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Accused Vault 7 Leaker Joshua Schulte Planned to Have WikiLeaks Publish Disinformation to Help His Defense

When WikiLeaks announced its publication of the CIA’s hacking tools in March 2017, the first tool it highlighted was an effort called Umbrage, which it claimed the CIA used to “misdirect attribution.”

UMBRAGE

The CIA’s hand crafted hacking techniques pose a problem for the agency. Each technique it has created forms a “fingerprint” that can be used by forensic investigators to attribute multiple different attacks to the same entity.

This is analogous to finding the same distinctive knife wound on multiple separate murder victims. The unique wounding style creates suspicion that a single murderer is responsible. As soon one murder in the set is solved then the other murders also find likely attribution.

The CIA’s Remote Devices Branch‘s UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.

UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.

Experts noted at the time that Umbrage served mostly to save time by reusing existing code. Nevertheless, the representation that the CIA would sometimes use other nation’s tools was immediately integrated into conspiracy theories denying that Russia carried out the 2016 hacks on Democrats. Because the CIA sometimes obscured its own hacks, denialists have said since, the CIA must have been behind the 2016 hacks, part of a Deep State operation to frame Russia and in so doing, undermine Trump.

Documents released this week reveal that Joshua Schulte, who is accused of leaking those documents to WikiLeaks, believed he could get WikiLeaks to publish disinformation to help his case.

Several documents submitted this week provide much more clarity on Schulte’s case. On Monday, the government responded to a Schulte effort to have his communications restrictions (SAMs) removed; their brief not only admitted — for what I believe to be the first time in writing — that the CIA is the victim agency, but described an Information War Schulte attempted to conduct from jail using contraband phones and a slew of social media accounts.

Yesterday, in addition to requesting that Schulte’s child porn charges be severed from his Espionage ones, his defense team moved to suppress the warrants used to investigate his communication activities in jail based on a claim the FBI violated Schulte’s attorney-client privilege. During the initial search, agents reviewed notebooks marked attorney-client with sufficient attention to find non-privileged materials covered by the search warrant, and only then got a privilege team to go through the notebooks in more detail. The privilege team confirmed that 65% of the contents of the notebooks was privileged. In support of the suppression motion, Schulte’s lawyers released most of the warrants used to conduct those searches, including the downstream one used to access three ProtonMail accounts discovered by the government and another downstream one used to access his ten social media accounts (see below for a list of all of Schulte’s accounts). Effectively, they’re arguing that the FBI would have never found this unbelievably incriminating communications activity, which will make it fairly easy for the government to prove that Schulte is the Vault 7 leaker without relying on classified information, without accessing those notebooks marked privileged.

But along the way, the documents released this week show that the guy accused of leaking that Umbrage file that denialists have relied on to claim the 2016 hack was a false flag operation framing Russia himself planned false flag activities to proclaim his innocence.

The government’s SAMs response describes in cursory fashion and the affidavits for the warrants as a whole describe in more detail how Schulte planned to adopt two fake identities — a CIA officer and an FBI Agent — to proclaim his innocence. The idea behind the latter was to corroborate two claims Schulte posted on his JoshSchulte WordPress sites on October 1, 2018 — that the FBI had planted the child porn discovered on his computer.

i. “I now believe the government planted the CP after their search warrants turned up empty-not only to save their jobs and investigation, but also to target and decimate my reputation considering my involvement in significant information operations and covert action.”

As noted above, in the Fake FBI Document in the Schulte Cell Documents, a purported FBI “whistleblower” claimed that the FBI had placed child pornography on Schulte’s computer after its initial searches of the device were unsuccessful in recovering evidence. See supra~ 14(a)(iii).

ii. “So who’s responsible for Vault 7? The CIA’s own version of the FBI’s Peter Strzok and Lisa Page,”

As noted above, in the September Tweet in the Schulte Cell Documents, a purported former CIA colleague of Schulte (but who was in fact simply Schulte himself) claimed that two other CIA former colleagues, one of whom Schulte described as the “Peter Strzok of the CIA,” had conspired to blame Schulte for Vault 7, WikiLeaks’ disclosure of the CIA material.

As noted above, two of the documents found in Schulte’s cell mixed in with the attorney-client material show how Schulte planned to create false identities to spread the same stories. One was an article he planned to send to WikiLeaks, claiming to be from an FBI whistleblower describing how Schulte was framed.

iii. A document that appears to be an article for release by WikiLeaks.org (“WikiLeaks”), in which a purported FBI “whistleblower” claimed to have provided the discovery in this case to WikiLeaks and that the FBI had planted evidence of child pornography on Schulte’s computer to frame him (the “Fake FBI Document”).

The documents also include his plans to release a fake CIA tweet claiming he was framed for the Vault 7 leak.

iv. Drafts of a tweet (the “Fake CIA Tweet”) that appear to have been drafted around August 30, 2018,3 in which Schulte pretending to be a former CIA colleague claimed that two other former CIA colleagues, both of whom Schulte referred to by full name and one of whom he described as the “Peter Strzok of the CIA,” had “set up” Schulte and used him as a “scapegoat” for “Vault 7,” which is the name of WikiLeaks serial disclosures of CIA material that began on or about March 7, 2017 and which forms the basis of some of the current charges against Schulte. On the following page of the Schulte Cell Documents appears the text “Just to authenticate me fast” followed by other apparent draft tweets that discussed the CIA’s alleged activities and methods, some of which appear to be classified (the “Fake Authentication Tweets”).4 . . I believe that Schulte planned to potentially publish the Fake Authentication Tweet before the Fake CIA Tweet in an effort to purportedly verify the author’s employment with the CIA and knowledge of the information in the Fake CIA Tweet.

Finally, the FBI also found Schulte’s to do list of how he planned to share both the fake FBI document and his discovery with WikiLeaks.

What appears to be a “to-do” list dated September 12, 2018, in which Schulte wrote that on September 17 and 18, he would “DL Disc. UL WL,” and.that on September 19, 20, and 21, he would “schedule tweets[.]” I believe that here, “DL Disc. UL WL” means that Schulte planned to download his discovery (”DL Disc.”) from the Schulte Laptop and upload that discovery to WikiLeaks (“UL WL”). As noted above, in another place in the Schulte Cell Documents, Schulte drafted the Fake FBI Document, a purported statement by a supposed FBI “whistleblower” who provided Schulte’s discovery to WikiLeaks and claimed that the FBI had planted evidence of child pornography on Schulte’s computer.

From a legal standpoint, Schulte’s lawyers have disclosed all these warrant materials in an urgent effort to suppress everything the government found after first accessing his notebooks from jail. The FBI investigation proceeded from those notebooks to the WordPress site showing him claiming something identical to disinformation he was packaging up to share with WikiLeaks. They also got from those notebooks to ProtonMail accounts where Schulte offered to share what may or may not be classified information with a journalist. The reason why the defense is pushing to suppress this — one of the only challenges they’re making in his prosecution thus far — is because the stuff Schulte did in prison is utterly damning and seems to confirm both his familiarity with WikiLeaks and his belief that he needed to create disinformation to claim to be innocent.

We’ll see whether this Fourth and Sixth Amendment challenge works.

But along the way, the defense has released information — the provenance of which they’re not disputing in the least — that shows that Schulte planned to use WikiLeaks to conduct a disinformation campaign. But it wouldn’t be the first time Schulte had gotten WikiLeaks to carry out his messaging. A year ago today — in the wake of Schulte being charged with the Vault 7 leak — WikiLeaks linked to the diaries that Schulte was writing and posting from his jail cell, possibly showing that Schulte continued to communicate with WikiLeaks — either via a family member or directly — even after he had been put in jail. Those diaries are among the things seized in the search.

In a follow-up, I think I can show that Schulte did succeed in using WikiLeaks as part a disinformation campaign.

Social media accounts Joshua Schulte accessed from jail

ProtonMail: annon1204, presumedguilty, freejasonbourne

Twitter: @freejasonbourne (created September 1, 2018 and used through October 2, 2018)

Buffer (used to schedule social media posts): (created September 3, 2018, used through September 7, 2018)

WordPress: joshschulte.wordpress.com, presumptionofslavery.wordpress.com, presumptionofinnocence.net (all created August 14, 2018)

Gmail: [email protected], [email protected] (created April 15, 2018), [email protected],

Outlook: [email protected]

Facebook: ‘who is JOHN GALT? (created April 17, 2018)

Update: The government also believed at the time that an account in the name Conj Khyas was used by Schulte to receive classified information at his annon1204 account. It was not listed in these warrants, but would amount to a 14th account.

The Congressional Research Service’s (Dated) Take on Julian Assange’s Indictment: DOJ May Argue He Aided Russian Spying

Project on Government Secrecy just released a Congressional Research Service report, which was originally written on April 22, on Julian Assange’s arrest.

It’s a fairly balanced and thorough document, including quotes from The Intercept. But it’s dated, with the body of the report integrating neither his superseding indictment (though an update does note it happened) nor Sweden’s stance — reopening but not asking for extradition on — the rape investigation.

There’s one big thing that the report misses, which is relevant for its analysis, even dated as it is. It describes, correctly, that Assange was originally indicted in March 2018. But it doesn’t note that the complaint was obtained on December 21, 2017. That seems particularly pertinent given that it happened on the same day as (and therefore may be the legal reason why) the UK denied Ecuador’s attempt to make Assange a diplomat.

Ecuador previously had been unsuccessful in its attempts secure arrangements for Assange to leave the embassy through legal channels. In 2017, the country made Assange an Ecuadorian citizen. Later that year, Ecuador’s foreign minister designated Assange as a diplomat in what observers interpreted to be an effort to confer the VCDR’s personal diplomatic protections on Assange, allowing him to leave the embassy and take up a diplomatic post in Russia without fear of arrest during his travel. But U.K. officials denied Assange diplomatic accreditation, and Ecuador withdrew its diplomatic designation shortly thereafter. Ecuador also suspended Assange’s citizenship as part of its decision to allow his arrest.

For a document meant to provide Congress a balanced report on his arrest, it seems pertinent to suggest that Ecuador may have failed in its efforts to secure this diplomatic solution because the US intervened quickly.

And that, in turn, seems relevant to the one point that I haven’t seen discussed in other coverage of Assange’s arrest: whether DOJ got around cautions against indicting journalists in its media policy by relying on the language that such cautions do not apply when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the media person in question is aiding, abetting, or conspiring in illegal activities with a foreign power.

The news media policy also provides that it does not apply when there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person is a foreign power, agent of a foreign power, or is aiding, abetting, or conspiring in illegal activities with a foreign power or its agent. The U.S. Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russian state-controlled actors coordinated with Wikileaks in 2016 may have implicated this exclusion and other portions of the news media policy, although that conduct occurred years after the events for which Assange was indicted. The fact that Ecuador conferred diplomatic status on Assange, and that this diplomatic status was in place at the time DOJ filed its criminal complaint, may also have been relevant. Finally, even if the Attorney General concluded that the news media policy applied to Assange, the Attorney General may have decided that intervening events since the end of the Obama Administration shifted the balance of interests to favor prosecution. Whether the Attorney General or DOJ will publicly describe the impact of the news media policy is unclear.

That is, CRS suspects that DOJ may have gotten around cautions against arresting members of the media by using the exception in AG Guidelines,

(ii) The protections of the policy do not extend to any individual or entity where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the individual or entity is –

(A) A foreign power or agent of a foreign power, as those terms are defined in section 101 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801);

Which would in effect mean they were arguing that Assange fulfills this language from FISA.

(B) acts for or on behalf of a foreign power which engages in clandestine intelligence activities in the United States contrary to the interests of the United States, when the circumstances indicate that such person may engage in such activities, or when such person knowingly aids or abets any person in the conduct of such activities or knowingly conspires with any person to engage in such activities;

It would be unsurprising to see DOJ argue that for Assange’s activities in 2016. After all, they’ve described him in terms often used with co-conspirators in the GRU indictment (though didn’t obtain that indictment until long after Assange was charged and indicted). They similarly describe WikiLeaks as the recipient of Vault 7 documents in the Joshua Schulte superseding indictments; but while that gets perilously close to alleging Schulte was leaking documents on behalf of a foreign power, they don’t charge that (and, again, that superseding indictment was obtained months after the Assange one).

None of that means Assange was acting as — or abetting — the actions of a foreign power in 2010. That may ultimately be what they want to argue, that he was conspiring with Russia way back in 2010. But they haven’t charged or alleged that yet. Indeed, even Mike Pompeo’s accusations from 2017 — that WikiLeaks was a non-state intelligence service — don’t seem to reach the language in these exceptions.

And none of that makes this language any less dangerous for journalists. A lot of journalists published documents stolen from the DNC in 2016 long after it was broadly accepted that Russia had stolen them. That would mean any of those journalists might be accused of knowingly abetting Russia’s election year efforts.

In other words, prosecuting Assange because he knowingly abetted Russian efforts (especially if DOJ can only prove that for 2016, not the 2010 actions they’ve charged him with) still doesn’t pass the “New York Times” test.

The Three Theories of Prosecution for Julian Assange

In this post, I laid out what the 17 new charges against Julian Assange are. In this, I’ll look more closely at three theories of criminalization here:

  • Theory One: Charging Assange for causing Chelsea Manning to leak classified information by soliciting it generally or specifically (and/or discussing its value before she obtained it)
  • Theory Two: Charging Assange for offering to help crack a password and attempting to obtain the documents that would have been available using it
  • Theory Three: Charging Assange for leaking the identities of US government informants in three different databases

Theory One: Obtaining and disclosing documents that were solicited (Counts 2-4 and 6-14)

Effectively, for three sets of documents, they’ve charged Assange for causing Chelsea Manning to obtain (Charges 2 through 4), Assange obtaining himself (Charges 6 through 8), causing Manning to disclose documents she did not have authorized possession of (Charges 9 through 11), and  causing Manning to disclose legally obtained documents (Charges 12 through 13) for three sets of documents: The Gitmo Detainee Assessment Briefs, the State Department Cables, and the Iraq Rules of Engagement.

Assange is not being charged for publishing anything under this theory (that’s not true under Theory Three). He’s being charged with causing Manning to obtain and disclose them to him.

To accuse Assange of causing Manning to do these things, they show how a Most Wanted Leaks list posted on WikiLeaks until September 2010 resembles what Manning looked for on DOD’s networks and what she sent to Assange.

In addition, they show that Manning and Assange discussed some of these leaks before she obtained them.

For example, on March 7, 2010, Manning asked ASSANGE how valuable the Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs would be. After confirming that ASSANGE thought they had value, on March 8, 2010, Manning told ASSANGE that she was “throwing everything [she had] on JTF GTMO [Joint Task Force, Guantanamo] at [Assange] now.” ASSANGE responded, “ok, great!”

[snip]

Manning later told ASSANGE in reference to the Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs that “after this upload, thats all i really have got left.” I

It argued that Manning downloaded the State Department cables in response to the request for bulk databases on the Wish List.

Further, following ASSANGE’s “curious eyes never run dry” comment, and consistent with WikiLeaks’s solicitation of bulk databases and classified materials of diplomatic significance, as described in paragraphs 2,4-5, between on or about March 28, 2010, and April 9, 2010, Manning used a United States Department of Defense computer to download over 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables, which were classified up to the SECRET level. Manning subsequently uploaded these cables to ASSANGE and WikiLeaks through an SFTP connection to a cloud drop box operated by WikiLeaks, with an X directory that WikiLeaks had designated for Marining’s use. ASSANGE and WikiLeaks later disclosed them to the public.

And it showed that the Iraq Rules of Engagement were on the Wish List.

As of November 2009, WikiLeaks’s “Most Wanted Leaks” for the United States included the following:

[snip]

b. “Military and Intelligence” documents, including documents that the list described as classified up to the SECRET level, for example, “Iraq and Afghanistan Rules of Engagement 2007-2009 (SECRET);”

[snip]

Following ASSANGE’s “curious eyes never run dry” comment, on or about March 22,2010, consistent with WikiLeaks’s “Most Wanted Leaks” solicitation of “Iraq and Afghanistan US Army Rules of Engagement 2007-2009 (SECRET),” as described in paragraphs 4-5, Manning downloaded multiple Iraq rules of engagement files from her Secret Internet Protocol Network computer and burned these files to a CD, and provided them to ASSANGE and WikiLeaks.

Thus, for each of these, the government is saying that soliciting specific classified (or protected) materials amounts to Espionage. This is the theory of prosecution I argued would criminalize people like Jason Leopold, who was clearly engaged in journalism when he specifically asked about a specific Suspicious Activity Report from a source.

Theory Two: Attempted hacking to attempt to obtain the documents available via the hack (Counts 5 and 18)

For one vaguely defined set of documents, DOJ has charged Assange for attempting to help Manning crack a password (which was the single previous charge, which is now Charge 18) in order to attempt to obtain unidentified documents on SIPRNet.

15. In furtherance of this scheme, ASSANGE agreed to assist Manning in cracking a password hash stored on United States Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network, a United States government network used for classified documents and communications, as designated according to Executive Order No. 13526 or its predecessor orders.

I believe (though am not certain) that that’s what the documents charged in Count 5 are about.

Between in or about November 2009 and in or about May 2010, in an offense begun and committed outside of the jurisdiction of any particular state or district of the United States, the defendant, JULIAN PAUL ASSANGE, who will be first brought to the Eastern District of Virginia, and others unknown to the Grand Jury, knowingly and unlawfully attempted to receive and obtain documents, writings, and notes connected with the national defense—^namely, information stored on the Secret Internet Protocol Network classified up to the SECRET level— for the purpose of obtaining information respecting the national defense, knowing and having reason to believe, at the time that he attempted to receive and obtain them, that such materials would be obtained, taken, made, and disposed of by a person contrary to the provisions of Chapter 37 of Title 18 of the United States Code.

This theory also doesn’t charge Assange with publishing information. Rather than charging him for soliciting leaks (Theory One), it charges him with helping to obtain documents Manning was not authorized to obtain by attempting to crack a password to get Administrators privileges.

Releasing the names of informants (Counts 15-17)

For each of three sets of US government informants, there’s also a charge tied to the informants’ identities disclosed in bulk databases.

35. Also following Manning’s arrest, during 2010 and 2011, ASSANGE published via the WikiLeaks website the documents classified up to the SECRET level that he had obtained from Manning, as described in paragraphs 12, 21, and 27, including approximately 75,000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related significant activities reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, £ind 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables.

36. The significant activity reports from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that ASSANGE published included names of local Afghans and Iraqis who had provided information to U.S. and coalition forces. The State Department cables that WikiLeaks published included names of persons throughout the world who provided information to the U.S. government in circumstances in which they could reasonably expect that their identities would be kept confidential. These sources included journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents who were living in repressive regimes and reported to the United States the abuses of their own government, and the political conditions within their countries, at great risk to their own safety. By publishing these documents without redacting the human sources’ names or other identifying information, ASSANGE created a grave and imminent risk that the innocent people he named would suffer serious physical harm and/or arbitrary detention.

For each database, the indictment looks at several instances of the individuals whose identities were released. It then lays out evidence that Assange knew and did not care that by publishing these identities he would be endangering people.

This is the theory of prosecution that does criminalize the publication of true information. And it criminalizes something that journalists do, at times, do.

The government often tries to classify identities that should not be (as they did with Gina Haspel, to hide her role in torture, for example). When journalists learn these identities they sometimes do choose to ignore admonitions against publication, for good reason. That’s what Assange is accused of doing here, but only on a mass scale. But if this is successful, there’s nothing that will prevent the government from charging people for disclosing classified identities at a smaller scale.

I’m also not sure how, as a foreign citizen, this doesn’t invite retaliation against the US for identifying classified identities of other countries.

Rick Gates’ Status Report Suggests Trump Will Be a Focus of Roger Stone’s Trial

As I noted yesterday, the government submitted a status report in Rick Gates’ case yesterday — the first since Mueller submitted his report. In the past several prior reports, the government had asked for sixty day extensions, but here, the government is asking for over three months.

The prosecutors who submitted the report — who are both on the Greg Craig prosecution team — make one reason for the longer extension clear: they’re scheduling the next status report for after Craig’s trial is expected to finish.

To date: (1) defendant Gates continues to cooperate with the government as required by his Plea Agreement, and (2) this Court has scheduled a trial in United States v. Craig, 19-CR-125 (ABJ), to begin on August 12, 2019,

Gates is not obviously mentioned in Craig’s indictment, but Paul Manafort is central to it, so presumably prosecutors want to have Gates explain why Manafort thought it so important that Craig hide the source of the funding for the Skadden Arps payment, Victor Pinchuk, which parallels the reasons why Manafort wanted everyone else who worked for him to keep their Ukrainian paymasters secret.

But prosecutors also mention Roger Stone’s November trial (though none of Stone’s prosecutors are on this filing).

another trial, United States v. Stone, 19-CR-18 (ABJ), to begin November 5, 2019

That’s interesting given the way the very redacted passages treating Stone’s charges in the Mueller Report flesh out Gates’ role as a liaison between Trump and Stone in the effort to optimize the WikiLeaks releases. Stone’s indictment had been coy on this point (so much so, I’ve wondered whether Big Dick Toilet Salesman told Mueller to stop mentioning Trump in charging documents after the Michael Cohen plea). It describes senior members of the campaign contacting Stone to find out what WikiLeaks had coming.

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

[snip]

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

And there’s this very pregnant passage using the passive voice to describe someone — the indictment doesn’t name who — directing a senior campaign official to contact Stone about further releases, which would lead to Stone’s efforts to find out, in part via Jerome Corsi, what was coming in late July and early August.

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

Stone has denied it happened but said if it did, Gates would have been the one who reached out to him.

And while the passage of the Mueller Report describing all this is heavily redacted, it does seem to confirm that — after Trump and Manafort both showed great interest in the WikiLeaks releases, at least Manafort and probably both (given the reference to Manafort “separately” telling Gates to stay in touch with Stone) told Gates to reach out to Stone.

[snip]

In addition, Gates seems to have witnessed Trump take a call from Stone at which the then candidate’s rat-fucker informed him about the upcoming WikiLeaks releases.

Given all the documentary evidence the government has against Stone, Gates’ testimony is probably not necessary to prove that Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee about his efforts to optimize the WikiLeaks releases. But it may serve several prosecutorial roles.

First, given that Stone was interacting with Trump directly on the WikiLeaks releases, Gates’ (as well as Michael Cohen and even Manafort’s, the latter of whom seems to have uncharacteristically told the truth on this to the grand jury) confirmation that such contacts occurred could easily explain Stone’s motive to lie to HPSCI — which would serve to protect Trump. This is all the more true given how brazenly Trump lied about this point in his sworn answers to Mueller.

I recall that in the months leading up to the election there was considerable media reporting about the possible hacking and release of campaign-related information and there was a lot of talk about this matter. At the time, I was generally aware of these media reports and may have discussed these issues with my campaign staff or others, but at this point in time – more than two years later – I have no recollection of any particular conversation, when it occurred, or who the participants were.

I do not recall being aware during the campaign of any communications between [Stone, Donald Trump, Jr., Manafort, or Gates] and anyone I understood to be a representative of WikiLeaks or any of the other individuals or entities referred to in the question.

[snip]

I was in Trump Tower in New York City on October 7, 2016. I have no recollection of being told that WikiLeaks possessed or might possess emails related to John Podesta before the release of Mr. Podesta’s emails was reported by the media. Likewise, I have no recollection of being told that Roger Stone, anyone acting as an intermediary for Roger Stone, or anyone associated with my campaign had communicated with WikiLeaks on October 7, 2016.

I do not recall being told during the campaign that Roger Stone or anyone associated with my campaign had discussions with [WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0, or DCLeaks] regarding the content or timing of release of hacked emails.

I spoke by telephone with Roger Stone from time to time during the campaign. I have no recollection of the specifics of any conversations I had with Mr. Stone between June 1.2016 and November 8, 2016. I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with him, nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign, although I was aware that WikiLeaks was the subject of media reporting and campaign-related discussion at the time.

Gates will not only help to prove that Trump knew all this was going on, but that the campaign had dedicated resources to make use of Stone’s disclosures.

In addition, the government’s ability to tie the President directly to this part of the operation will make it harder (though nothing is beyond Trump) to pardon Stone before the trial, even while it will provide incentive to Trump to do so. Trump’s centrality in all this may be one reason William Barr is so aggressively protecting the Stone related disclosures, including with his refusals to share unredacted copies of the report with Congress: because Trump’s documented role in encouraging Stone’s efforts is far stronger than it is in any of the other potential incidences of election tampering.

Finally, all this may change the calculus if and when Julian Assange gets extradited to the US. Trump was asked about — but refused to answer — whether he considered a pardon for Assange.

Trump’s lies to Mueller are perhaps best documented as they pertain to WikiLeaks. Using Gates as a witness at Stone’s trial will make the trial an exhibition of the President’s lies as much as those of his rat-fucker.

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

In a Shoddy Attempt to Inflate the Single Server Fallacy, Roger Stone Suggests Communicating with Guccifer 2.0 Would Be Criminal

In a frivolous pair of motions, Roger Stone is going after CrowdStrike’s analysis of the Russian hack. In the first, he demands full unredacted copies of CrowdStrike’s reports on the hacks. He bases that demand on a claim the CrowdStrike reports are material to a motion to suppress the warrants against him because — he claims, falsely — the government relied exclusively on the CrowdStrike reports to decide Russia had hacked Democratic targets, so if the reports are faulty, then so are the warrants.

The entire stunt is based off what appears to be an inaccurate claim — that this government response to some other frivolous motions claimed they didn’t have to prove that Russia hacked Democratic targets.

The Government stated in its Opposition to Stone’s Motion to Dismiss (Dkt # 99) that it will not be required to prove that the Russians hacked either the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) or Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (“DCCC”) from outside their physical premises or that the Russians were responsible for delivering the data to WikiLeaks.

Maybe he’s thinking of another government response to his motions that notes they don’t have to prove an underlying crime to prove obstruction, but the one he cites (without paragraph citation) doesn’t make that claim. I mean, it is true that the government doesn’t have to prove the underlying crime, but that’s still another issue than having to prove what physical premises the Russians hacked the DNC from.

In his demand for the CrowdStrike servers, Stone at least claims he’s making the demand to distinguish his case from all the other Trump flunkies prosecuted for lying to Congress and mount a materiality challenge to his false statements prosecution.

As to selective prosecution, if the Russian state did not hack the DNC, DCCC, or Podesta’s servers, then Roger Stone was prosecuted for obstructing a congressional investigation into an unproven Russian state hacking conspiracy, while others similarly situated were not. Lastly, if the Russian state did not hack the servers or did not transfer the data to WikiLeaks, the exculpatory evidence regarding materiality, a factual issue for the jury, is amplified.

But in his Fourth Amendment challenge, Stone suggested that if Russia didn’t hack the Democrats and hand the documents to WikiLeaks, then speaking to WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 would not be a crime.

If these premises are not the foundation for probable cause, Roger Stone communicating with a Twitter user named “Guccifer 2.0” or speaking with WikiLeaks, would not constitute criminal activity.

Hmm.

Speaking to WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 would only be a crime if Stone engaged in a conspiracy with them, and a good bit of the redacted language on prosecutorial decisions in the Mueller Report probably says the First Amendment otherwise protects such speech. That said, the claim that talking to them would be a crime is interesting given some of the crimes for which the government showed probable cause in his warrant affidavits.

The search warrant applications however, allege that the FBI was investigating various crimes at different times, such as Stone for accessory after the fact, misprision of a felony, conspiracy, false statements, unauthorized access of a protected computer, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, wire fraud, attempt and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and foreign contributions ban. The uncharged conduct particularly relied upon the assumptions the Russian state is responsible for hacking the DNC, DCCC,1 and even (although not as clear) Hillary Clinton campaign manager, John Podesta.

Stone is not, here, claiming that the government didn’t show a lot of evidence he engaged in these crimes (and remember, the government has told Andrew Miller that they’re likely to supersede Stone’s current indictment after they get Miller’s grand jury testimony, the content of which they know from an FBI interview last year). Rather, he’s claiming that these hacking-related crimes would only be illegal if the Russians did the hacking. (I really look forward to the government response to this, because some of these crimes would be crimes based on Julian Assange’s foreign status, not GRU’s, and wire fraud is a crime all by itself.)

Perhaps most interesting is the way Stone’s lawyers dismiss the Mueller Report (and the GRU indictment’s) focus on DCCC and Podesta documents. A footnote even suggests falsely that the Mueller Report said the DCCC documents did not get released.

WikiLeaks never released the DCCC documents. The Mueller report suggests the hack of the DCCC only provided additional keys to access the DNC servers.

At one point — perhaps a critical one — Stone uses the fact that the GRU hacked the DNC’s AWS server after Stone dismissed the value of the DCCC oppo research Guccifer 2.0 discussed with Stone in early September 2016 to suggest CrowdStrike was not competent.

CrowdStrike’s three draft reports are dated [sic] August 8 and August 24, 2016. The Mueller Report states Unit 26165 officers also hacked into a DNC account hosted on a cloud-computing service on September 20, 2016, thereby illustrating the government’s reliance on CrowdStrike even though the DNC suffered another attack under CrowdStrike’s watch.

Of course, CrowdStrike had little ability to protect AWS’ servers.

Ultimately, this is an attempt to misrepresent the Mueller Report and GRU indictment to shift the focus away from the Podesta and DCCC documents — where Stone’s greater criminal exposure might lie — and onto the Single Server Fallacy about the DNC server, which is irrelevant to those other documents.

And along the way, Stone lays out a good number of impressive crimes he was and may still be at risk for, and admits the government believed his actions are closely enough tied to the hacks to get redacted copies of the CrowdStrike reports in discovery. He also concedes (incorrectly) that simply speaking to WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 may be a crime.

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

Two Exceptions to Trump’s “Do Not Recall” Responses: A Limited Answer on an Assange Pardon and a Non-Answer on Sanctions Relief

With few exceptions, the questions Mueller posed to Trump were questions I expected: his awareness of the June 9 meeting,  the Russian hacking and Stone’s attempts to optimize the release of stolen emails, the Trump Tower Moscow deal,  Manafort’s sharing of polling data and the platform on sanctions relief, and Trump’s role in Flynn’s calls with Sergey Kislyak.

One question I did not expect was about whether Trump attended the World Chess Championship on November 10, 2016; the report makes it clear there were allegations that Kirill Dmitriev made a last minute decision to attend it to meet with Trump, though Trump denies he attended. Notably, by answering, Trump reflected a willingness to answer a question about the transition period.

One question I did not expect, however, pertained to a pardon for Julian Assange.

Did you have any discussions prior to January 20, 2017, regarding a potential pardon or other action to benefit Julian Assange? If yes, describe who you had the discussion(s) with, when, and the content of the discussion(s).

As with most of the questions, Trump answered with a “do not recall” answer.

I do not recall having had any discussion during the campaign regarding a pardon or action to benefit Julian Assange.

Except that (as he did on some other questions that largely pertained solely to election period activities), he specifically limited his answer to the campaign period. He basically refused to answer regarding any discussion of a pardon during the transition. That’s particularly interesting for two reasons.

In the report’s discussion of Don Jr’s DMs with WikiLeaks, they don’t mention the one where Assange suggests his father should get him named Ambassador to the US.

Hi Don. Hope you’re doing well! In relation to Mr. Assange: Obama/Clinton placed pressure on Sweden, UK and Australia (his home country) to illicitly go after Mr. Assange. It would be real easy and helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to DC “That’s a really smart tough guy and the most famous australian you have! ” or something similar. They won’t do it, but it will send the right signals to Australia, UK + Sweden to start following the law and stop bending it to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons. 12/16/16 12:38PM

And, we know that after inauguration and into 2018, a series of Trump flunkies kept trying to broker a pardon for Assange.

Now, as reported, Trump refused to answer questions about about the transition (except for that chess championship one). So that may be his explanation for limiting his answer. But the effect seems to suggest he did discuss pardoning Assange.

His refusal to answer questions about the transition also explains why he didn’t answer a slew of other questions, generally about Flynn’s communications with Kislyak and Kushner and Steve Bannon’s attempts to establish a back channel with Russia.

Particularly given Bannon and Erik Prince’s deleted texts and the inclusion of the follow-up in the January 28 conference call with Putin, it’s pretty clear Trump knew about it (and so probably also knew about Flynn’s activities).

But there is one question about sanctions relief that Trump didn’t answer, offering no excuse. It appears as a sub-question to one about the Trump’s promise — at the same press conference he asked and Russia to further hacking Hillary — to lift sanctions on Russia.

g. On July 27, 2016, in response to a question about whether you would recognize Crimea as Russian territory and lift sanctions on Russia, you said: “We’ ll be looking at that. Yeah, we’ll be looking.” Did you intend to communicate by that statement or at any other time during the campaign a willingness to lift sanctions and/or recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea if you were elected?

i. What consideration did you give to lifting sanctions and/or recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea if you were elected? Describe who you spoke with about this topic, when, the substance of the discussion(s).

Trump responded to the Crimea question — by claiming his statement did not communicate any position.

But Trump did not answer the sub-question, whether he considered lifting sanctions and whom he spoke with about that. That question was in no way limited to the transition, and therefore should have been answered.

And it’s not like Trump simply missed the question: His lawyers replicated it in their own answers. And they read Mueller’s questions closely enough to add a “sic” where Mueller had included a double “about.”

Were you asked to attend the World Chess Championship gala on November 10, 2016? If yes, who asked you to attend, when were you asked, and what were you told about about why your presence was requested?

[snip]

Were you asked to attend the World Chess Championship gala on November 10, 2016? If yes, who asked you to attend, when were you asked, and what were you told about about [sic] why your presence was requested?

So they presumably saw the question, a question that on its face pertained to the election as well as the transition.

They just didn’t answer it.

So the two things that even given Trump’s contemptuous response to responding to basic answers about the Russian investigation he refused to answer pertain to a Julian Assange pardon (for the transition period) and sanctions relief.

EMPTYWHEEL’S MUELLER REPORT COVERAGE

Two Exceptions to Trump’s “Do Not Recall” Responses: A Limited Answer on an Assange Pardon and a Non-Answer on Sanctions Relief

The Significance of Trump’s Obstruction of Investigation of His Family’s Campaign Finance Crimes, Plural

How “Collusion” Appears in the Mueller Report

Putin’s Ghost: The Counterintelligence Calculus Not Included in the Obstruction Analysis

Working Twitter Threads on the Mueller Report

The Trump Men and the Grand Jury Redactions

Mueller’s Language about “Collusion,” Coordination, and Conspiracy

The Many Lies and Prevarications of Bill Barr

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

The Significance of Trump’s Obstruction of Investigation of His Family’s Campaign Finance Crimes, Plural

In the Barr Memo usurping Congress’ role in determining whether the evidence presented in the Mueller Report amounts to obstruction, he based a lot of his judgment finding no obstruction on the fact that Mueller “did not establish” that Trump and his campaign conspired with Russia.

In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.

The line is unbelievably cynical for several reasons. First, right at the beginning of the report, Mueller points out that his use of “did not establish” does not mean “there was no evidence.”

A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.

Yet in spite of that warning, Barr nevertheless claims that Mueller’s observation that he did not establish Trump’s involvement in a crime related the Russia’s election interference amounts to an “absence of such evidence.”

Moreover, Barr takes that quote out of the context of Mueller’s discussions about the corrupt motives that Trump might have to obstruct the investigation. (I’ve bolded the actual sentence Barr quotes, but included both of Mueller’s discussions of Trump’s implication in potential crimes.)

In addition, the President had a motive to put the FBI’s Russia investigation behind him. The evidence does not establish that the termination of Comey was designed to cover up a conspiracy between the Trump Campaign and Russia: As described in Volume I, the evidence uncovered in the investigation did not establish that the President or those close to him were involved in the charged Russian computer-hacking or active-measure conspiracies, or that the President otherwise had an unlawful relationship with any Russian official. But the evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns. Although the President publicly stated during and after the election that he had no connection to Russia, the Trump Organization, through Michael Cohen, was pursuing the proposed Trump Tower Moscow project through June 2016 and candidate Trump was repeatedly briefed on the progress of those efforts.498 In addition, some witnesses said that Trump was aware that [redacted] at a time when public reports stated that Russian intelligence officials were behind the hacks, and that Trump privately sought information about future WikiLeaks releases.499 More broadly, multiple witnesses described the President’s preoccupation with press coverage of the Russia investigation and his persistent concern that it raised questions about the legitimacy of his election.500

[snip]

Second, many obstruction cases involve the attempted or actual cover-up of an underlying crime. Personal criminal conduct can furnish strong evidence that the individual had an improper obstructive purpose, see, e.g. , United States v. Willoughby, 860 F.2d 15, 24 (2d Cir. 1988), or that he contemplated an effect on an official proceeding, see, e.g., United States v. Binday, 804 F.3d 558, 591 (2d Cir. 2015). But proof of such a crime is not an element of an obstruction offense. See United States v. Greer, 872 F.3d 790, 798 (6th Cir. 2017) (stating, in applying the obstruction sentencing guideline, that “obstruction of a criminal investigation is punishable even if the prosecution is ultimately unsuccessful or even if the investigation ultimately reveals no underlying crime”). Obstruction of justice can be motivated by a desire to protect non-criminal personal interests, to protect against investigations where underlying criminal liability falls into a gray area, or to avoid personal embarrassment. The injury to the integrity of the justice system is the same regardless of whether a person committed an underlying wrong. In this investigation, the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference. But the evidence does point to a range of other possible personal motives animating the President’s conduct. These include concerns that continued investigation would call into question the legitimacy of his election and potential uncertainty about whether certain events-such as advance notice of WikiLeaks’s release of hacked information or the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and Russians could be seen as criminal activity by the President, his campaign, or his family.

In both of these discussions, Mueller suggests that Trump may have believed his orders to Roger Stone to optimize WikiLeaks’ releases might be a crime when he obstructed the investigation; and in the discussion Barr extracts the quote from, he also suggests that Trump may have believed the June 9 meeting amounted to a crime.

The former is important given that Trump blatantly lied in his responses to Mueller about talking to Stone about his efforts to optimize WikiLeaks releases, even though at least three witnesses say he did. The prosecutorial decision with regards to WikiLeaks spans Volume I pages 176 to 179, but aside from a footnote explaining why they didn’t charge WikiLeaks for trafficking in stolen property, it is entirely redacted. The prosecutorial decision on Stone optimizing the release of stolen documents spans 188 to 190; it is also largely redacted, though it’s clear there were First Amendment concerns about pursuing it. Note that prosecutors continue to investigate Stone.

By contrast, the discussion of Mueller’s decision not to charge the June 9 meeting as a campaign finance violation is not redacted. Ultimately, Mueller’s team decided not to prosecute it because they did not have admissible evidence that Don Jr and the others knew taking the meeting and the offered dirt was illegal (which raises questions about whether they have hearsay or SIGINT suggesting they did), and because they had a hard time placing a value on the information offered.

The Office considered whether to charge Trump Campaign officials with crimes in connection with the June 9 meeting described in Volume I, Section IV.A.5, supra. The Office concluded that, in light of the government’s substantial burden of proof on issues of intent (“knowing” and “willful”), and the difficulty of establishing the value of the offered information, criminal charges would not meet the Justice Manual standard that “the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction.” Justice Manual§ 9-27.220.

[snip]

There are reasonable arguments that the offered information would constitute a “thing of value” within the meaning of these provisions, but the Office determined that the government would not be likely to obtain and sustain a conviction for two other reasons: first, the Office did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individuals acted “willfully,” i.e., with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct; and, second, the government would likely encounter difficulty in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the promised information exceeded the threshold for a criminal violation, see 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d)(l)(A)(i).

[snip]

Additionally, in light of the unresolved legal questions about whether giving “documents and information” of the sort offered here constitutes a campaign contribution, Trump Jr. could mount a factual defense that he did not believe his response to the offer and the June 9 meeting itself violated the law. Given his less direct involvement in arranging the June 9 meeting, Kushner could likely mount a similar defense. And, while Manafort is experienced with political campaigns, the Office has not developed evidence showing that he had relevant knowledge of these legal issues.

[snip]

Accordingly, taking into account the high burden to establish a culpable mental state in a campaign-finance prosecution and the difficulty in establishing the required valuation, the Office decided not to pursue criminal campaign-finance charges against Trump Jr. or other campaign officials for the events culminating in the June 9 meeting. [my emphasis]

This analysis is critically important for a number of reasons.

First, the Report did not say this was not a crime. Rather, it said that under Justice Manual guidelines, Mueller’s team should not prosecute the case because they were unlikely to get and sustain a conviction. The analysis suggests there was a crime, but not one Mueller would win conviction on at trial.

That, by itself, blows Barr’s analysis on obstruction out of the water, because Mueller argued that this probably was a crime. Barr says Trump could not have obstructed justice because there was no underlying crime, but in fact, Mueller said there was a crime, just not one that could be prosecuted successfully.

But it’s crucially important to an impeachment inquiry for another reason (and explains one of the apparent referrals for attempted witnesses tampering of Rudy Giuliani friend Robert Costello to SDNY — though I suspect the fact that the passages  describing Trump’s attempt to tamper with Cohen’s testimony are unredacted means SDNY will not prosecute).

Mueller’s analysis of Don Jr’s receipt of dirt from foreigners could not be prosecuted because it wasn’t clear there was a crime and he didn’t have evidence that those who engaged in the crime knew it was a crime.

But SDNY has already decided that Trump’s hush payments are a crime. And in that case, it’s far harder for Trump to claim he didn’t know it was a crime for corporations to donate to presidential campaigns, because FEC investigated him and Cohen for it in 2011. A pity for Trump that he continues to alienate the guy who saved him from legal repercussions on that crime the last time, Don McGahn.

Mueller treats the question of whether Trump obstructed Cohen’s testimony in its own section, separate from his pressure on Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone not to cooperate. After laying out Jay Sekulow’s role in suborning Cohen’s false testimony on the Moscow Trump Tower deal, Mueller actually mentions the hush payments as part of the obstruction consideration.

In January 2018, the media reported that Cohen had arranged a $130,000 payment during the campaign to prevent a woman from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter she had with the President before he ran for office.1007 This Office did not investigate Cohen’s campaign period payments to women. 1008 However, those events, as described here, are potentially relevant to the President’s and his personal counsel’s interactions with Cohen as a witness who later began to cooperate with the government.

The report shows how, as he did with the Trump Tower deal, Cohen released false statements covering up the President’s actions. It describes the search of Cohen’s property and Trump’s reaction. It describes elaborate efforts to convey to Cohen he’d be “taken care of” if he did not cooperate.

Cohen also recalled speaking with the President’s personal counsel about pardons after the searches of his home and office had occurred, at a time when the media had reported that pardon discussions were occurring at the White House. 1031 Cohen told the President’s personal counsel he had been a loyal lawyer and servant, and he said that after the searches he was in an uncomfortable position and wanted to know what was in it for him. 1032 According to Cohen, the President’s personal counsel responded that Cohen should stay on message, that the investigation was a witch hunt, and that everything would be fine. 1033 Cohen understood based on this conversation and previous conversations about pardons with the President’s personal counsel that as long as he stayed on message, he would be taken care of by the President, either through a pardon or through the investigation being shut down. 1034

The report describes how, after Cohen pled guilty to the hush payments and implicated Trump in them, Trump turned on him.

On August 21, 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty in the Southern District of New York to eight felony charges, including two counts of campaign-finance violations based on the payments he had made during the final weeks of the campaign to women who said they had affairs with the President. 1044 During the plea hearing, Cohen stated that he had worked “at the direction of’ the candidate in making those payments. 1045 The next day, the President contrasted Cohen’s cooperation with Manafort’s refusal to cooperate, tweeting, “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’-make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”1046

Only after that does it focus, again, on Trump’s efforts to cover up the Trump Tower Moscow deal, and Trump’s retaliation against Cohen for cooperating on that issue.

When the report conducts the analysis of whether this amounts to obstruction, it includes the SDNY case in both the “nexus to an official proceeding” and “intent” sections.

Nexus to an official proceeding. The President’s relevant”conduct towards Cohen occurred when the President knew the Special Counsel’s Office, Congress, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York were investigating Cohen’s conduct. The President acknowledged through his public statements and tweets that Cohen potentially could cooperate with the government investigations.

[snip]

The President’s concern about Cohen cooperating may have been directed at the Southern District of New York investigation into other aspects of the President’s dealings with Cohen rather than an investigation of Trump Tower Moscow

In other words, even though Mueller didn’t prosecute the hush payments, he treated as one of the things Trump was attempting to obstruct with Cohen’s testimony.

This analysis renders Barr’s judgment — that Trump could not commit obstruction of justice because he didn’t commit the underlying crime — utterly irrelevant and wrong with regards to the President’s efforts to obstruct Cohen’s testimony.

Even with the June 9 meeting, Barr is wrong: Mueller believed there as a crime, he just didn’t believe he could prosecute it.

But SDNY has already decided — and obtained a guilty plea naming Trump as a co-conspirator — that the hush payment investigation that Trump was also obstructing was a crime, with the necessary proof that the criminals knew it was a crime. The 2011 precedent would further back that case.

Barr’s attempt to exonerate Trump on obstruction heavily depends on the fact that DOJ didn’t find a crime involving Trump.

Except DOJ did.

emptywheel’s Mueller Report coverage

The Significance of Trump’s Obstruction of Investigation of His Family’s Campaign Finance Crimes, Plural

How “Collusion” Appears in the Mueller Report

Putin’s Ghost: The Counterintelligence Calculus Not Included in the Obstruction Analysis

Working Twitter Threads on the Mueller Report

The Trump Men and the Grand Jury Redactions

Mueller’s Language about “Collusion,” Coordination, and Conspiracy

The Many Lies and Prevarications of Bill Barr

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

It’s Plane to See: A Plane with Assange or Another One? [Updated]

[NB: Check the byline – this isn’t bmaz (who beat me to publishing a post about Assange. LOL) Update is at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

A couple weeks ago Politico’s Jake Sherman tweeted about the USDOJ’s plane:

The plane left from Manassas Regional Airport which observers note is where the DOJ stations their detail which handles extraditions.

As you can see it returned days later on Saturday, March 23. It was about this time frame that WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange became jittery about possible extradition to the U.S.

It was hard to tell if Assange was right; every time WikiLeaks tweeted since the plane left UK’s London Luton Airport — where MI5 has a hangar — that extradition was imminent, nothing happened. Many folks had a chuckle watching the night-long tweet stream by journalists covering the Ecuadoran embassy in London, watching pro-Assange activists setting up camp but not seeing any resulting arrest and seizure.

Until this morning at roughly 10:00 a.m. local time London.

Assange was charged by the UK with breaching bail after he failed to report for Sweden’s extradition order; Assange plead Not Guilty. The Crown Court found him guilty; he may face 12 months in jail at a later date.

Read bmaz’s take on Assange’s extradition to the U.S. and the DOJ’s charges against him.

Now here’s where it gets interesting for me, given how upset many of us were with Attorney General Bill Barr’s appearance before Congress in which he hedged about the Special Counsel’s Report except to say it would be released next week:

Emphasis mine. Was the plane Barr mentioned a figurative one or a literal one?

This is an open thread.

UPDATE — 2:50 PM EDT —

AFP tweeted a graphic with a timeline of events preceding Assange’s removal from the Ecuadoran embassy:

It’s thin on entries, missing a date when the sexual assault charges were filed in Sweden for example. But it does give a feel for the manner in which events led up to Assange’s trip to Metropolitan Police station today.

Via Twitter, Marcy re-upped her post from last year related to prosecuting Assange:

Worth a re-read; in my opinion, Marcy’s November 2 post is also worth a re-read:

US Government Reveals It Has Video Evidence of Joshua Schulte Sharing Classified Information as Ecuador Restricts Assange’s Legal Visits

I don’t think Conspiracy to Commit Computer Intrusion (18 USC 371, 1030(a)(1), 1030(a)(2), 1030(c)(2)(B)(ii)) is enough to warrant extradition alone.

Otherwise a Leicestershire 18-year-old would have been looking extradition for his attempted hacking of U.S. officials in October 2015, instead of eight charges of “performing a function with intent to secure unauthorised access,” and two of “unauthorised modification of computer material.”

The waiting game continues.

The Assange Indictment and The Rule of Specialty

Alright, as most of you have discovered, Julian Assange had his asylum status revoked by Ecuador, and officers of the Met (and presumably Scotland Yard too) were allowed into the Ecuadoran Embassy in London to effectuate arrest of Assange. Don’t be fooled by the breathless cable news coverage, the primary arrest warrant was the UK one from Assange’s 2012 jumping of bail conditions, not the extradition request by the US. In short, Assange would still be in custody right now irrespective of the US extradition request.

To flesh out the rest of Assange’s status, to the extent we currently know it, I will pilfer some of the reportage of the excellent Daniel Sandford of the BBC. Assange was presented immediately to Court One at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court where it was made clear that there were two warrants he was arrested on, not just the US request. Assange pled not guilty. He was NOT ordered to present evidence on his failure to surrender (which is appropriate if he declines). The judge presiding, Michael Snow nevertheless, and quite properly, found Assange guilty of the bail offense. Assange will appear in the higher level Southwark Crown Court for sentencing on the bail offense at a future date not yet specified. He will be back in the Westminster Magistrate’s Court, as of now by video link from his detention facility, on May 2nd regarding the extradition matter.

With that background out of the way, let’s look at the more significant US extradition case. First off, here is the EDVA indictment that was unsealed this morning. As you can see, it is for a single count of computer hacking conspiracy. I think most people expected all kinds of different counts, up to and including espionage crimes. Those were not included, nor were the issues from the Vault 7 case, that easily could have been indicted on outside of any real First Amendment issues.

So, while the indictment could have encompassed far many more charges and issues, it does not and is just this one count.

Why is that important?

Because legal commentators like Jeff Toobin on CNN are having a field day noting that there may be more charges forthcoming. And Shimon Prokupecz of CNN reports DOJ is indeed going to seek “additional charges” against Assange. And why is that important? Because of the Rule of Specialty.

I noted this from almost the first second on Twitter, but few other than Ken White (aka Popehat) seem to have caught on to how this doctrine will come into play in the case of Assange. It is a real issue, though we do not know how it will play out at this early stage of the extradition process.

The Doctrine of Specialty is a principle of International law that is included in most extradition treaties, whereby a person who is extradited to a country to stand trial for certain criminal offenses may be tried only for those offenses and not for any other pre-extradition offenses. Long ago and far away I argued this successfully, but that was in relation to the treaty between the US and Mexico. The Assange case obviously involves a different treaty, the US/UK Extradition treaty of 2003.

So, what does the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Treaty of 2003 provide? Well, that is contained in Article 18, which reads as follows:

Rule of Specialty

1. A person extradited under this Treaty may not be detained, tried, or punished in the Requesting State except for:
(a) any offense for which extradition was granted, or a differently denominated offense based on the same facts as the offense on which extradition was granted, provided such offense is extraditable, or is a lesser included offense;
(b) any offense committed after the extradition of the person; or
(c) any offense for which the executive authority of the Requested State waives the rule of specialty and thereby consents to the person’s detention, trial, or punishment. For the purpose ofthis subparagraph:
(i) the executive authority of the Requested State may require the submission of the documentation called for in Article 8; and
(ii) the person extradited may be detained by the Requesting State for 90 days, or for such longer period of time as the Requested State may authorize, while the request for consent is being processed.

2. A person extradited under this Treaty may not be the subject of onward extradition or surrender for any offense committed prior to extradition to the Requesting State unless the Requested State consents.
3. Paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article shall not prevent the detention, trial, or punishment of an extradited person, or the extradition of the person to a third State, if the person:
(a) leaves the territory ofthe Requesting State after extradition and voluntarily returns to it; or
(b) does not leave the territory ofthe Requesting State within 20 days of the day on which that person is free to leave.
4. I f the person sought waives extradition pursuant to Article 17, the specialty provisions in this Article shall not apply.

It is early, but Assange has specifically NOT waived extradition, and I do not expect that will change. In fact, he would be nuts to waive it. But look out for the US requesting the UK to waive the issue pursuant to Article 18(1)(c). I have no idea how the UK would treat such a request (nor whether it may have already been made). But give the UK credit, they take extradition conditions seriously and will not extradite where the death penalty is in play.

The death penalty could be an issue were Assange to be subsequently charged under 18 USC §794 (Espionage Act), which reads:

(a) Whoever, with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicates, delivers, or transmits, or attempts to communicate, deliver, or transmit, to any foreign government, or to any faction or party or military or naval force within a foreign country, whether recognized or unrecognized by the United States, or to any representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen thereof, either directly or indirectly, any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, note, instrument, appliance, or information relating to the national defense, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life, except that the sentence of death shall not be imposed unless the jury or, if there is no jury, the court, further finds that the offense resulted in the identification by a foreign power (as defined in section 101(a) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) of an individual acting as an agent of the United States and consequently in the death of that individual, or directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, early warning systems, or other means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack; war plans; communications intelligence or cryptographic information; or any other major weapons system or major element of defense strategy.

Now, frankly, I think the US, through the DOJ, would have no problem whatsoever stipulating that the death penalty is off the table for Assange. It is almost a given.

The real question is what becomes of the Assange case in light of the Rule of Specialty. Suppose any superseding indictment does not go into charges outside of the “computer offenses” specified in the current indictment, but seeks to add additional computer offenses in an attempt to increase the sentencing range? Does that violate the spirit of the Rule of Specialty?

There is a lot we simply do not know yet. But this doctrine, and how the US proceeds in light of it, needs to be watched closely as the Assange extradition matter proceeds, both in the UK, and once he is remanded to US custody.

The Roger Stone Indictment Proves Barr’s Memo Understates Trump Flunkies’ Complicity

I’ve made this point implicitly a few times, but it bears making explicitly. We have proof that Bill Barr’s memo spins the known contents of the Mueller Report to minimize the complicity of Trump’s flunkies. That’s because we can compare what we know about Roger Stone’s efforts to optimize the release of the emails Russia stole with the language used in the memo.

As alleged in sworn statements and his indictment, Stone’s actions include at least the following:

  • Around July 19, 2016: Fresh off dining with some Brexiteers, Stone calls Trump and tells him, “within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” to which Trump responds, “wouldn’t that be great.”
  • After July 22: A senior Trump campaign official “was directed” (the indictment doesn’t say by whom) to figure out from Stone what else would be coming
  • July 25: Stone emails Jerome Corsi and asks him to “get the pending WikiLeaks emails”
  • August 2: Corsi writes back and reflects knowledge that the emails would include Podesta ones and there would be two email drops, one shortly after he returned and one in October
  • October 4: After Assange has a press conference but doesn’t release any emails, Steve Bannon emails Stone and asks what happened, and Stone replies that WikiLeaks will release “a load every week going forward”
  • October 7: As the Podesta emails start to come out right after the Access Hollywood video — timing that Jerome Corsi has claimed Stone helped ensure — a Bannon associate texts Stone and says, “well done”

Now, none of that was itself charged as a crime. Stone was not charged with conspiring with WikiLeaks. But then, short of making an argument that WikiLeaks is a known agent of Russia — which the US government has never done — optimizing the WikiLeaks release is not a crime. But assuming that Corsi is correct that Stone got WikiLeaks to hold the Podesta release to dampen the impact of the Access Hollywood video, it is absolutely coordination. And even according to Stone — who believed Trump needed to avoid alienating women to win — dampening the release of the video influenced the election.

Now consider how this behavior falls into Barr’s supposed exoneration of Trump campaign involvement in the hack-and-leak.

First, there’s Barr’s truncated citation of a Mueller Report sentence. [my emphasis throughout]

As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Then a footnote defining what the word “coordinated” means in that sentence.

In assessing potential conspiracy charges, the Special Counsel also considered whether members of the Trump campaign “coordinated” with Russian election interference activities. The Special Counsel defined “coordinated” as an “agreement–tacit or express–between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.”

Finally, there’s Barr’s own version.

The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.

The exoneration for coordination in Mueller’s language, at least, extends only to the Trump campaign, not to rat-fuckers working on the side (one of the things Mueller reportedly asked a lot of witnesses was precisely when and why Stone left the campaign). And at least according to this language, Mueller’s assessment of coordination extended only to coordination with the Russian government. So even if Mueller and the US government are getting close to labeling WikiLeaks a Russian entity, it still wouldn’t count for this assessment. Unsurprisingly, Barr relies on that language to give the Trump campaign a clean bill of health on the hack-and-leak side.

Most cynically, though, even after Barr acknowledges that the Russians used WikiLeaks to disseminate the stolen emails, the very next sentence doesn’t mention the charges Mueller brought against Stone for hiding his own (and through him, the campaign’s, including Donald Trump’s) coordination of the releases “for purposes of influencing the election.”

But we know Stone’s indictment has to be in the report. That’s because the report, by regulation, must list all Mueller’s prosecutorial decisions. So not only would Mueller describe that he indicted Stone, but he probably also explains why he didn’t include a conspiracy charge in Stone’s indictment (which probably relates primarily to First Amendment concerns, and not any illusions about WikiLeaks’ willing service for Russia on this operation). So it must be in the report. But Barr doesn’t mention that, indeed, the Trump campaign, through their associated rat-fucker, did actually coordinate on the hack-and-leak and did actually influence the election by doing so, they just didn’t coordinate directly with the Russian government.

On this matter, it’s crystal clear that Barr cynically limited his discussion of the report to obscure that Mueller had, indeed, found that the campaign “coordinated” on the hack-and-leak for purposes of influencing the election.

Barr has already demonstrated bad faith in his representation of Mueller’s findings. Which is why it is so alarming that — according to an uncharacteristically alarmed Peter Baker — DOJ plans to write a summary of Mueller’s report for Congress, not send over a redacted version of it.

Mueller’s full report has yet to be released, and it remained unclear if it ever would be. House Democrats have demanded that it be sent to them by next Tuesday, but the Justice Department outlined a longer schedule, saying that it will have its own summary ready to send to lawmakers within weeks, though not months.

Barr has already failed the test of whether he can summarize Mueller’s results in good faith.

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