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Marjorie Taylor Greene Admits Kevin McCarthy Should Have Considered National Security before Harming It

CNN reports that in a GOP leadership meeting, concerns were (anonymously) expressed about the way that Kevin McCarthy gave exclusive access to sensitive security footage from the Capitol to a self-described fan of Vladimir Putin, Tucker Carlson.

[S]ome lawmakers in the closed-door leadership meeting asked whether sensitive security protocols or certain evacuation routes would be exposed by taking that step.

Others questioned how long the footage is going to be dragged out in the press, with some lawmakers concerned about the optics of appearing to try to downplay a deadly insurrection in the US Capitol.

“Let’s just rip the Band-aid off and get this over with,” one GOP lawmaker told CNN.

Sources said McCarthy assured his leadership team that he wants to move swiftly, but said they need to be deliberate about how they handle it to ensure the release does not endanger their security.

Remarkably, it was Marjorie Taylor Greene who had to voice, on the record, the potential danger of showing where the secure back hallways of the Capitol were.

[Marge] told CNN she played a role in McCarthy’s decision to turn the footage over to Carlson, but she wouldn’t go into further detail.

Greene, who was not in the Monday night meeting, said she’s spoken with McCarthy, and that the speaker’s office is coordinating a process for how to release the footage more widely, beyond Fox News, while also ensuring it doesn’t violate any security concerns.

“We can’t give away our national security,” Greene said, “Everyone in Congress agrees. And I think the American people agree. We don’t want Russia or China or any of these other countries being able to study all the entries and exits of our capital. That’s foolish.”

Greene told CNN that Carlson’s team was also given certain parameters for what they could and couldn’t air. “Yes … of course (there were parameters) they’re being extremely careful and responsible.”

Except no one cited in this article — not Marge, not Elise Stefanik (who showed less understanding about the security concerns than Marge), and not CNN itself — raised the problem here.

Kevin McCarthy has already shared this sensitive video with someone that — as a Gang of Eight member — he must know was in discussions about setting up a back channel with Putin, purportedly a long-term effort to set up an interview. Tucker’s own FOIA suggests that effort extended for at least thirty months, as of July 2021. Tucker continues to proudly root for Putin.

The problem is not, just, in Tucker airing surveillance footage that compromises the security of the Capitol. It’s not just that Russian spies might watch Tucker Carlson and decide how to attack the Capitol.

The problem is also that Tucker will either give it to Putin, or store it insecurely and make it available to Russian hackers, a means of obtaining sensitive records that Russia has used in the past.

One of the first things Kevin McCarthy did as Speaker was to give exclusive access to security information to someone openly rooting for Putin, someone who has launched hostile operations against US democracy in recent years.

And McCarthy is only now considering the security implications of having done so.

The Biden Administration Staved Off Russia’s First Round of InfoWar on Ukraine, But How about the Second?

As I’ve noted (most recently in my series on Jeff Gerth’s error-ridden screed about “Russiagate” [sic]), Russian denialists cling to the John Solomon report, from the period when he and Rudy Giuliani were chumming up people like Dmitry Firtash, that Konstantin Kilimnik was really a State Department source, which — they fancy — proves he was not a Russian spy.

The actual communications between Kilimnik and people at State show him attempting to stovepipe shoddy propaganda to his State contacts, not offering useful information.

But a potentially more telling example of Kilimnik’s contacts with State are his description, after going out to drinks with John Kerry’s then-Chief of Staff, Jonathan Finer, just before Klimnik traveled to New York to meet with Paul Manafort about the election, that “Finer or whatever the fuck is his name,” was, “In total space.”

On the evening of May 6, 2016, Kilimnik’s communications suggest he met for “off the record” drinks with Department of State employees.368 Kilimnik was frustrated by this meeting, stating that he met “Finer or whatever the fuck is his name. In total space.”369

Patten said he understood “[i]n total space” to mean “in outer space” and.therefore not well informed on issues involving Ukraine. Patten Tr., p. 79; FBI, FD-302, Patten 5/22/2018.

In 2016, Paul Manafort’s handler was pissed that Finer wasn’t buying his bullshit about Ukraine.

Which is why I find these passages, from Politico’s oral history of the events leading up to Russia’s expanded invasion of Ukraine, a good place to start reading it. Finer — now Biden’s Deputy National Security Adviser — described bringing allies around to preparing for Russia’s attack by “bombarding them” with so much information they could no longer ignore evidence of Russia’s likely attack.

AMANDA SLOAT: It got to the point where we had to say to the Europeans, “Fine, we can agree to disagree analytically, but let’s start planning as if we are right. If we are right, then we’re in a good place because we’ve got all our planning. If you’re right, that’s the best possible outcome because then there’s not going to be an invasion — at best, this will have just been a waste of time.”

JON FINER: We eventually brought people around by bombarding them with information that you could not ignore.

More importantly, Finer — the guy who, Kilimnik scoffed, was “in total space” about Ukraine — described how Biden’s team preempted Russia’s efforts to use disinformation to justify their attack.

JON FINER: There was a very high likelihood that Russia would use disinformation — which is a fancy word for lies — to create some pretext for invading. By putting out information well in advance of their inevitable attempts to create this justification, we thought that we would be able to discredit any attempt by Russia to portray this as a just war.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you set some time aside to read the whole thing. It’s a remarkable account of American efforts to do what’s right.

It’s also an expression of the auspicious collection of people in place for the fight against Ukraine. At various times, I’ve thought about how lucky the US was to have lifelong diplomat Bill Burns at CIA, to have no-drama Avril Haines at DNI, to have an expert like Tony Blinken at State. This piece provides a glimpse of how well they all worked together, little over a year after taking over from the shambolic Trump Administration.

As Burns — who spent over thirty years at State — described, this is the way government is supposed to work.

BILL BURNS: It’s the way government should work, in my opinion. The president set a very clear sense of direction. There was a shared understanding of the problem and coordination amongst the principals. Broadly speaking, the U.S. government performed the way it should perform in a situation like that.

There are specific details I’ll likely return to: comments suggesting the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was a necessary step before Putin would launch the invasion, descriptions from deputy NSA for international economics Daleep Singh and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco about how they’re targeting corrupt oligarchs.

But the most salient comments are about something that has already gotten a lot of coverage: the decision to declassify a great deal of information to undercut Russia’s information advantage.

EMILY HORNE: Many of the senior policymakers who were in and still are in the administration remember vividly seeing these intel streams in 2014 and then seeing what had been predicted come to life. There was this feeling of: “We knew this was coming, but we couldn’t say so because it was classified.” People remember that frustration and felt that we couldn’t let that happen a second time. All the conditions were there for us to try something new and bold, but risky. It was a gamble that this would work.

JAKE SULLIVAN: We convened a meeting of our team to talk through a strategy of downgrade [declassification], and then I engaged directly with the senior most people in the intelligence community about how we could do this.

BILL BURNS: The president made the decision to declassify some of our intelligence relatively early on, which is always a complicated choice to make. Along with my colleagues in the intelligence community, the DNI and others, I believe strongly that it was the right choice. I had seen too many instances where Putin had created false narratives that we never caught up to.

AVRIL HAINES: I remember quite clearly when [the president] directed me to do this. I have this sense of “OK, we’ve got to figure out how to do this in a way that protects sources and methods and understand what it is that we’re trying to achieve here.” It became a real team sport. How do we do this in a way that allows us to protect what we hold dearest?

JAKE SULLIVAN: What we would do is send to [the intelligence community] in classified form the things that we wanted to be able to say, they would tell us what could be declassified, and what couldn’t. We would take what they declassified and put it out. That began in early December and became a central feature of our approach through the beginning of the invasion — and since.

[snip]

GEN. PAUL NAKASONE: People are always asking, “Hey, did you ever think you’d be releasing your most sensitive intelligence to the American public?” I thought to myself, “Little bit of change.” But what I really think: “This is the nation’s intelligence. This isn’t an agency or the intelligence community’s or anyone else’s intelligence. When it benefits our national security, why do we not do that?”

JOHN KIRBY: I think this is one of the most valuable lessons that we have learned from a communications perspective — the real benefit to downgrading intelligence and making it public. You can really affect the decision-making process of a potential adversary. We were beating Putin’s lie to the punch, and we know that by doing so we got inside his decision-making loop.

Between this and extensive efforts to avoid the invasion, which have gotten less focus, this represented several departures from the poisonous secrecy of “the Deep State” in the decades leading up to it. Those complaining about “the Deep State” likely won’t notice, though, since they’re re-reading a debunked Sy Hersh story for the fourth time.

The oral history doesn’t address several questions I have about US efforts to anticipate and undercut Russia’s information war.

While the piece talks a lot about increased intelligence sharing, it doesn’t discuss the extent to which increased information sharing is a factor in the large number of spy networks — in Europe — that have been rolled up in recent years, starting before the invasion but accelerating since, as WaPo recently laid out.

Over the past year, as Western governments have ramped up weapons deliveries to Ukraine and economic sanctions against Moscow, U.S. and European security services have been waging a parallel if less visible campaign to cripple Russian spy networks. The German case, which also involved the arrest of a senior official in the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, followed roll-ups of suspected Russian operatives in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Poland and Slovenia.

The moves amount to precision strikes against Russian agents still in Europe after the mass expulsion of more than 400 suspected Russian intelligence officers from Moscow’s embassies across the continent last year.

U.S. and European security officials caution that Russia retains significant capabilities but said that its spy agencies have sustained greater damage over the past year than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

Russia laid the groundwork for this invasion for years, and it seems Europe is only now reversing some of Russia’s efforts behind it.

But what hasn’t been rolled back — and where this oral history seems overly optimistic — is a Russian backed network of propagandists who have gotten louder with the anniversary of the war.

No one has gotten louder than Tucker Carlson, who seems to be making support for Russia a litmus test in his support for 2024. In his anniversary special, he made the following baseless claims:

  • There was no proof that Russia hacked the DNC (Tucker alters the timeline by a month to sustain this claim); the Democrats weren’t even hacked.
  • The investigation into Trump was all a hoax.
  • If the Ukraine war continues, the US will lose.
  • Biden never mentioned the costs on the support for Ukraine.
  • Biden is censoring information about the war.
  • Zelenskyy is a destroyer who wants US troops to fight.
  • Ukraine is “the least free place in all of Europe, which is why it’s Joe Biden’s favorite place.”
  • Biden was elected in a sketchy election and has never had a majority of support in this country, so he has no legitimacy (Tucker made no mention of Trump’s failure to ever get majority support).
  • Extremism (he doesn’t say terrorism) will have been caused by neglect.
  • Bolsonaro and Trump are moderates.
  • The Biden Administration blew up the Nord Stream pipeline.

This is Tucker doing what he balked at doing during the transition, until he grew desperate to stave off the “demonic force” that is Trump: undermining the legitimate President of the US. This is Tucker simply making stuff up about Russia’s attack on the US in 2016, taking the already baseless claims of denialists and pushing them five steps further.

He’s doing it, of course, while mining exclusive access of footage to the most sensitive spaces in the Capitol.

I think Tucker is right about one thing: Biden sounds overly optimistic. Because the Republican Party — and a large number of horseshoe leftists — would rather Russia win this war than let him succeed. And that’s a harder information battle to win.

Kevin McCarthy Makes Sensitive Security Footage Available to the Insurrectionists’ Propagandist

Yesterday, Mike Allen revealed that Kevin McCarthy had made all the security footage from January 6 available to Tucker Carlson.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has given Fox News’ Tucker Carlson exclusive access to 41,000 hours of Capitol surveillance footage from the Jan. 6 riot, McCarthy sources tell me.

  • Carlson TV producers were on Capitol Hill last week to begin digging through the trove, which includes multiple camera angles from all over Capitol grounds. Excerpts will begin airing in the coming weeks.

Why it matters: Carlson has repeatedly questioned official accounts of 1/6, downplaying the insurrection as “vandalism.”

That he did this is not a surprise. As Allen himself writes, McCarthy has been working on this since early February. And the extremists who used McCarthy’s Speakership to demand concessions have been calling for this almost from the start.

Of particular note, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who spent part of the day yesterday calling for the red states (which may no longer include Georgia) to secede, again, like the last time white supremacists grew impatient with living in an aspiring democracy, spent much of the rest of her day taking credit for the release, tying it directly to her support for McCarthy as Speaker.

Let me repeat that: The person who took credit for this release was, just two hours earlier, calling for Civil War.

And McCarthy provided access to this video to the biggest propagandist for those who attacked the Capitol. Starting almost immediately after  some of his viewers attacked the the Capitol, Tucker has been running insanely stupid conspiracy theories, claiming the attack was launched by the Deep State rather than his own viewers and allies. Tucker eventually packaged the propaganda into such a slick propaganda film, it led conservative journalists to leave.

This time around, Tucker might opt for instructing his viewers how to succeed with the next attack rather than lying about the last one.

Depending on the terms via which McCarthy made this footage available, it could also be shared with foreign adversaries. Tucker has long been chummy with Viktor Orbán, and he himself revealed he had been picked up on intercepts seeking a back channel with Russia.

The outcome of this release is hard to measure at this point.

While defendants already have access to any video to their case, when stuff gets released via an alternate channel like this, they often use it to launch new legal challenges and claims of discovery violations. At the very least, this will create new delays and headaches for already overburdened prosecutors.

The security implications, however, are more serious. I did a post in December 2021 showing how video from just one camera over the course of the day — in this case, from the Tunnel through which Joe Biden would walk to be inaugurated weeks later — would reveal where key security cameras were and how to disable them.

It’s likely that the Capitol police has replaced some of these cameras in the interim because the process of prosecuting all those who attacked the Capitol has already compromised their effectiveness.

The other thing making all the video available at once will do is identify where there aren’t (or weren’t) security cameras.

One of those places is McCarthy’s own office.

It’s bad enough that McCarthy made the unilateral decision to release these. It’s bad enough that he decided to release these to someone who, the Dominion lawsuit just revealed, was willing to undermine the democratically elected government of the country for partisan gain.

But McCarthy released them exclusively to Tucker Carlson, meaning they won’t be used to crowdsource more identifications, but will instead be used solely for the purpose of propaganda.

We have yet to get a full accounting for all the commitments McCarthy made to be elected Speaker. But this decision makes clear that he was willing to sell out the country to get the position.

Update: WaPo has a really helpful story on what this means.

The decision by McCarthy to provide the video to Carlson raised serious questions about whether the release of the footage would force U.S. Capitol Police to change the location of security cameras and why the speaker would give the material to a Fox News host who has peddled conspiracy theories about the attack and not share it with other news organizations.

McCarthy, who made numerous concessions to the far-right flank in his GOP conference to win enough votes to become speaker, has said that Republicans would investigate the work of the bipartisan Jan. 6 committee. McCarthy also vowed that Republicans would launch their own inquiry into “why the Capitol complex was not secure” on the day.

[snip]

People familiar with the video footage say that the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection had access to a special dedicated terminal installed in the committee office that had password- protected access to the volume of footage. The committee asked for permission from U.S. Capitol police before they used any of the footage in public hearings, these people said, as they did not want to publicly disclose the location of security cameras in the building.

The committee cut and minimized use of the footage accordingly, these people added.

“We used the material that we thought was most important in demonstrating findings, and we were extremely cautious in what we chose to use,” said a former committee staffer who expressed concerns about the security risks posed by Carlson’s access to the entire trove of surveillance footage. The individual spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the internal work of the panel.

“A Demonic Force:” Dominion Just Gave Jack Smith Useful Evidence

As you read through Dominion’s motion for summary judgment against Fox News — and trust me, you should read it! — keep in mind not just how it proves Fox to be nothing but a propaganda platform aiming to help the Republican Party, but also the evidence it makes available to Jack Smith as he considers charges against those who used false claims about voting fraud to gin up a coup attempt.

Just as one example, Sean Hannity has played a role in every Trump legal scandal — serving as a back channel to Trump for Paul Manafort, participating in Rudy Giuliani’s attempts to gin up dirt on Hunter Biden as the first impeachment unfolded, and helping White House officials stave off the resignations of Trump’s White House Counsels in advance of January 6. But in each case, investigators only got his communications via other subjects of the investigation, as when DOJ found Manafort’s WhatsApp texts to Hannity saved in Manafort’s iCloud account or when the January 6 Committee got Signal texts Hannity exchanged with Mark Meadows from the former Chief of Staff’s production. Republicans chose not to call Hannity as a pro-Trump witness in the Ukraine impeachment.

With its filing, Dominion has given a snapshot of the ways and whys in which Fox News helped magnify false voter fraud claims, especially (though not exclusively) those of Sidney Powell.

It all takes place against the backdrop of a huge backlash against Fox after it called AZ for Joe Biden. When Fox presented the truth about the election, viewers started fleeing to Newsmax, with Trump’s encouragement. The filing describes the panic that ensued.

[O]n November 9, the impact of Fox’s Arizona call became more evident to Fox executives. Carlson told [Fox News CEO Suzanne] Scott directly: “I’ve never seen a reaction like this, to any media company. Kills me to watch it.” Ex.211. Scott immediately relayed the email to Lachlan Murdoch. Ex.212 . She told Briganti that Sammon “did not understand the impact to the brand and the arrogance in calling AZ,” which she found “astonishing” given that as a “top executive” it was Sammon’s job “to protect the brand.” Ex.213. And on that day–“day one,” as Scott termed it, Fox executives made an explicit decision to push narratives to entice their audience back. Ex.214 at FoxCorp00056542. Scott and Lachlan Murdoch exchanged texts about the plan going forward: “Viewers going through the 5 stages of grief. It’s a question of trust the AZ [call] was damaging but we will highlight our stars and plant flags letting the viewers know we hear them and respect them . at FoxCorp00056541 . Murdoch: “Yes. But needs constant rebuilding without any missteps. Id. Scott Yes today is day one and it’s a process.” [Dominion’s emphasis removed]

Hannity described how much reporting the truth (and Chris Wallace serving as a competent moderator for a Presidential debate) had undermined Fox’s brand.

Hannity told Carlson and Ingraham on November 12: “In one week and one debate they destroyed a brand that took 25 years to build and the damage is incalculable.”

The response to Jacqui Heinrich’s fact check of a Trump tweet is particularly stunning, as Carlson immediately called to have her fired for uttering the truth.

Meanwhile, later that night of November 12, Ingraham was still texting with Hannity and Carlson. In their group text thread, Carlson pointed Hannity to a tweet by Fox reporter Jacqui Heinrich. Ex.230 at FNN035_03890511 . Heinrich was “fact checking” a tweet by Trump that mentioned Dominion–and specifically mentioned Hannity’s and Dobbs’ broadcasts that evening discussing Dominion. Ex.232; Ex.231. Heinrich correctly fact-checked the tweet, pointing out that top election infrastructure officials said that, “‘There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes ,changed votes ,or was in any way compromised'” Id Ex.232.

Carlson told Hannity: Please get her fired. Seriously …. What the fuck? I’m actually shocked…It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” Ex.230 at FNN035_03890511. Tucker added: “I just went crazy on Meade over it.” Id. at FNN035_03890512 . Hannity said he had “already sent to Suzanne with a really?” He then added: “I’m 3 strikes . Wallace shit debate [] Election night a disaster [.] Now this BS? Nope. Not gonna fly. Did I mention Cavuto?”

The filing describes how after Hannity “dropped a bomb” about Heinrich’s fact check with Scott, Heinrich deleted her tweet.

Hannity indeed had discussed with Scott. Hannity texted his team: “I just dropped a bomb.” Ex.292 at FNN055_04455643. Suzanne Scott received the message. She told Jay Wallace and Fox News SVP for Corporate Communications Irena Briganti: “Sean texted me–he’s standing down on responding but not happy about this and doesn’t understand how this is allowed to happen from anyone in news. She [Heinrich] has serious nerve doing this and if this gets picked up, viewers are going to be further disgusted.” Ex.233 . By the next morning, Heinrich had deleted her fact-checking tweet. Ex.283.

For over two years, the right wing has squealed about a media outlet prohibiting the dissemination of dodgy claims from a Murdoch outlet. It turns out that Murdoch was, in that same time period, “censoring” true facts about Trump’s dodgy claims.

I wait with bated breath for James Comer to scheduled a hearing on the “censorship.”

Tucker Carlson, especially, recognized Trump’s role in this. He warned that Trump “could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.

“What [Trump]’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”

After January 6, Tucker called Trump,”a demonic force, a destroyer.”

Fox appears to have perceived that they had to play along with Trump’s false claims or risk permanent damage to their brand.

As noted, this lawsuit focuses closely, though not exclusively, on Sidney Powell’s false claims, from which even Trump publicly dissociated on and off. As such, much of this evidence may be more useful to DOJ in any ongoing investigation (if there still is one) of Powell’s monetization of claims she knew to be false. But even there, the evidence is key for Smith’s lawyer inquiry into Trump’s lies.

In an effort to rebut any Fox claim that it was simply reporting on lawsuits, Dominion lays out how the lawsuits filed served only as a vehicle to make false claims publicly.

Infact, none ofthe accused statements even meets the basic requirement that it report on a pending proceeding. As the Court recognized in its prior ruling, any statement made in a broadcast that occurred before November 25, 2020 could not possibly satisfy the “of … proceedings” requirement because the lawsuits filed by Sidney Powell–the only Fox guest who actually filed a lawsuit containing the defamatory allegations about Dominion–had not been filed by that date. See FNN MTD Order, p.46. And even after that date, the broadcasts in question hardly mentioned the existence of legal proceedings concerning Dominion, let alone purported to be a substantially accurate report ofthose proceedings. “[A]t no point did Dobbs or Powell attribute the statements … to an official investigation or a judicial proceeding. A reasonable observer would have no grounds to believe that her statements constituted a report of an official proceeding.” Khalil, 2022 WL 4467622 at 6.

Fox wasn’t covering lawsuits. It was magnifying false claims, and doing so because it knew that’s what its viewers, and Trump, demanded.

One accused false claim is of particular import, given the bases Powell and others used to pursue outrageous actions: A December 10 Lou Dobbs broadcast on which Sidney Powell claimed there had been a Cyber Pearl Harbor.

Nonetheless, on the next day, December 10, Dobbs had Powell on again, where she repeated the false (and repeatedly debunked) story about the Smartmatic and Dominion machines being designed to flip votes to rig elections for Hugo Chavez,and allowing people to login and manipulate votes . See ¶179(q );Appendix D. But rather than questioning Powell’s claims, Dobbs attacked Attorney General Barr for saying he’d seen no sign of any significant fraud that would overturn the election and told Powell “We will gladly put forward your evidence that supports your claim that this was a Cyber Pearl Harbor,” noting “we have tremendous evidence already,” id. which he now admits was not true. See Ex.111,Dobbs 46:25-47:10,86:20-24 . Dobbs had seen no evidence from Powell, nor has he since. Id.

Powell had sent her claims about a “Cyber Pearl Harbor” to Dobbs (who forwarded to his team) in advance of the show. Ex.450;Ex.451. Prior to the show, Dobbs published a tweet to the @loudobbs Twitter account with the claim that “The 2020 Election is a cyber Pearl Harbor,” and embedding the very document Powell had sent to him just hours before which stated that Dominion was one off our entities that had “executed an electoral 9-11 against the United States” and “a cyber Pearl Harbor,” that “there is an embedded controller in every Dominion machine,” and that they had “contracts ,program details, incriminating information ,and history” proving these claims.¶179(p); Appendix D.

Later the same day, after Powell appeared on the 5pm broadcast and before the 7pm unedited rebroadcast of the show, Dobbs again tweeted “Cyber Pearl Harbor @SidneyPowell reveals groundbreaking new evidence indicating our Presidential election came under massive cyber-attack orchestrated with the help of Dominion, Smartmatic, and foreign adversaries.” ¶179(r); Appendix D. Dobbs conceded at his deposition that this tweet was false Powell had not presented any such evidence on his program that day. Ex.111,Dobbs 269 :2-271:5.

People have long used Trump’s favored Fox programs to lobby Trump (for example, Roger Stone did so spectacularly well to get a pardon). And this story appeared on one of Trump’s favorite shows just over a week before Powell and Patrick Byrne would use the Solar Winds hack (which would be exposed in the interim week, starting on December 14) as their excuse to get Trump to use a claim of foreign election interference to seize the voting machines. In other words, this was the national security excuse Powell and Byrne were seeking to give Trump an excuse to assert Executive authority to seize the voting machines.

Worse still, as Dominion notes, Fox did all this not just knowing that it would harm Dominion. They did this knowing the intent was to harm the United States.

On November 10, Steve Bannon told Maria Bartiromo, straight out, that THE PLAN was to delegitimize Joe Biden.

“71 million voters will never accept Biden. This process is to destroy his presidency before it even starts; IF it even starts … We either close on Trumps victory or del[e]gitimize Biden … THE PLAN.” Steve Bannon to Maria Bartiromo, November 10, 2020 (Ex. 157)

Carlson, too, knew what he was doing.

On November 18, [Tucker producer Alex] Pfeiffer texted Carlson that powerful election fraud allegations like Powell’s “need to be backed up” and could lead to undermining an elected president if Biden’s confirmed,to which Carlson responded, “Yep. It’s bad.”

“It’s bad,” Tucker recognized from the start. But that didn’t stop him from participating in efforts to undermining the duly elected President.

We’ve long known that Fox was better understood as a wing of the Republican party than as a news organization (indeed, the filing describes Rupert Murdoch looking for ways to “help[] any way we can” in Georgia).

But this filing makes it clear that in a bid to cater to viewers who were fed false claims by Trump, Fox played right along with the false claims that would lead to insurrection. Jack Smith is already examining multiple parts of this effort. This filing makes evidence that would otherwise be unavailable accessible to prosecutors.

Fox News knew their platforming of Trump’s false claims was doing damage to the country. And they did it anyway.

Update: Corrected that Tucker, not Hannity, is the one who immediately said Heinrich should be fired for speaking the truth.

James Comer’s Dick Pics Hearing Just Became an Alleged Stolen Laptop Hearing

As I have repeatedly pointed out, the first thing that James Comer chose to do after becoming Chair of the House Oversight Committee was to schedule a hearing about why he can’t look at non-consensually posted pictures of Hunter Biden’s dick on Twitter.

In letters asking former Twitter executives Jim Baker, Yoel Roth, and Vijaya Gadde to testify next week, Comer described the substance of the hearing to be about their, “role in suppressing Americans’ access to information about the Biden family on Twitter shortly before the 2020 election.” As Matt #MattyDickPics Taibbi has helpfully revealed, some of the “information about the Biden family” that Twitter suppressed Americans’ access to before the election were nonconsensual dick pics, including a number posted as part of a campaign led by Steve Bannon’s buddy Guo Wengui.

Certainly, the Twitter witnesses, who themselves have been dangerously harassed as the result of #MattyDickPics’ sloppy propaganda, would be within the scope of Comer’s stated inquiry to explain why a private company doesn’t want to be part of an organized revenge porn campaign, even if a Congressman from Kentucky wants to see those dick pics.

But Comer’s campaign also just became about something else: Twitter’s decision to suppress a story based off a laptop that its purported owner claims was unlawfully obtained.

As several outlets have reported (WaPo, CNN, NBC, ABC), Hunter Biden has hired Abbe Lowell, who has written letters to DOJ, Delaware authorities, and the IRS, asking for investigations into those who have disseminated the materials from the alleged laptop (though Lowell made clear that no one is confirming any of the versions of the laptop). Those included in the letters are:

  • John Paul Mac Isaac (whom a prior lawyer, Chris Clark, had already referred to SDNY)
  • Robert Costello, who first obtained the laptop from Mac Isaac
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • Steve Bannon
  • Garrett Ziegler (who plays a key role in the January 6 investigation but who now hosts the content as part of a non-profit)
  • Jack Maxey (who provided the “laptop” to multiple outlets)
  • Yaacov Apelbaum (whom Mac Isaac claimed had helped to create a “forensic” image of the laptop)

The lawyers also sent a defamation letter to Tucker Carlson for a story since proven to be false.

These letters aren’t likely to change what DOJ, at least, will do about the laptop. They’ve had the Mac Isaac copy in hand for some time, and the earlier SDNY referral would likely go to the same people already investigating the theft of Ashley Biden’s diary.

Ziegler may be an exception. DOJ likely already has interest for his role in January 6, the invitation to conduct an investigation may give reason to look more closely.

Eric Herschmann is not, according to reports, on these letters but he was even pitching “laptop” content while working at the White House.

But the public coverage of this will undoubtedly change the tenor of next week’s hearing. At the very least, it will validate Yoel Roth’s concerns in real time that the NYPost story was based on stolen data. It will, retroactively, mean that the NYPost story was a violation of Twitter’s terms of service agreement.

None of (the coverage of) these letters describes a key detail: How the Oversight Committee got the copy of the laptop they claim they have. These criminal complaints are broad enough that they likely include at least a few people involved in the channel via which the Committee obtained the laptop, meaning that the Committee would be — is — harboring data from a private citizen that he claims was illegally obtained.

Significantly, the letters include false statements to Congress among the crimes raised (probably with respect to Mac Isaac). Given that Comer’s actions are premised on what Mac Isaac has claimed (and as several of these stories note, Mac Isaac’s story has changed in significant ways, and never made sense in the first place), the allegation may give the Committee further reason to exercise caution.

At the very least, it’ll give Democrats on the Committee plenty to talk about in next week’s hearing.

I thought it would take some doing to top kicking off one’s chairmanship by having a hearing to complain about non-consensual dick pics. But having a hearing to complain that stolen private information wasn’t more widely disseminated may top that.

Putin’s Playmates Trump and Tucker Remind Trumpsters They’ve Been Trained to Love Putin

As I’ve been watching Putin expand his war in Ukraine, I’ve been thinking a lot about his timing. Why launch it now rather than two years ago, when Trump would have facilitated it, or another year from now, when Republicans are expected to control at least one house of Congress?

I suspect there are a lot of things that dictate the timing. Any invasion was going to come in winter. It’s easier for heavy tanks to move, but more importantly, winter temperatures make it easier to use gas prices to impose a cost on Europe.

I think it happened this year, under Biden’s first full winter rather than 2021 or even 2020 because, up until Biden’s inauguration, Putin’s investment in Trump might still have paid off by allowing Putin to achieve his objectives without launching a war. He almost did, in the insurrection, which was undoubtedly led by MAGAts but which included the participation of some key Russian projects (such as Patrick Byrne).

To be sure, there are European reasons, even beyond the gas squeeze. Boris Johnson is fighting to keep power. Angela Merkel’s retirement surely led Putin to hope that the EU would be left without a strong leader (or that he could more easily manipulate Emmanuel Macron, especially in an election year).

But I believe this invasion represents the culmination of a plan not just to reassert what he imagines is Russian greatness, but also to end US hegemony, which Putin has pursued for a decade.

Ukraine has been a part of that and starting in 2010, Paul Manafort was useful to giving his puppets the patina of legitimacy. After Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster, Ukraine was useful as a testing ground for various kinds of hybrid warfare, most spectacularly with the NotPetya attack in 2018.

Ukraine — the partnership of Konstantin Kilimnik and Oleg Deripaska, along with their leverage over Paul Manafort — was also whence Russian launched its 2016 attack (I need to find the reference, but they knew they could place Manafort as campaign manager before the end of 2015). As I have written (in a piece on my understanding of the role of using the Steele dossier as a vehicle for disinformation), Russia’s interference in 2016 is best understood as a win-win. If Hillary won, Roger Stone would have rolled out the same Stop the Steal plan that was used in 2020 back in 2016 to destabilize the US in 2017 rather than 2021, as happened.

Trump’s win was an unexpected bonus.

As part of the 2016 operation, Russia also did unprecedented damage to the NSA (through the Shadow Brokers operation) and the CIA (in the way that WikiLeaks rolled out the Vault 7 release).

The failure of Russia’s attempt to blame its 2016 interference on a false flag thwarted Russia’s best laid plans — which would have involved Kilimnik calling in the quid pro quo made with Manafort on August 2, 2016 and getting Trump to help carve up Ukraine in the same way Russia is currently doing with tanks.

Even still, the Russian investigation paid huge dividends and, given Putin’s long game, to date has surely been more than worth it. That’s because the FBI-led investigation into Trump’s cooperation with Russia, over time, came to train Republicans to trust Putin more than they trust Democrats.

Republicans genuinely believe, falsely, that the FBI deliberately attempted to take Trump out (entirely memory holing Jim Comey’s role in getting Trump elected, much less that the FBI Agents running informants on the Clinton Foundation during the election were explicitly anti-Hillary). The dossier disinformation project proved so wildly successful that most Republicans genuinely believe, falsely, that there wasn’t abundant proof of cooperation between Trump and Russia, including communications directly with the Kremlin during the election that Michael Cohen lied to hide. Republican members of Congress genuinely came to believe — because they had to! — that criticism of Trump’s refusal to spend the money in support of Ukraine they had appropriated was just another Democratic attack on Trump and not an attempt to save the integrity of American democracy. All this culminated in Stop the Steal 2.0, a literal attack on American democracy; Republican fealty to Trump forced them — more reluctantly at first and driven in large part by real terror — to defend an assault on Congress.

By February 13, 2021, the date the Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump of inciting an attack on Congress, Republicans had put loyalty to Donald Trump over defense of the country and the Capitol in which they worked.

Sure, Putin didn’t get Trump to carve up Ukraine as President. But he got so much more from Trump’s presidency.

Putin did get Trump to do real damage to NATO. He got Trump to largely abandon Syria. Trump made a humiliating deal with the Taliban that would result in the US withdrawing its military from Russia’s back door. After years of Russia having to work hard to highlight American hypocrisy on human rights, Trump did things like pardon war criminals, forever tainting America’s claim to be exceptional.

And through it all, Trump created his own authoritarian-supporting militias, heavily armed troops inspired by resentment who have the ability to make the United States ungovernable. Trumpist Republicans are making localized efforts to dismantle democracy. Trump’s Supreme Court nominees have abandoned legal precedent.

Which brings us to this moment.

I think Putin faced a moment of diminishing returns. Republicans are finally beginning to wake up from their Trump cult. If COVID subsides and the US economy takes off, Democrats might surprise at midterms. I wouldn’t be surprised, either, if Russia expected some details of what it has done over the last decade — involving Julian Assange, involving 2016 (with the prosecution of Vladislav Klyushin), possibly even involving Trump — to become public in the near future. And so Putin chose this moment to launch a war to try to solidify the efforts he has made over the last decade.

Thus far, however, things haven’t gone Putin’s way.

I believe that Putin thought he could demonstrate Five Eyes fragility by conducting war games off the Irish coast without inciting the nationalism of a bunch of Irish fisherman. I believe Putin expected the US and/or Europe would fail to fully incorporate Ukraine in its planning, thereby discrediting Volodymyr Zelenskyy. I believe that Putin expected he would be able to peel away France and Germany (after Olaf Scholz’s initial announcement that it is halting Nord Stream 2, there seems to be some hesitation). I believe Putin expected his false flags would work. I believe Putin believed he’d be able to blame someone else for this invasion. I agree with Dan Drezner, thus far Biden has done just about everything right.

I believe that Putin believed his invasion would split NATO, the EU, and the US. Thus far it has had the opposite effect.

Which brings us to the weird pivot that Trump and his top Fox associates: white nationalist Tucker Carlson, Chief of Staff Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham.

Yesterday, Trump hailed Putin’s actions as genius.

“I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful,” Trump told conservative podcaster Buck Sexton.

I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s strongest peace force… We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right,” Trump continued. “Here’s a guy who’s very savvy… I know him very well. Very, very well.”

Last night, Tucker did a chilling monologue, suggesting that Americans have been trained to hate Vladimir Putin.

Tucker suggested that Putin’s invasion is just a border dispute. He’s suggesting that Biden is doing this to pay off imagined debts to Ukrainian Oligarchs. Tucker laid out Putin’s plan for costs to impose on Americans, in terms of energy costs. Tucker included every single false claim about Ukraine that Russia has been planting since 2016. Every single one.

This is the monologue you’d expect of a man who believes there are two years of records showing Russian and Hungarian sources trying to set up one meeting between him and Putin.

To win this war, Putin needs to achieve both goals at once: splitting the US so that he can take Ukraine. One goal serves the other.

And in days ahead, Putin undoubtedly plans to take great risks to impose some costs on European and American voters. In gas prices, sure, but probably also with some ambitious cyberattacks and efforts to support another insurrection. Those costs, I imagine Putin plans, will lead American and European voters to lose patience with support for Ukraine, to forget that this is about the ability to enjoy real democracy.

But to get away with that, Putin has to ensure that it won’t backfire by overcoming the polarization he has invested great effort to encourage in the last five years.

Via whatever means last night, Putin’s two biggest assets in the US (speaking in terms of advantages, not recruited assets, but I don’t rule it out) went out and reminded Trump supporters that they’ve been trained to like Putin more than they like their own country.

Update: Philip Bump notes that Republicans like Putin more than Biden.

DOJ Is Treating January 6 as an Act of Terrorism, But Not All January 6 Defendants Are Terrorists

It turns out that Ted Cruz is (partially) right: Some of the people who participated in January 6 are being treated as terrorists. But not all January 6 participants are terrorists.

Though, predictably, Cancun Ted misstates which insurrectionists have been or might be labeled as terrorists — in part out of some urgency to avoid calling himself or Tucker Carlson as such.

While some defendants accused of assaulting cops will, I expect, eventually be slapped with a terrorism enhancement at sentencing, thus far, the people DOJ has labeled terrorists have been key members of the militia conspiracies, including a number who never came close to assaulting a cop (instead, they intentionally incited a shit-ton of “normies” to do so).

Ted Cruz wants to treat those who threatened to kill cops as terrorists, but not those who set up the Vice President to be killed.

The problem is, even the journalists who know how domestic terrorism works are giving incomplete descriptions of how it is working in this investigation. For example, Charlie Savage has a good explainer of how domestic terrorism works legally, but he only addresses one of two ways DOJ is leveraging it in the January 6 investigation. Josh Gerstein does, almost as an aside, talk about how terrorism enhancements have already been used (in detention hearings), but then quotes a bullshit comment from Ethan Nordean’s lawyer to tee up a discussion of domestic terrorism as a civil rights issue. More importantly, Gerstein suggests there’s a mystery about why prosecutors haven’t argued for a terrorism enhancement at sentencing; I disagree.

As numerous people have laid out, domestic terrorism is defined at 18 USC 2331(5):

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States; and

As both Savage and Gerstein point out, under 18 USC 2332b(g)(5) there are a limited number of crimes that, if they’re done, “to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct,” can be treated as crimes of terrorism. One of those, 18 USC 1361, has been charged against 40-some January 6 defendants for doing over $1,000 of damage to the Capitol, including most defendants in the core militia conspiracies. Another (as Savage notes), involves weapons of mass destruction, which likely would be used if DOJ ever found the person who left bombs at the RNC and DNC. Two more involve targeting members of Congress or Presidential staffers (including the Vice President and Vice President-elect) for kidnapping or assassination.

If two or more persons conspire to kill or kidnap any individual designated in subsection (a) of this section and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be punished (1) by imprisonment for any term of years or for life,

There’s very good reason to believe that DOJ is investigating Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs for conspiring to assassinate Nancy Pelosi, starting on election day and continuing as he went to her office after breaking into the Capitol, so it’s not unreasonable to think we may see these two laws invoked as well, even if DOJ never charges anyone with conspiring to assassinate Mike Pence.

Being accused of such crimes does not, however, amount to being charged as a terrorist. The terrorist label would be applied, in conjunction with a sentencing enhancement, at sentencing. But it is incorrect to say DOJ is not already treating January 6 defendants as terrorists.

DOJ has been using 18 USC 1361 to invoke a presumption of detention with militia leaders and their co-conspirators, starting with Jessica Watkins last February. Even then, the government seemed to suggest Watkins might be at risk for one of the kidnapping statutes as well.

[B]ecause the defendant has been indicted on an enumerated offense “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government,” the defendant has been charged with a federal crime of terrorism as defined under 18 U.S.C §§ 2332b(g)(5). Therefore, an additional basis for detention under 18 U.S.C § 3142(g)(1) is applicable. Indeed, the purpose of the aforementioned “plan” that the defendant stated they were “sticking to” in the Zello app channel became startlingly clear when the command over that same Zello app channel was made that, “You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud.” Id. [my emphasis]

DOJ has invoked 18 USC 1361 as a crime of terrorism for detention disputes with the central Proud Boys conspirators as well. It’s unclear how broadly DOJ might otherwise do this, because another key figure who is an obvious a candidate for such a presumption, Danny Rodriguez (accused of tasing Michael Fanone and doing damage to a window of the Capitol), didn’t fight detention as aggressively as the militia members have, presumably because his alleged actions targeting Fanone clearly merit detention by themselves. That said, I believe his failed attempt to suppress his FBI interview, in which he admitted to helping break a window, was an attempt to limit his exposure to a terrorism enhancement.

We have abundant evidence that DOJ is using the threat of terrorism enhancement to get people to enter cooperation agreements. Six of nine known cooperators thus far (Oath Keepers Graydon Young, Mark Grods, Caleb Berry, and Jason Dolan, Proud Boy Matthew Greene, and SoCal anti-masker Gina Bisignano) have eliminated 18 USC 1361 from their criminal exposure by entering into a cooperation agreement. And prosecutor Alison Prout’s description of the plea deal offered to Kurt Peterson, in which he would trade a 210 to 262 month sentencing guideline for 41 to 51 months for cooperating, only makes sense if a terrorism enhancement for breaking a window is on the table.

You can’t say that DOJ is not invoking terrorism enhancements if most cooperating witnesses are trading out of one.

For those involved in coordinating the multi-pronged breaches of the Capitol, I expect DOJ will use 18 USC 1361 to argue for a terrorism enhancement at sentencing, which is how being labeled as a terrorist happens if you’re a white terrorist.

But there is another way people might get labeled as terrorists at sentencing, and DOJ is reserving the right to do so in virtually all non-cooperation plea deals for crimes other than trespassing. For all pleas involving the boilerplate plea deal DOJ is using (even including those pleading, as Jenny Cudd did, to 18 USC 1752, the more serious of two trespassing statutes), the plea deal includes this language.

the Government reserves the right to request an upward departure pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4, n. 4.

That’s a reference to the terrorism enhancement included in sentencing guidelines which envisions applying a terrorism enhancement for either (A) a crime involving coercion other than those enumerated under 18 USC 2332b or (B) an effort to promote a crime of terrorism.

4. Upward Departure Provision.—By the terms of the directive to the Commission in section 730 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the adjustment provided by this guideline applies only to federal crimes of terrorism. However, there may be cases in which (A) the offense was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct but the offense involved, or was intended to promote, an offense other than one of the offenses specifically enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B); or (B) the offense involved, or was intended to promote, one of the offenses specifically enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B), but the terrorist motive was to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, rather than to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct. In such cases an upward departure would be warranted, except that the sentence resulting from such a departure may not exceed the top of the guideline range that would have resulted if the adjustment under this guideline had been applied. [my emphasis]

The point is, you can have a terrorism enhancement applied even if you don’t commit one of those crimes listed as a crime of terrorism.

In a directly relevant example, the government recently succeeded in getting a judge to apply the latter application of this enhancement by pointing to how several members of the neo-Nazi group, The Base, who pled guilty to weapons charges, had talked about plans to commit acts of terrorism and explained their intent to be coercion. Here’s the docket for more on this debate; the defendants are appealing to the Fourth Circuit. This language from the sentencing memo is worth quoting at length to show the kind of argument the government would have to make to get this kind of terrorism enhancement at sentencing.

“Federal crime of terrorism” is defined at U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4, app. note 1 and 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5). According to this definition, a “federal crime of terrorism” has two components. First, it must be a violation of one of several enumerated statutes. 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B). Second, it must be “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(A). By § 3A1.4’s plain wording, there is no requirement that the defendant have committed a federal crime of terrorism. All that is required is that the crimes of conviction (or relevant conduct) involved or were intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism.

[snip]

To apply the enhancement, this Court needs to identify which specific enumerated federal crime(s) of terrorism the defendants intended to promote, and the Court’s findings need to be supported by only a preponderance of the evidence. Id.17

The defendants repeatedly confirmed, on tape, that their crimes were intended to promote enumerated federal crimes of terrorism. They intended to kill federal employees, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1114. Exhibit 19; Exhibit 20; Exhibit 28; Exhibit 33; Exhibit 34; Exhibit 44; Exhibit 45. They intended to damage communication lines, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1362. Exhibit 37. They intended to damage an energy facility, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1366(a). Exhibit 30; Exhibit 35; Exhibit 36; Exhibit 45. They intended to damage rail facilities, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1992. Exhibit 29; Exhibit 30; Exhibit 38; Exhibit 45. And they intended to commit arson or bombing of any building, vehicle, or other property used in interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). Exhibit 45.

Furthermore, there can be no serious dispute that the defendants’ intentions were “to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion.” Coercion and capitulation were core purposes of The Base. And specific to the defendants, they themselves said this is what they wanted. Exhibit 39 (“Desperation leads to martyr. Leads to asking what we want. Now that’s where we would have to simply keep the violence up, and increase the scope of our demands. And say if these demands are not met, we’re going to cause a lot of trouble. And when those demands are met, then increase them, and continue the violence. You just keep doing this, until the system’s gone. Until it can’t fight anymore and it capitulates.”). It was their express purpose to “bring the system down.” Exhibit 36

Given how many people were talking about hanging Mike Pence on January 6, this is not a frivolous threat for January 6 defendants. But as noted, such a terrorism enhancement doesn’t even require the plan to promote assassinating the Vice President. It takes just acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States and an attempt to coerce the government.

Contra Gerstein, I think there’s a pretty easy explanation for why the government hasn’t asked for a terrorism enhancement yet. The way the government is relying on obstruction to prosecute those who intended to prevent the peaceful transfer of power sets up terrorism enhancements for some of the most violent participants, but we’ve just not gotten to most of the defendants for whom that applies.

Thus far, there have been just three defendants who’ve been sentenced for assault so far, the acts “dangerous to human life” most at issue: Robert Palmer, Scott Fairlamb, and Devlyn Thompson. But Palmer and Thompson pled only to assault.

Fairlamb, as I noted at the time, pled guilty to both assault and obstruction. Unlike the two others, Fairlamb admitted that his intent, in punching a cop, was to, “stop[] or delay[] the Congressional proceeding by intimidation or coercion.”

When FAIRLAMB unlawfully entered the Capitol building, armed with a police baton, he was aware that the Joint Session to certify the Electoral College results had commenced. FAIRLAMB unlawfully entered the building and assaulted Officer Z.B. with the purpose of influencing, affecting, and retaliating against the conduct of government by stopping or delaying the Congressional proceeding by intimidation or coercion. FAIRLAMB admits that his belief that the Electoral College results were fraudulent is not a legal justification for unlawfully entering the Capitol building and using intimidating [sic] to influence, stop, or delay the Congressional proceeding.

Fairlamb, by pleading to assault and obstruction, admitted to both elements of terrorism: violence, and the intent of coercing the government.

On paper, Fairlamb made a great candidate to try applying a terrorism enhancement to. But the sentencing process ended up revealing that, on the same day that Fairlamb punched a cop as part of his plan to overturn the election, he also shepherded some cops through a mob in an effort, he said with some evidence shown at sentencing, to keep them safe.

That is, on paper, the single defendant to have pled guilty to both assault and obstruction looked like a likely candidate for a terrorism enhancement. But when it came to the actual context of his crimes, such an enhancement became unviable.

I fully expect that if the January 6 prosecution runs its course (a big if), then DOJ will end up asking for and getting terrorism enhancements at sentencing, both for militia members as well as some of the more brutal assault defendants, both for those who plead guilty and those convicted at trial. But in the case of assault defendants, it’s not enough (as Ted Cruz says) to just beat cops. With a goodly number of the people who did that, there’s no evidence of the intent to commit violence with the intent of disrupting the peaceful transfer of power. They just got swept up in mob violence.

I expect DOJ will only ask for terrorism enhancements against those who made it clear in advance and afterwards that their intent in resorting to violence was to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

But until that happens, DOJ has already achieved tangible results, both in detention disputes and plea negotiations, by invoking crimes of terrorism.

Bullshit Brigade – Book Burner Edition

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

This week has been rife with bullshit. Here are three egregious examples.

~ 3 ~

Meditating on the sci-fi dystopian classic, Fahrenheit 451, I’ve pondered the cultural shift from a brick-and-mortar society to a digital society, in which text printed on paper has given way to internet-mediated electronic content.

What does a fireman look like in the age of the internet?

Apparently they still look like pasty white Nazis, like this one Trumpy-buddy and VA gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin points to in Virginia – a racist mom whining about her poor baby boy whose fee-fees were hurt by an essential piece of American literature written by a Black woman author in which racism and slavery are central.

What a pity he can’t find a job after being so tormented by American literature…oh but wait.

The poor little teenager is now 27 years old and working as an attorney for the GOP. Perhaps Momma Murphy’s got a point – the kid’s intellectual growth was stunted by cognitive dissonance trying to make his artificially white privileged world meet literature reflecting the horror of enslavement upon which that white privilege was built. Now he can’t find a job anywhere except working for the party of racism in America.

Utter book burning bullshit. Stem it by helping elect Terry McAuliffe to Virginia’s governor’s office.

~ 2 ~

Speaking of the Virginia governor’s race, Jonathan Turley had to stick his two cents in because he has a problem with attorney Marc Elias.

Turley’s bitchy little dig betrays not only his ignorance about John Durham’s pathetic investigation but his concerns about Elias, who successfully won 64 out of 65 lawsuits Trump’s campaign filed to unsuccessfully contest the results of the 2020 election.

Perhaps Turley’s really worried that at some point if all the investigations into Team Trump’s efforts to ratfuck and obstruct the 2020 election, Turley’s own supporting role may receive more attention than it has so far.

It’s still quite intriguing that Turley wrote an op-ed, Could Robert Mueller actually be investigating Ukrainian collusion? (The Hill, Feb 21, 2019) just after Rudy Giuliani met with Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko in Poland, but just before The Hill’s John Solomon interviewed Ukraine’s prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko for Hill.TV during which Lutsenko made a false claim about U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as part of a character assassination operation.

Such timely prescience coincidentally mirroring a Russian active measure reeks of bullshit. One might wonder if Turley’s, Giuliani’s, and Solomon’s 2019 phone records have a few overlaps.

~ 1 ~

And then there’s this bullshit which may be on another level altogether – Tucker Carlson’s disseminating a complete fabrication of another reality intended to obscure the attempted overthrow of the U.S. government.

Sadly, it’s playing on televisions across military facilities and likely some federal offices, too.

It’d be nice if instead Carlson and the rest of Fox News’ toxic crap our federally-owned televisions were distributing our own content produced by the U.S. Agency for Global Media since its mission is to “inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”

Clearly it’s not Carlson’s or the Murdochs’ or News Corp’s mission to encourage freedom and democracy when they’re whitewashing insurrection and sedition. Their mission instead is flooding the zone with bullshit.

~ 0 ~

What’s the most egregious bullshit you’ve seen this week? Share in comments.

At Lunchtime on March 15, 2017, Joshua Schulte Went Home and Got His Passport[s]

“Whoever committed the leak” of CIA hacking tools Joshua Schulte stands accused of, Schulte said in his first FBI interview on March 15, 2017, “was guilty of espionage and deserved to be executed.”

Schulte submitted the 302 from that interview to accompany a motion to suppress the initial search of his cell phone (remember, he went pro se last month, so he’s formulating this defense himself, and this challenge not one the supremely competent Sabrina Shroff mounted when she was in charge of his defense). Schulte based his motion to suppress on a claim that the FBI used a subpoena, not a warrant, to authorize the seizure of his phone.

Schulte’s challenge is, from a legal standpoint, transparent garbage. He claims that the FBI seized his phone with a subpoena. That’s not what the record he submits shows. It shows, instead, that the FBI handed him a subpoena for both grand jury testimony and his phone, then walked back to his apartment with him, then executed a search warrant that included his electronic devices among the items to be searched.

[Schulte, referred to as KP, for either Kinetic Panda or Kinetic Piranha] was presented with a subpoena to appear at a grand jury hearing, scheduled to occur on March 17, 2017. KP was also served with a subpoena, authorizing the FBI to seize KP’s phone. From PERSHING SQUARE, the interviewing Agents and KP walked to KP’s residence, 200 East 39th Street, Apartment 8C, New York, New York, where FBI personnel executed a search warrant.

[snip]

SSA HUI thereafter served KP with a subpoena to appear at a grand jury hearing on March 17, 2017 and a subpoena that authorized the FBI to seize KP’s phone. SSA HUI also stated the FBI would soon execute a search warrant at KP’s residence. KP read the documents and stated he did not know what it all meant. KP was told by the interview Agents that he had every right to seek legal counsel. KP was also told by the interview Agents that he could return to the residence and be present during the search. KP voluntarily agreed to return to the residence and provide access to the search team.

The FBI obtained two warrants to search items including Schulte’s electronic devices first one permitting a covert search and then a second one that permitted that overt search. He knew of the warrant before the search of the phone occurred.

Which means the other details of the 302, which don’t help Schulte but which provide new insight on him and the investigation, are the most interesting details of this new release.

Consider his comment that the leaker should be executed. In the interview, he places blame on “Karen,” for lax security. “KP stated he didn’t want to place blame on anyone in terms of being negligent, but her approach to security was lax.” Trial testimony makes it clear this is a reference to the second-level supervisor he blamed for being disciplined at CIA. So from the very first moment, he seemed to frame Karen as a target of a ruthless Espionage investigation. He would continue from jail, suggesting the “Information War” he launched from a jail cell was actually continuous with an earlier effort to blame Karen, contrary to what Schulte argued at his first trial.

Just as interesting, the comment claiming such a leaker would be guilty of espionage matches something he said to his co-worker, “Jeremy Weber” (whom he also tried to blame for the leak) in conversations about Edward Snowden.

Q. You don’t remember him ever discussing leakers with you?

A. I, I do remember talking about leakers.

Q. Okay. What do you recall?

A. There was discussion around Snowden.

Q. Okay. And?

A. Schulte felt that Snowden was a — had betrayed his country.

Q. That doesn’t, you know, he seems to have strong opinions on everything. You sure he didn’t say more?

A. He probably would have call him a traitor. Said he should be executed for sure. I don’t remember specific verbiage, but he did express his typical strong opinions.

Schulte made those comments to Weber, even though the government claims to have chat logs in which Schulte said that Snowden, unlike Chelsea Manning, didn’t endanger anyone with his leaks.

More recently, Schulte has been fighting to have a home server, including a selection of Snowden files on it, returned to him.

But I’m particularly interested in the comments Schulte made about his planned trip to Cancun.

KP advised that he planned to travel to Cancun, Mexico on Thursday, March 16, 2017 with his brother who lived in Dallas, Texas. KP stated he has three younger brothers who all lived in Texas. KP had discussed moving back to Texas at some point and running a business with his brother in Dallas. KP stated the trip cost him approximately $1,200.00 and they planned to stay at a resort. KP stated he had no plans to meet up with anyone other than his brother during the trip, and he planned to return to the U.S. on March 20, 2017. KP stated he and his brother wanted to take a trip to either Cancun or Denver, Colorado, but they ultimately chose Cancun.

KP stated he returned to his residence during lunchtime earlier in the day to retrieve his passport so he could check-in online. KP said his passport was currently located inside his backpack, which was on the floor next to KP at PERSHING SQUARE. KP said he printed out his travel documents earlier. (Agent Note. KP reached inside his backpack and showed SA DONALDSON the documents he printed for the Cancun trip.)

KP said he understood how his potential travel abroad could cause angst at high levels of government; however, KP said if he was guilty, then he would have already left the country. KP stated he booked the Cancun trip prior to the WIKILEAKS publication. [my emphasis]

According to the trial interview of Robert Evanchec, one of the agents who conducted this investigation, they already knew of this trip when then went to interview him (indeed, they included it in the warrant affidavits). “[W]e learned that within a week’s time he was planning to travel, for the second time in his life, outside the United States.” As described in that testimony, it was why they chose to interview Schulte so early in the investigation.

Q. I think you said earlier that early in the investigation, you learned that the defendant was traveling or planning to travel?

A. That’s correct.

Q. Where was he planning to travel to?

A. To Cancun, Mexico.

Q. When was the defendant scheduled to travel?

A. He was scheduled to depart on March 16, 2017.

Q. How, if at all, did that impact your investigation?

A. It accelerated our need to quickly understand what this defendant had done, and what his intentions were in traveling to Cancun. As I said earlier, it was only the second time in his life that he left the United States. And certainly his departure this close to the WikiLeaks release was of concern to us, and necessitated that we escalate our investigation and look into other ways to find out why he was traveling.

Q. What did you do as a result of that?

A. As a result of that, we had planned and actually ended up interviewing the subject Mr. Schulte.

While the 302 doesn’t record it, according to Evanchec’s testimony, after telling the FBI he had gone home at lunch to retrieve “his passport,” Schulte then told FBI Agents his diplomatic passport was back at his apartment.

Q. Did the defendant say anything about a diplomatic passport at the residence?

A. He did.

Q. What did he say about that?

A. He indicated that he had retained a diplomatic passport from his time at the CIA that he had not returned that was inside of his residence.

Schulte accompanied the FBI back to the apartment, let them in, hung around for a bit, then returned to Bloomberg, staying longer than he told them he would.

While he was at Bloomberg, FBI got far enough in their search of Schulte’s apartment to determine that the diplomatic passport was not there.

Q. You testified that the defendant told you that that diplomatic passport was in his apartment; is that correct?

A. That’s correct, sir.

Q. Was the diplomatic passport found in his apartment?

A. It was not.

When Schulte didn’t return when he said he would, Evanchec intercepted Schulte again as he was about to leave Bloomberg. The 302 redacts the reference to the FBI telling him they did not find his diplomatic passport at the apartment.

As Evanchec testified, when they intercepted Schulte on his way out, he admitted that he had stashed his diplo passport at his work station at Bloomberg, and they all went to his workstation and got both passports.

A. I believe it was just after midnight, around 12:15 p.m. We observed him again in the lobby of the Bloomberg building at 120 Park Avenue.

Q. Did you approach him?

A. We did.

Q. Who was with you at that time?

A. At the time it was myself, Special Agent Gary Ido, and Special Agent John Summers.

Q. What, if anything, did you say to the defendant at that time?

A. We indicated to him that we had obtained classified information or found classified information in his residence. And we also indicated that we had not recovered his diplomatic passport.

Q. What, if anything, did the defendant say in response?

A. He indicated the diplomatic passport was actually in his office at Bloomberg.

Q. Did he go anywhere after that?

A. Yes, he escorted us along with a security official from Bloomberg to his desk where we took possession of the diplomatic passport.

Q. Did you take possession of any other passport at that time?

A. Yes.

Q. What passport?

A. His personal passport.

Now, virtually all of this has previously been made public (presumably, Evanchec reviewed the 302s before testifying at the trial).

What’s new is that, at least per Schulte, he went home in the middle of the day to get his passport(s). His excuse for doing so might make sense — he was trying to check in online, which you can only do a day in advance. He might have been able to check in from his house, at lunch, unless he tried and discovered he could only check in 24-hours before his flight (he was scheduled to leave work before the end of the day on March 16).

Except none of that would require Schulte to bring two passports back to work, his regular passport and his diplomatic passport (the latter of which he should have but did not turn in when he left the CIA the previous November). Indeed, given the scrutiny Schulte had to have known he would be under, flying under the diplo passport would provoke alarm all by itself, so presumably he was checking in with his regular passport.

What I find particularly interesting, however, is the timing.

That’s because sometime between 10:50 AM and 3:30 PM that same day, Trump said the following in a recorded interview with Tucker Carlson, leaking classified information that would have alerted Schulte, if he had a way to hear it, that the government had determined that “a lot of things were taken” from the CIA under Obama, not under Trump.

Trump: Because I don’t want to do anything that’s going to violate any strength of an agency. You know we have enough problems. And by the way, with the CIA, I just want people to know, the CIA was hacked and a lot of things taken. That was during the Obama years. That was not during, us, that was during the Obama situation. Mike Pompeo is there now, doing a fantastic job. But we will be submitting certain things, and I will be perhaps speaking about this next week. But it’s right now before the Committee, and I think I want to leave it at that. I have a lot of confidence in the committee.

If Schulte had some way of seeing this, then, he would have been alerted that FBI had learned enough to know that he was a likely culprit for the leak.

Around the time Trump said this, Schulte (by his own telling) left work and got the passport he needed to check in for his second-ever flight out of the country — he reserved the flight on February 27. He never showed which passport he had in his bag to the FBI Agents, so it’s possible he also got the diplo passport he shouldn’t have even had, much less needed to check in for a flight.

For what it’s worth, it doesn’t seem possible that Schulte would have gotten advance notice he was the suspect for the leak from Trump’s blabbing to Tucker Carlson. I’ve not found any evidence that that interview played live; rather, it appears to have first aired at 9PM, by which point Schulte would have already been intercepted by FBI Agents in the Bloomberg lobby as he left from work.

But the 302 shows that, at around the same time that Trump was blabbing non-public details of the investigation into Schulte to a cable TV personality, Schulte left work and got his passport, possibly even the diplomatic passport he shouldn’t have had.

The Viral Twitter Thread in Which Darrell Cooper Confesses Republicans Were Pawns of Russian Disinformation

For some reason, this Twitter thread by a guy named Darrell Cooper, purporting to explain why Trumpsters came to attack the US Capitol, went viral.

I resisted several requests to fact check it. Now, after it has gone even more viral (including on Tucker Carlson’s show), Phil Bump has done a good fact check. As Bump notes, while Cooper accurately lays out that Trump supporters have lost confidence in institutions, Cooper offers an explanation that relies on a series of false claims so as to put the blame on Democrats.

It is indisputably the case that Trump supporters accept claims about election fraud in part because of their diminished confidence in institutions such as government and the media. What is subject to dispute, though, is the cause of that lack of confidence. While Cooper suggests that it’s emergent, it isn’t. While Cooper argues that it’s a function of investigations into Trump, it’s actually a function of partisan responses — largely but not entirely on the right — driven by Trump himself. And, most important, what Cooper presents as the indisputable facts undergirding his argument are often misleading or false and a function of partisan defenses of Trump that are common in conservative media.

Bump then debunks Cooper’s claims that:

  • The FBI spied on the Trump campaign using evidence manufactured by the Clinton campaign
  • We now know that all involved knew it was fake from Day 1 (see: Brennan’s July 2016 memo, etc)
  • The Steele dossier was the sole evidence used to justify spying on the Trump campaign
  • The entire Russian investigation stemmed from the Page investigation and not George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort
  • Protests planned in case Trump overturned the election were a plan for violence
  • There were legitimate concerns about the election

Bump is absolutely right that Cooper makes false claims to be able to blame Democrats and Bump’s fact checks are sound (and really exhausting that they’re still required). Bump is likewise correct that a false claim about the Steele dossier is central to Cooper’s story.

I’d add that Cooper doesn’t mention that his claims about the problems with the Steele dossier matter primarily to the third and fourth FISA orders against Carter Page, and so happened under the Trump Administration and in three cases, were signed by people Trump either kept (in the case of Jim Comey) or put in place (in the case of Dana Boente and Rod Rosenstein).

But according to Cooper’s logic, if the dossier hadn’t existed, a series of events that followed wouldn’t have happened, and so Republicans wouldn’t have attacked their own government. Thus far it’s a typical right wing attempt to disclaim responsibility for their own actions.

What Bump doesn’t mention, though, is that it is now almost universally agreed upon on among Trumpsters that the dossier was the product of Russian disinformation. Lindsey Graham — who conducted an investigation into the circumstances of the Carter Page FISA — thinks it is. Chuck Grassley — who led the investigation into the dossier — thinks it is. Ron Johnson — who also made a show of investigating these things — thinks it is. Chuck Ross — the chief scribe of the dossier on the right — thinks it is. The high gaslighter Catherine Herridge thinks it is. Fox News and all their favorite sources think it is. WSJ’s editorial page thinks it is. None of these people have thought through the implications of that, but they do all appear to believe that the Russians fed disinformation through the Democratic-funded dossier to the FBI.

So, even setting aside the implications of the possibility that the dossier was Russian disinformation, according to Cooper’s narrative, Trump’s supporters wouldn’t have attacked their own government if it weren’t for Russian disinformation that set off a chain of events that led them to lose confidence in American institutions.

But consider the implications of the dossier as disinformation, implications that are evident largely thanks to sources that right wing figures have made great effort to liberate.

In response to a Trey Gowdy question at an interview by a GOP-led investigation into the dossier, Bruce Ohr explained that on July 30, 2016, Christopher Steele shared three pieces of information with him (later in his interview he would add a fourth, Russian doping): Two details from what we now know to be the dossier, as well as a third — that Oleg Deripaska’s attorney had information about Paul Manafort stealing money from Deripaska.

And then the third item he mentioned was that Paul Hauser, who was an attorney working for Oleg Deripaska, had information about Paul Manafort, that Paul Manafort had entered into some kind of business deal with Oleg Deripaska, had stolen a large amount of money from Oleg Deripaska, and that Paul Hauser was trying to gather information that would show that, you know, or give more detail about what Paul Manafort had done with respect to Deripaska.

Byron York provided more background on Steele’s efforts to share information from Deripaska with Bruce Ohr. The IG Report done in response to GOP requests provided still more. For example, the IG Report revealed that Steele had set up a meeting between Ohr and Oligarch 1, whom we know to be Deripaska, in September 2015 (these claims are consistent with the heavily redacted Ohr 302s liberated by Judicial Watch).

Handling Agent 1 told the OIG that Steele facilitated meetings in a European city that included Handling Agent 1, Ohr, an attorney of Russian Oligarch 1, and a representative of another Russian oligarch. 209 Russian Oligarch 1 subsequently met with Ohr as well as other representatives of the U.S. government at a different location.

[snip]

Ohr and Steele also communicated frequently over the years regarding Russian Oligarch 1, including in 2016 during the time period before and after Steele was closed as an FBI CHS.409 Steele told us his communications with Ohr concerning Russian Oligarch 1 were the result of an outreach effort started in 2014 with Ohr and Handling Agent 1, to approach oligarchs about cooperating with the U.S. government. Ohr confirmed that he and Handling Agent 1 asked Steele to contact Russian oligarchs for this purpose. This effort resulted in Ohr meeting with Russian Oligarch 1 and an FBI agent in September 2015.

The IG Report also revealed that in September 23 (around the same time Deripaska was interviewed by the FBI), Steele passed on a claim that Deripaska wanted to share information about Manafort.

On September 23, 2016, at Steele’s request, Steele met with Ohr in Washington, D.C. Ohr told us they spoke about various topics related to Russia, including information regarding Russian Oligarch 1 ‘s willingness to talk with the U.S. government about Manafort.

Far more consistently than using Ohr as a channel for dossier reports (and for a longer period of time), Steele used his ties with Ohr to advance Oleg Deripaska’s interests. And for the entirety of the time that Steele was feeding the FBI dossier reports, that meant Steele was feeding Ohr claims that not only presented Deripaska as a trustworthy actor, but did so in part by promising Deripaska’s cooperation in a criminal investigation of Paul Manafort. The FBI (and Mueller after that) didn’t investigate Manafort primarily for the stuff Deripaska was trying to feed the FBI, but Deripaska was making great efforts to ensure that the FBI would investigate Manafort. In the aftermath of all this, Trump and Manafort blamed Democrats for all this, but in fact, Deripaska was at least as responsible.

According to footnotes that Graham, Grassley, and Johnson had declassified, before Deripaska first started offering to help DOJ criminally investigate Manafort — before that July 30, 2016 meeting between Steele and Ohr — a Deripaska associate likely learned about the dossier project (the same declassification revealed that two Russian intelligence officers had learned of the project before that meeting which, given the belief that several of Deripaska’s associates were Russian intelligence officers, may be the same report).

Ohr told the OIG that, based on information that Steele told him about Russian Oligarch 1, such as when Russian Oligarch 1 would be visiting the United States or applying for a visa, and based on Steele at times seeming to be speaking on Russian Oligarch l’s behalf, Ohr said he had the impression that Russian Oligarch 1 was a client of Steele. 210 We asked Steele about whether he had a relationship with Russian Oligarch 1. Steele stated that he did not have a relationship and indicated that he had met Russian Oligarch 1 one time. He explained that he worked for Russian Oligarch l’s attorney on litigation matters that involved Russian Oligarch 1 but that he could not provide “specifics” about them for confidentiality reasons. Steele stated that Russian Oligarch 1 had no influence on the substance of his election reporting and no contact with any of his sources. He also stated that he was not aware of any information indicating that Russian Oligarch 1 knew of his investigation relating to the 2016 U.S. elections. 211

210 As we discuss in Chapter Six, members of the Crossfire Hurricane team were unaware of Steele’s connections to Russian Oligarch 1. [redacted]

211 Sensitive source reporting from June 2017 indicated that a [person affiliated] to Russian Oligarch 1 was [possibly aware] of Steele’s election investigation as of early July 2016.

In fact, the IG Report completed in response to Republicans’ requests makes it clear: if the dossier was disinformation, that disinformation most likely involved Oleg Deripaska, with whom Manafort was using his position on the Trump campaign in an attempt to patch up financial and legal relations.

Priestap told us that the FBI “didn’t have any indication whatsoever” by May 2017 that the Russians were running a disinformation campaign through the Steele election reporting. Priestap explained, however, that if the Russians, in fact, were attempting to funnel disinformation through Steele to the FBI using Russian Oligarch 1, he did not understand the goal. Priestap told us that

what he has tried to explain to anybody who will listen is if that’s the theory [that Russian Oligarch 1 ran a disinformation campaign through [Steele] to the FBI], then I’m struggling with what the goal was. So, because, obviously, what [Steele] reported was not helpful, you could argue, to then [candidate] Trump. And if you guys recall, nobody thought then candidate Trump was going to win the election. Why the Russians, and [Russian Oligarch 1] is supposed to be close, very close to the Kremlin, why the Russians would try to denigrate an opponent that the intel community later said they were in favor of who didn’t really have a chance at winning, I’m struggling, with, when you know the Russians, and this I know from my Intelligence Community work: they favored Trump, they’re trying to denigrate Clinton, and they wanted to sow chaos. I don’t know why you’d run a disinformation campaign to denigrate Trump on the side. [brackets original]

Of course, for months before Deripaska first started offering (through Steele) to cooperate with the FBI against Manafort, Manafort had been trying to exploit his position on Trump’s campaign to ingratiate himself with (among others) Deripaska, in part in hopes to paper over precisely the financial dispute that Deripaska was, through Steele, trying to use to increase Manafort’s legal exposure. Weeks before the July 30 Steele-Ohr meeting, for example, Manafort had offered to brief Deripaska on the Trump campaign.

Immediately upon joining the Campaign, Manafort directed Gates to prepare for his review separate memoranda addressed to Deripaska, Akhmetov, Serhiy Lyovochkin, and Boris Kolesnikov,879 the last three being Ukrainian oligarchs who were senior Opposition Bloc officials. 880 The memoranda described Manafort’ s appointment to the Trump Campaign and indicated his willingness to consult on Ukrainian politics in the future. On March 30, 2016, Gates emailed the memoranda and a press release announcing Manafort’ s appointment to Kilimnik for translation and dissemination.881 Manafort later followed up with Kilimnik to ensure his messages had been delivered, emailing on April 11, 2016 to ask whether Kilimnik had shown “our friends” the media coverage of his new role. 882 Kilimnik replied, “Absolutely. Every article.” Manafort further asked: “How do we use to get whole. Has Ovd [Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska] operation seen?” Kilimnik wrote back the same day, “Yes, I have been sending everything to Victor [Boyarkin, Deripaska’s deputy], who has been forwarding the coverage directly to OVD.”883

[snip]

The Office also obtained contemporaneous emails that shed light on the purpose of the communications with Deripaska and that are consistent with Gates’s account. For example, in response to a July 7, 20 I 6, email from a Ukrainian reporter about Manafort’ s failed Deripaskabacked investment, Manafort asked Kilimnik whether there had been any movement on “this issue with our friend.”897 Gates stated that “our friend” likely referred to Deripaska,898 and Manafort told the Office that the “issue” (and “our biggest interest,” as stated below) was a solution to the Deripaska-Pericles issue.899 Kilimnik replied:

I am carefully optimistic on the question of our biggest interest. Our friend [Boyarkin] said there is lately significantly more attention to the campaign in his boss’ [Deripaska’s] mind, and he will be most likely looking for ways to reach out to you pretty soon, understanding all the time sensitivity. I am more than sure that it will be resolved and we will get back to the original relationship with V. ‘s boss [Deripaska].900

Eight minutes later, Manafort replied that Kilimnik should tell Boyarkin’s “boss,” a reference to Deripaska, “that if he needs private briefings we can accommodate.”901

That is, per both Rick Gates and Manafort himself, how Manafort came to meet with Deripaska aide Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, just three days after Deripaska tried to increase Manafort’s legal exposure via Steele. That’s how — and why! — he provided a briefing on campaign strategy amid a discussion of resolving the debt to Deripaska (as well as a plan to carve up Ukraine), as described by the SSCI Report completed under Chairs Richard Burr and Marco Rubio.

(U) At the meeting, Manafort walked Kilimnik through the internal polling data from Fabrizio in detail.453 According to Gates, Kilimnik wanted to know how Trump could win.454 Manafort explained his strategy in the battleground states and told Kilimnik about polls that identified voter bases in blue-collar, democratic-leaning states which Trump could swing.455 Manafort said these voters could be reached by Trump on issues like economics, but the Campaign needed to implement a ground game.456 Gates recalled that Manafort further discussed the “battleground” states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.457 (U) The Committee sought to determine with specificity what information Kilimnik actually gleaned from Manafort on August 2, 2016. Information suggests Kilimnik understood that some of the polling data showed that Clinton’s negatives were particularly high; that Manafort’s plan for victory called for focusing on Clinton’s negatives as much as possible; and that given Clinton’s high negatives, there was a chance that Trump could win. (U) Patten’s debriefing with the SCO provides the most granular account of what information Kilimnik obtained at the August 2, 2016 meeting:

Kilimnik told Patten that at the New York cigar bar meeting, Manafort stated that they have a plan to beat Hillary Clinton which included Manafort bringing discipline and an organized strategy to the campaign. Moreover, because Clinton’s negatives were so low [sic]-if they could focus on her negatives they could win the election. Manafort discussed the Fabrizio internal Trump polling data with Kilimnik, and explained that Fabrizio ‘s polling numbers showed that the Clinton negatives, referred to as a ‘therm poll,’ were high. Thus, based on this polling there was a chance Trump could win. 458

(U) Patten relayed similar information to the Committee. In particular, he told the Committee that Kilimnik mentioned Manafort’s belief that “because or Clinton’s high negatives, there was a chance, only because her negatives were so astronomically high, that it was possible . to win.”459

[snip]

(U) In addition to Campaign strategy involving polling data and the Ukraine plan, Manafort and Kilimnik also discussed two financial disputes and debts at the meeting. (U) The first dispute involved Deripaska and Pericles.477 Gates recalled that Kilimnik relayed at the meeting that Deripaska’s lawsuit ha’d been dismissed.478 Gates also recalled that Kilimnik was trying to obtain documentation showing the dismissal.479

In short, even without confirmation the dossier was disinformation, it’s clear that Deripaska was playing a vicious double game, using Steele as a channel to increase Manafort’s legal exposure even while using that legal exposure as a way to get an inside track to Trump’s campaign. But if the dossier is disinformation (as Trumpsters seem to universally agree now), it might help explain the dodgy content of the dossier in ways that aren’t important to this post (for example, it might explain why Steele’s sources falsely claimed that Carter Page was Manafort’s liaison with Russia in the same days when Kilimnik flew to the US to offer a pitch to Manafort on Ukraine involving senior Russians).

Now consider one more detail, given that Trumpsters seem to universally agree the dossier was disinformation and the IG Report’s suggestion that the most likely architect of that disinformation was Oleg Deripaska.

On January 8, 2017, Manafort flew to Madrid to meet with a different Deripaska deputy, Georgiy Oganov. As the SSCI Report explained, while Manafort told investigators they discussed the Pericles lawsuit — the same lawsuit Deripaska was using to make Manafort legally insecure — they also discussed stuff that remains almost entirely redacted, but stuff that includes recreating their “old friendship” which (also per the SSCI Report) involved Manafort conducting influence campaigns for Deripaska.

On January 8, 2017, hours after returning to the United States from a trip to ~ to Madrid, Spain.598 Manafort met with Oganov in Madrid during what he claimed was a one-hour breakfast meeting.599 Manafort told the FBI that, at the meeting, Oganov told him that he needed to meet with Deripaska in person to resolve the Pericles matter.600 Manafort agreed but said he would not travel to Ukraine or Russia for the meeting.601

(U) Manafort provided false and misleading information about the purpose, content, and follow-up to the meeting with Oganov to both the Committee and the SCO. In particular, Manafort told the Committee in a written response through counsel that he attended a meeting on or around January 17, 2017, in Madrid with “Georgy Organov.”602 The written response claimed that the meeting was “regarding a private litigation matter involving Oleg Deripaska.”603 Despite admitting his attendance at the meeting to the Committee in May 2017, Manafort initially denied attending the meeting in his interviews with the SCO in the fall of 2018.604 He eventually admitted to attending the meeting with Oganov, and then repeated what he described in his letter to the Committee-that the meeting had been arranged by his lawyers and concerned only the Pericles lawsuit.605

Manafort’s claims about the meeting were false. As the above messages show, the meeting was not designed to be about Pericles, but was also about recreating the “old friendship” and “global politics.”

Manafort returned to the US on January 12 and, three days later, tried to set up an in-person meeting with KT McFarland.

She checked with Mike Flynn, who told her that the “perception” of meeting with Manafort, “especially now” (this was after Flynn’s own back channels with Russia were beginning to become public) would not be good, so to hold off until they were in the hot seats.

Manafort didn’t meet with Trump’s national security team, but around the same time, per reporting from Ken Vogel, he reached out to Reince Priebus and suggested the errors in the dossier not only discredited it, but also the FBI investigation.

It was about a week before Trump’s inauguration, and Manafort wanted to brief Trump’s team on alleged inaccuracies in a recently released dossier of memos written by a former British spy for Trump’s opponents that alleged compromising ties among Russia, Trump and Trump’s associates, including Manafort.

“On the day that the dossier came out in the press, Paul called Reince, as a responsible ally of the president would do, and said this story about me is garbage, and a bunch of the other stuff in there seems implausible,” said a person close to Manafort.

[snip]

According to a GOP operative familiar with Manafort’s conversation with Priebus, Manafort suggested the errors in the dossier discredited it, as well as the FBI investigation, since the bureau had reached a tentative (but later aborted) agreement to pay the former British spy to continue his research and had briefed both Trump and then-President Barack Obama on the dossier.

Manafort told Priebus that the dossier was tainted by inaccuracies and by the motivations of the people who initiated it, whom he alleged were Democratic activists and donors working in cahoots with Ukrainian government officials, according to the operative. [my emphasis]

According to Rick Gates, at some point Manafort asked Kilimnik to obtain more information from his sources about it, including from Deripaska.

Since that suggestion to Priebus — which he made days after his return from a meeting with Deripaska’s associate — Trump has pursued precisely the strategy laid out by Manafort, using the errors in the dossier — the dossier that all Trumpsters now seem to believe was filled with errors by Russian intelligence and possibly by Deripaska associates — to discredit it and with it, the Russian investigation.

That’s the strategy that led Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller to report on the dossier full time — including forcing the opinion editor at the time to publish a Deripaska column attacking the dossier.

Fusion GPS’s Simpson, in a New York Times op-ed describing his own Judiciary Committee testimony, claimed a neoconservative website “and the Clinton campaign” were “the Republican and Democratic funders of our Trump research.” The Judiciary Committee’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) then unilaterally released, over the objection of committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Simpson’s testimony to “set the record straight.” Fusion GPS “commended Senator Feinstein for her courage.”

Yet on March 16, 2017, Daniel Jones — himself a team member of Fusion GPS, self-described former FBI agent and, as we now know from the media, an ex-Feinstein staffer — met with my lawyer, Adam Waldman, and described Fusion as a “shadow media organization helping the government,” funded by a “group of Silicon Valley billionaires and George Soros.” My lawyer testified these facts to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Nov. 3. Mr. Soros is, not coincidentally, also the funder of two “ethics watchdog” NGOs (Democracy 21 and CREW) attacking Rep. Nunes’ committee memo.

A former Obama State Department official, Nuland, has been recently outed as another shadow player, reviewing and disseminating Fusion’s dossier, and reportedly, hundreds of other dossiers over a period of years. “Deep State-proud loyalists” apparently was a Freudian slip, not a joke.

Invented narratives — not “of the people, by the people, for the people,” but rather just from a couple of people, cloaked in the very same hypocritical rhetoric of “freedom” and “democracy” that those are actively undermining — impede internationally shared efforts on the world’s most pressing, real issues, like global health, climate change and the future of energy. My own “Mother Russia” has many problems and challenges, and my country is still in transition from the Soviet regime — a transition some clearly wish us to remain in indefinitely.

And that’s the strategy that led Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham, and Ron Johnson to spend their time discrediting the dossier rather than conducting oversight of Donald Trump.

That’s the strategy that led Darrell Cooper to believe (or claim to believe) several false claims about the dossier and then use those false claims to excuse the way Trumpsters lost faith in institutions and so attacked the Capitol. In short, the likelihood that the dossier is disinformation — indeed, the likelihood that the guy twisting the nuts of Trump’s campaign manager fed the dossier full of disinformation even while using that pressure to obtain his cooperation — means that (at least if you believe Cooper’s narrative) that disinformation led, through a series of steps, Americans to attack the American Capitol.

Trumpsters appear to love Cooper’s narrative, I guess because it doesn’t hold them responsible for their own gullibility or betrayal of the country. There are other problems with it (including the replication of other claims that Republicans have agreed is Russian disinformation). But ultimately, even with Cooper’s errors, what his narrative amounts to (at least for all the Trumpsters who believe the dossier was disinformation) is a claim that Russia’s 2016 disinformation campaign led Trump supporters to attack the US Capitol.

Update: After I posted some folks in the thread questioned what the point of the disinformation would be. This post lays out a possible logic to it all.