Is the Mystery Witness Sputnik?

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Special Counsel Mueller’s redacted report, released today, leaves many questions open but answers many more. One of the questions it answers is ‘has Mueller referred any substantive questions to other federal jurisdictions?’

The answer to that is ‘yes’, in terms. Mueller states that where the evidence showed a person had committed a crime that SCO felt they could prosecute, should prosecute, and would obtain a conviction for, they took into account whether or not ‘they could be effectively prosecuted in another jurisdiction.’ This means that our reading of William Barr’s letter, if not of his motives, and of Mueller’s method as a prosecutor, was correct. Contrary to what almost all of the media reported and assessed, Mueller did not, at all, prosecute himself what he felt was substantial. If any other prosecutor’s office could handle it, he says, he chose to refer it on.

Mueller report, p. 174,

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It was these criteria, the report says, that led Mueller to pursue the indictment of Russian GRU officers himself. As they could not ‘effectively’ be prosecuted by ordinary federal offices, being foreign adversaries to the United States, Mueller ran the case through his own office. As we, and only we, have been arguing, Mueller believed that US persons prosecutable elsewhere should be prosecuted elsewhere. It was impossible for a federal office other than SCO to prosecute Paul Manafort for lying to the SCO; thus, again, Mueller did that one himself.

For the rest of it, though, Mueller states that ‘could effectively be prosecuted elsewhere’ was a key criterion for him. He lists 11 “ongoing matters” that originated in his office and a further 14 instances where evidence was referred to other federal prosecutors.

The “mystery witness” case should have given us a clue. The prosecutor who took over from Mueller in this case said the relevant Grand Jury was “continuing robustly”. There can be no doubt that “robustly” was intentionally emphatic language. In a prior article summarizing the runners and riders for the mystery witness, I suggested that VEB fit the mold of a financial institution, wholly owned by a state entity, of the witness. I now think that is incorrect. Based on the remarks in the report, and the sizable amount of redactions around Wikileaks and dissemination, I now believe that the mystery witness is Sputnik, the registered agent of Russia, the propaganda outlet, and that the sealed indictment in the ongoing case to which it is a reluctant witness may be former Sputnik writer Cassandra Fairbanks, who coordinated with Guccifer 2 in direct messages by her own admission. After the election, though not before it, Fairbanks visited Julian Assange of Wikileaks.

The reasons are that Sputnik is a wholly owned ‘instrumentality’ of the Russian state; that Mueller chose not to use money laundering charges when it came to dissemination of stolen materials; and that my sources have long reported that Ms. Fairbanks is under an FBI investigation.

If this theory is correct, the implications are profound. Mr. Barr has mostly told the literal truth, I maintain, although it seems clear enough now with an intent to deceive; Barr says that ‘Mueller did not find collusion’ where he says he referred matters out, and does not have all the evidence. Barr’s press conference was pitched to clear Trump, but his actual words did not do so.

The Special Counsel’s investigation also examined Russian efforts to publish stolen emails and documents on the internet.  The Special Counsel found that, after the GRU disseminated some of the stolen materials through its own controlled entities, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, the GRU transferred some of the stolen materials to Wikileaks for publication.  Wikileaks then made a series of document dumps.  The Special Counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts.  Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy.  Here too, the Special Counsel’s report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials.

Transcript of Barr remarks

The qualifier “illegally” from Barr says plainly that the report does indeed find Trump campaign associates participated in the dissemination. These are the heavily redacted pages, and they are all consistent with Bob Mueller referring on the ‘US person’ cases to ‘continue robustly’. Further, in this passage, Mr. Barr hangs both himself and Donald Trump; if it is found that Assange and Wikileaks were part of a conspiracy with the GRU, and Assange has been removed from the Embassy for extradition, then, Barr has essentially admitted, the Special Counsel found collusion – even if by referral to a different federal office.

If the ‘mystery witness’ is, as I now believe, Sputnik, and the Grand Jury case is against Ms. Fairbanks, then Mr. Barr will be proven spectacularly wrong in this piece of commentary, taken from his press conference, which is not supported in the report:

But thanks to the Special Counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign – or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter.  That is something that all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed. 

This is the first time that I have seen Barr say something objectively false. The Mueller report does not make any such assertion or confirm this. In fact, it expressly contradicts this. It says:

Barr is much more emphatic on the IRA and innocent Americans than on Wikileaks/GRU and innocent Americans. Not wishing to deliver a straight factual lie, he adds the qualifier “illegally”. And yet he has left himself a hostage to fortune. For if any other federal office prosecutes Ms. Fairbanks, an American, for knowingly colluding with Russians to disseminate Wikileaks materials, and if Sputnik is the mystery witness, then Mr. Barr has just conceded at the podium that collusion can be established, though it has not yet been charged; and in conceding the underlying crime, he also concedes obstruction.

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