In the criminal case against alleged Russian operatives–Internet Research Agency and Concord Management and Consulting LLC–a Federal judge has declared that Robert Mueller has not offered one piece of solid evidence that these defendants were involved in any way with the Government of Russia. I think this is a potential game changer.
The world of law as opposed to the world of intelligence is as different as Mercury and Mars. The intelligence community aka IC can traffic in rumor and speculation. IC "solid" intelligence may be nothing more than the strident assertion of a source who lacks actual first hand knowledge of an event. The legal world does not enjoy that kind of sloppiness. If a prosecutor makes a claim, i.e., Jack shot Jill, then said prosecutor must show that Jack owned a firearm that matches the bullets recovered from Jill's body. Then the prosecutor needs to show that Jack was with Jill when the shooting took place and that forensic evidence recovered from Jack showed he had fired a firearm. Keep this distinction in mind as you consider what has transpired in the case against the Internet Research Agency and Concord Management and Consulting.
To understand why Judge Friedrich ruled as she did you must understand Local Rule 57.7. That rule:
restricts public dissemination of information by attorneys involved in criminal cases where “there is a reasonable likelihood that such dissemination will interfere with a fair trial or otherwise prejudice the administration of justice.” It also authorizes the court “[i]n a widely publicized or sensational criminal case” to issue a special order governing extrajudicial statements and other matters designed to limit publicity that might interfere with the conduct of a fair trial. . . . The rule prohibits lawyers associated with the prosecution or defense from publishing, between the time of the indictment and the commencement of trial, “[a]ny opinion as to the accused’s guilt or innocence or as to the merits of the case or the evidence in the case.”
In short, the US Government cannot come out and declare that Concord Management, for example, was acting on behalf or or in collaboration with the Russian Government without presenting actual evidence. A prosecutor cannot simply claim that Concord is a Putin Stooge.
The lawyers for Concord Management read the Mueller report and noted significant discrepancies between what was alleged in the original complaint and what was asserted as "fact" in the Mueller report.
On April 25, 2019, Concord filed the instant motion in which it argues that the Attorney General and Special Counsel violated Local Rule 57.7 by releasing information to the public that was not contained in the indictment. Concord’s main contention is that the Special Counsel’s Report, as released to the public, and the Attorney General’s related public statements improperly suggested a link between the defendants and the Russian government and expressed an opinion about the defendants’ guilt and the evidence against them.
Concord's lawyers wanted Judge Friedrich to find Robert Mueller and Attorney General Barr in contempt for violating rule 57.7.
Judge Friedrich gave Concord a partial victory:
Although the Court agrees that the government violated Rule 57.7, it disagrees that contempt proceedings are an appropriate response to that violation. Instead, the Court has entered an order limiting public statements about this case moving forward and cautions the government that any future violations of that order will trigger a range of potential sanctions.
But the Judge did not stop there. She pointed out some glaring discrepancies between the Mueller Report and the actual indictment:
The Special Counsel Report describes efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. . . . But the indictment . . . does not link the defendants to the Russian government. Save for a single allegation that Concord and Concord Catering had several “government contracts” (with no further elaboration), id. ¶ 11, the indictment alleges only private conduct by private actors.
. . . the concluding paragraph of the section of the [Mueller] Report related to Concord states that the Special Counsel’s “investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election through the ‘active measures’ social media campaign carried out by” Concord’s co-defendant, the Internet Research Agency (IRA). By attributing IRA’s conduct to “Russia”—as opposed to Russian individuals or entities—the Report suggests that the activities alleged in the indictment were undertaken on behalf of, if not at the direction of, the Russian government.
Similarly, the Attorney General drew a link between the Russian government and this case during a press conference in which he stated that “[t]he Special Counsel’s report outlines two main efforts by the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.” . . . The “[f]irst” involved “efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with close ties to the Russian government, to sow social discord among American voters through disinformation and social media operations.” Id. The “[s]econd” involved “efforts by Russian military officials associated with the GRU,” a Russian intelligence agency, to hack and leak private documents and emails from the Democratic Party and the Clinton Campaign.
The Report explains that it used the term “established” whenever “substantial, credible evidence enabled the Office to reach a conclusion with confidence.” . . . It then states in its conclusion that the Special Counsel’s “investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election through the ‘active measures’ social media campaign carried out by the IRA.” In context, this statement characterizes the evidence against the defendants as “substantial” and “credible,” and it provides the Special Counsel’s Office’s “conclusion” about what actually occurred.
But the activities of the IRA and Concord Management are not established. In fact, Mueller's own report undermines his claims, as noted in a recent article by Nation's Aaron Mate. Although Mueller claims that it was "established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election through the ‘active measures’ social media campaign carried out by” Concord’s co-defendant, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), he provided no such evidence. According to Mate:
After two years and $35 million, Mueller apparently failed to uncover any direct evidence linking the Prigozhin-controlled IRA's activities to the Kremlin. His best evidence is that "[n]umerous media sources have reported on Prigozhin's ties to Putin, and the two have appeared together in public photographs."
Mate's article, as I mentioned in a previous piece, does an excellent job of showing that the Mueller Report is based on heartfelt beliefs but devoid of corroborating evidence.
Some readers will insist that Mueller and his team have actual intelligence but cannot put that in an indictment. Well boys and girls, here is a simple truth–if you cannot produce evidence that can be presented in court then you do not have a case. There is that part of the Constitution that allows those accused of a crime to confront their accusers.
Sonal Chawhan says
Impressive！Thanks for the post
SAS Base and Advance
Peter VE says
Minor quibble: Judge Friedrich is a woman.
I expect that this will get no play from the MSM, since Judge Friedrich was appointed by Trump, and “everyone” knows she’s just covering up for him.
Under the conditions and in the environment that it was returned, this indictment was Mueller and his partisan team throwing raw meat fo the media so as to prolong their mission, nothing more. Once filed, no one involved ever expected to appear in a courtroom to prosecute anyone, or defend any part of it. It was an abuse of process, pure and simple.
Consider it as a count against Mueller, his competence or his integrity, maybe both. He let himself become a tool.
blue peacock says
I think Mueller, Weissman, et al did not expect Concord to contest their indictment. They believed they could continue their PR effort that Russia changed the outcome of the election by sending out tweets and Facebook posts without anyone calling them out.
It seems on the current trajectory both the Trump colluded with Russia and our law enforcement & IC attempted a soft-coup will die on the vine. The latter because Trump is unwilling to declassify. It seems for him it was all just another reality TV show and him tweeting “witch hunt” constantly was what the script called for. The next time the IC & law enforcement who now must believe that they are the real power behind the throne decide to exercise that power it will be a doozie.
The national security surveillance state is only going to get bigger and more powerful. I suppose that is the real competition between the CCP & the USA who can get more totalitarian sooner.
Larry Johnson says
Thanks. Never heard of a chick named, “Dabney.” I was thinking Dabney Coleman. Dating myself.
David Habakkuk says
A fine piece.
I think a large question is raised as to how far the kind of sloppiness in the handling of evidence which Judge Friedrich identified in the Mueller report may have characterised a great deal of the treatment of matters to do with the post-Soviet space by the FBI and others – including almost all MSM journalists – for a very long time.
Unfortunately, one also finds this among some of the most useful critics of ‘Russiagate’. So, for example, in a very valuable recent piece in the ‘Epoch Times’ about the questions that need to be put to Mueller, Jeff Carlson discusses some of the problems relating both to Christopher Steele’s involvement with Oleg Deripaska, and the involvement of Fusion GPS with Natalia Veseltnitskaya which led to the Trump Tower meeting.
(See https://www.theepochtimes.com/33-key-questions-for-robert-mueller_2988876.html .)
He then however goes on to write: ‘In other words, not only was the firm that hired Steele, Fusion GPS, hired by the Russians, but Steele himself was hired directly by the Russians.’
And Andrew McCarthy, in the ‘National Review’, picks up one of the most interesting, and puzzling, moments in the fascinating notes by Kathy Kavalec of the conversation she had with Steele when Jonathan Winer brought him to see on her in October 2016.
(See https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/07/oleg-deripaska-fbi-russia-collusion-theory/ )
Commenting on the fact that, in her scribbled notes, beside the names of Vladislav Surkov and Vyacheslav Trubnikov, who are indeed a top Putin adviser and a former SVR chief respectively, Kavalec writes ‘source’, McCarthy simply concludes that she meant that he had said that these were his – indirect – sources, and that this was accurate. And he goes on to write:
‘Deripaska, Surkov, and Trubnikov were not informing on the Kremlin. These are Putin’s guys. They were peddling what the Kremlin wanted the world to believe, and what the Kremlin shrewdly calculated would sow division in the American body politic. So, the question is: Did they find the perfect patsy in Christopher Steele?’
If you look at Kavalec’s typing up of the notes, among a good deal of what looks to me like pure ‘horse manure’ – including the claim that ‘Manafort has been the go-between with the campaign’ – the single reference to Surkov and Trubnikov is that they are said to be ‘also involved.’
As it happens, Surkov is a very complex figure indeed. His talents as a ‘political technologist’ were first identified by Khodorkovsky, before he subsequently played that role for Putin. It would obviously be possible that he and Steele still had common contacts.
The suggestion in Kavalec’s notes that Sergei Millian ‘may be involved in some way,’ and also that, ‘Per Steele, Millian is connected Simon Kukes (who took over management of Yukos when Khodorkovsky was arrested)’ is interesting, but would seem to suggest that he would not have been cited to Kavalec as an intermediary.
All this is obviously worth putting together with claims made in the ‘New York Times’ follow-up on 9 July to the Reuters report on the same day breaking the story of the interviews carried out with Steele by the Inspector General’s team in early June.
(See https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/09/us/politics/ig-russia-investigation-steele.html?module=inline .)
According to this:
‘Moreover, by January 2017, F.B.I. agents had tracked down and interviewed one of Mr. Steele’s main sources, a Russian speaker from a former Soviet republic who had spent time in the West, according to a Justice Department document obtained by The New York Times and three people familiar with the events. After questioning him, F.B.I. officials came to suspect that the man might have added his own interpretations to reports from his own sources that he passed on to Mr. Steele, calling into question the reliability of the information.’
Some observations prompted by all this.
Without wanting to prejudge things, it seems to me quite likely that what Horowitz has been contemplating is a kind of ‘limited hangout’. So, the idea could be to suggest that Steele did have sources, that however these were not as reliable as he thought they were, but everything was done in good faith etc etc. In the light of information coming out, including that in the Friedrich ruling, he may however have decided to ‘hold his horses.’
In trying to put together the accumulating evidence, it is necessary to realise, as so many people seem to find it difficult to do, that in matters like these people commonly play double games – often for very good reasons.
To say as Carlson does that Fusion and Steele were hired by ‘the Russians’ implies that these are some kind of collective entity – and then, one is one step away from the assumption that Veselnitskaya and Deripaska, as well as ‘Putin’s Cook’, are simply puppets controlled by the master manipulator in the Kremlin. (The fact that Friedrich applies serious standards for assessing evidence to Mueller’s version of this is one of the reasons why her judgement is so important.)
As regards what McCarthy says, to lump Surkov and Deripaska together as ‘Putin’s guys’ is unhelpful. Actually, it seems to me very unlikely, although perhaps not absolutely impossible, that, had he been implicated in any conspiracy to intervene in an American election, Surkov would have been talking candidly about his role to anyone liable to relay the information to Steele.
Likewise, however, the notion of a Machiachiavellian Surkov, feeding disinformation about a non-existent plot through an intermediary to Steele, who swallows it hook, line and sinker, does not seem particularly plausible.
A rather more obvious possibility is that the intermediaries who were supposed to have conveyed a whole lot of ‘smoking gun’ evidence to Steele were either 1. fabrications, 2. people whom without their knowledge he cast in this role, or 3. co-conspirators. It would, obviously, be possible that Millian, although one can say no more than that at this stage, was involved in either or both of roles 2. and 3.
It is important that the general pattern of assuming that Putin is some kind of omnipotent Sauron-figure, which has clearly left Mueller open to a counter-attack by Concord, was given a classic expression in the testimony which Glenn Simpson gave to the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017.
(See https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/House_Intelligence_Committee_Interview_of_Glenn_Simpson )
Providing his version of what was going on following his move from the Washington office of the ‘Wall Street Journal’ to its European headquarters in January 2005, Simpson told the Committee:
‘And the oligarchs, during this period of consolidation of power by Vladimir Putin, when I was living in Brussels and doing all this work, was about him essentially taking control over both the oligarchs and the mafia groups. And so basically everyone in Russia works for Putin now. And that’s true of the diaspora as well. So the Russian mafia in the United States is believed bylaw enforcement criminologists to have – to be under the influence of the Russian security services. And this is convenient for the security services because it gives them a level of deniability.’
A bit less than two years after Simpson’s move to Brussels, a similar account featured in what appears to have been the first attempt by Christopher Steele and his confederates to provide a ‘narrative’ in terms of which could situate the supposed assassination by polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.
This came in a BBC Radio 4 programme, entitled ‘The Litvinenko Mystery’, in which a veteran presenter with the Corporation, Tom Mangold, produced an account by the former KGB Major Yuri Shvets, supported by the former FBI Agent Robert Levinson, and an ‘Unidentified Informer’, who is told by Mangold that he cannot be identified ‘reasons of your own personal security’.
(A full transcript is on the ‘Evidence’ archived website of the Litvinenko Inquiry – one needs to search for the reference HMG000513 – at https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160613090333/https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/evidence .)
This figure, whose credentials we have no means of assessing, explains:
‘Well it’s not well known to Western leaders or Western people but it is pretty well known in Russia. Because essentially it is common knowledge in Russia that by the end of Nineties the so called Russian organised crime had been destroyed by the Government and then the Russian security agencies, primarily the law enforcement and primarily the FSB, essentially assumes the functions and methods of Russian organised crime. And they became one of the most dangerous organised crime group because they are protected by law. They’re protected by all power of the State. They have essentially the free hand in the country and this shadow establishment essentially includes the entire structure of the FSB from the very top people in Moscow going down to the low offices.’
The story Mangold told was a pathetic tale of how Litvinenko and Shvets, trying to turn an honest penny from ‘due diligence’ work, identified damning evidence about the links of a figure close to Putin to organised crime, who in return sent Andrei Lugovoi to poison the former with polonium.
A few problems with this version have, however, subsequently, emerged. Among them is the fact that, at the time, Litvinenko himself, as well as having been a key member of the late Boris Berezovsky’s ‘information operations team’, was an agent, as distinct from an informant, of MI6: accounts differ as to whether Steele was his personal ‘handler’ (John Sipher), or had never met him (Luke Harding).
Also relevant is the fact that Shvets, a fanatical Ukrainian nationalist, and an important figure in the original ‘Orange Revolution’, was also a key member of Berezovsky’s ‘information operations’ team.
Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the disappearance of Levinson, on the Iranian island of Kish, the following March, was not as was claimed for years related to his private sector work. His entrapment and imprisonment – from which we now know Deripaska was later involved in attempting to rescue him – related to an undercover mission on behalf of elements in the CIA.
The account of his career by the ‘New York Times’ journalist Barry Meier in his 2016 study ‘Missing Man’ is a tissue of sleazy evasions, not least in relation to the role of Levinson in ‘investigating’ the notorious mobster Semion Mogilevich, a key figure in ‘information operations’ against both Putin and Trump, and also the opponents of Yulia Tymoshenko.
A large question involved is how co-operation between not simply elements in MI6 and the CIA, but also in the FBI, with the oligarchs who refused to accept Putin’s terms goes back a very long way.
And, among other things, that raises a whole range of questions about Mueller.
Peter VE says
Maybe her name is misspelled reference to Dagney Taggart…
Great info, thanks. I admittedly don’t watch the skeptics’ comments closely enough, and can be susceptible to twisted observations from guys like Carlson and Solomon.
johnson refers to “heartfelt beliefs” but i doubt mueller believes his own bs. in this i guess he distinguishes himself from earlier witch-hunters, who apparently sincerely believed their targets were minions of satan.
Roy G says
Thanks for your detailed analysis, insightful as always. Regarding McCarthy, his analysis looks a lot like the embodiment of ‘Reflexive Control’ theory. Strange how that concept hasn’t been mentioned in this context. Perhaps because it’s extremely implausible that the Russians are the only masters of this rhetorical jiu jitsu which somehow supposedly bested the combined efforts of the MSM and hundreds of millions spent by the Clinton DCCC machine.
This would tie in to your (correct imo) observations of apparent untruths in the Mueller Dossier, and with Mr Habakkuk’s comment above.
Re: The Trump Tower meeting and Russian attorney Veselnitskaya – journalist Lucy Komisar interviewed Veselnitskaya twice Nov 2018 iirc, and has found another apparent untruth. Komisar does not believe William Browder of Magnitsky Act fame, and Komisar’s article backs up that claim, relating that to the Trump Tower meeting and the Mueller Dossier.
FTA – “the (Mueller) report on this topic is deceptive…the report itself lies about the issue the meeting addressed.”
“It wasn’t to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton…That was a ploy by Robert Goldstone…(Goldstone) got the lawyer (Veselnitskaya) the meeting for her to lobby a potentially incoming administration against the Magnitsky Act…”
“Veselnitskaya testified to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in November 2017 that Browder’s major American client, the Ziff brothers, had cheated on American and Russian taxes and contributed the “dirty money” to the Democrats.”
“The Mueller investigators appear not to have looked into her charges. The report promotes Browder’s fabrications”
An informative read that verifies others who have said much the same. imo
Komisar also interviewed with (who else?!) John Batchelor, and reveals a few more details.
You and Mr Habakkuk should be aware Jeff Carlson (Epoch Times) is a “Q” follower (Trust The Plan), fwiw.
Aaron Mate, although a flaming Socialist Progressive, is top notch. imo
Thank you for your continuing research on this.
Thanks again to the Colonel for allowing the intrusion.
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