’s findings.

While the election conspiracy has involved grand jury subpoenas (to people like Sam Nunberg and Ted Malloch, most recently), the obstruction investigation into Trump has involved (as far as I remember) entirely voluntary interviews and mostly, if not entirely, voluntarily produced evidence. So whereas for the larger investigation, Rosenstein will face this limit (but not if the targets — like Roger Stone — are indicted), he may not here.

All of which is to say we may be looking at a public report saying that Trump should be impeached just as Republicans attempt to keep Congress.

Even as some of Mueller’s 17+ prosecutors write that up (by my estimate, only Watergate prosecutor James Quarles has been working the Trump obstruction full time), the rest will continue to roll out evidence — possibly in the form of very inflammatory indictments — of what Trump was trying to obstruct.

Effectively, I think Mueller is giving the GOP Congress a choice. They impeach Trump on the less inflammatory stuff,which will remove all threat of firing and/or pardons to threaten the investigation, not to mention make Trump eligible to be a target for the actual election conspiracy he tried to cover up. Or after they fail to hold the House while explaining why they’re covering up for Trump’s cover up, they will face a more serious inquiry relating to Trump’s involvement in the election conspiracy.