Who's Bribing Whom? Let's Play Connect The Redaction Bars With Latest 'Bribe For Pardon Scheme'!
Update Fri., Dec. 4: NOOOOPE! The following post is no longer operative, well, the background still is, but that doesn't mean it's not still good reading!
There's some crazy shit going down at the Justice Department! And we don't mean in Bill Barr's skivvies when he realizes that MAGAworld is about to turn its derp ray on him, too.
Someone's been trying to bribe the president with a yuuuuge political contribution in exchange for a pardon, and last night Judge Beryl Howell, chief of the US District Court in DC, unsealed a heavily redacted order describing it. Here's what we know so far.
At some point this year, probably during the summer, the government executed a search warrant on two offices and seized a massive trove of information on "over fifty digital media devices" and "totaling several terabytes of data." It's not clear what the feds were looking for when they started the raid, but what they came up with was allegedly evidence of "(1) a 'secret lobbying scheme' ... in which [redacted] and [redacted] acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials without complying with the requirements of the Lobbying Disclosure Act ("LDA"), 2 U.S.C. §§ 1601 et seq., to secure 'a pardon or reprieve of sentence for [redacted] ... and (2) a related bribery conspiracy scheme, in which '[redacted] would offer a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence for [redacted],' using [extremely long redaction] 'as the intermediaries to deliver the proposed bribe.'"
That's kind of confusing to read, but here's what it looks like in the document itself.
We can make an educated guess that at least one of the offices was occupied by a lawyer, since the order pertains to potential attorney-client communications swept up in the warrant. In late August, the government asked the court for permission to access those communications based on either the crime-fraud exception or, alternatively, a finding that there was no privilege because one of the parties to the communications was neither the lawyer nor the client. In plain English, attorney-client privilege only exists between the attorney and the client. It disappears if someone else is in the room (or on the email chain), and it also goes away if the lawyer is cahootsing with the client to commit crimes.
Judge Howell granted the motion on Aug. 28 "based on a finding that, notwithstanding the attorney-client relationship that [redacted] may have had with either [redacted] or [redacted], any communication related to the alleged LDA or Bribery-for-pardon schemes between or among those individuals, in which communications [redacted] was a participant or otherwise a recipient, is not protected by the attorney-client or any other privilege and is therefore reviewable by the government's investigation team."
At least one and probably two of those parties is a lawyer communicating with his or her client, but the privilege does not apply because whoever is in that fourth redaction bar was cc'd on the email chain. Similarly, this third party was communicating directly with the client, and those communications are not covered by any privilege.
Judge Howell goes into considerable detail explaining why this third party was not acting as an agent for the attorney and so "none of [the client's] email communications with [the third party] alone are privileged." This suggests that someone has attempted to shield those communications by arguing that Mr. Third Party is an agent of one or more of the attorneys here.
And now we come to the most confusing part of this filing. Please forgive the screenshots, since this PDF is too raggedy to cut and paste from. This is a discussion about who is an attorney for whom, and who is acting as purely political agent to obtain a pardon from the president by lobbying the White House Counsel's Office.
Similarly, this footnote seems to be the government trying to pick apart exactly which lawyer goes with which client. But note that someone thinks that he's entitled to the non-legal services of a lawyer "to assist in obtaining clemency" from President Trump in light of his "past substantial campaign contributions" and "anticipated future substantial political contributions."
Now, your Wonkette is not trying to get sued again. So we will just leave some interesting facts here for your consumption.
- In October of 2019, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman (aka "the Chucklefuckers") were charged with various financial crimes, including making an illegal strawman donation of $325,000 to Donald Trump's campaign PAC.
- Parnas and Fruman spent much of 2019 helping the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani try to gin up dirt in Ukraine on Joe Biden.
- Parnas and Fruman have variously claimed to have employed Giuliani as their lawyer, and also to have been assisting him in his legal representation of the president and thus covered by either attorney-client or executive privilege.
- As part of this representation, Parnas and Fruman reached out to multiple Ukrainian oligarchs, including energy magnate Dmitry Firtash.
- Firtash, who's fighting extradition to face bribery charges in an American court, is (or was) represented by attorneys Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova (aka "the Hairballs").
- Toensing and diGenova have described Lev Parnas as either a "translator" or as a person who "assisted" in their representation of Firtash, i.e., someone who would be covered by attorney-client privilege.
- Parnas claims to have gotten a personal loan of $1 million from Firtash in September of last year, indicating that he probably had personal contact with the oligarch unmediated by Toensing and diGenova.
- Giuliani, Parnas, Toensing, and diGenova (along with journalist John Solomon, who also claims to have been represented by those Hairballs and employed Parnas as his "translator") were part of the "BLT Club" that met in the backroom of the restaurant at the Trump Hotel in DC to plot to smear Joe Biden.
- On September 17, three weeks after Judge Howell ruled that these disputed communications were not covered by attorney-client privilege, the DOJ added new charges for Parnas and his associate David Correia.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.