Dispatch November 27, 2018

Who Does Trump have a Joint Defense Agreement with Exactly?


Last week, just ahead of the Thanksgiving weekend, Trump reportedly submitted his written answers to questions from the Special Counsel’s office. This raises the question of whether or not Trump and his lawyers shared the answers, or portions of them, with anyone that is a party to Trump’s joint defense agreement. According to Bob Woodward’s book Fear, thirty-seven witnesses in the Mueller investigation are part of a joint defense agreement with the president, allowing them to share details of their interviews with Mueller with one another (it should be noted that The New York Times reported the number of witnesses as thirty-two, not thirty-seven). The agreement “is created by the existence of a common legal interest” that allows lawyers to share information about their clients without violating attorney-client privilege.

Being part of the joint defense agreement would have three important insights that we should be aware of:

  1. It indicates who Trump’s legal team thinks may be of interest to the Mueller investigation and share a common legal interest with Trump;
  2. Anyone party to the agreement may have seen some or all of Mueller’s questions to Trump and the President’s subsequent responses, meaning they may have information about the contours of the investigation that are not yet public;
  3. Public comments from anyone who is a party to the agreement should be taken with a grain of salt since they are formally cooperating with the President.

Below is a list of individuals, in no particular order, who may have been in a joint defense agreement with Trump. Each individual named on this list has either been linked to the Special Counsel Investigation or the Congressional investigations into Russia’s political attack on America, and/or was an extremely close Trump associate during the time period that Mueller is investigating. While the identities of most of the individuals in joint defense agreements with Trump are unknown, this list suggests individuals who may be part of the agreement. Of course, Trump could end the speculation by revealing the individuals that are a part of his joint defense agreements.

This includes:

  1. Donald Trump Jr.
    • Donald Trump Jr. was a key figure and surrogate during the 2016 campaign. His interest in documents that claimed to contain incriminating evidence regarding Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Russia led to the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower. Trump Jr. has denied collusion with Russia.
  2. Eric Trump
    • Eric Trump has publicly defended his father against allegations of collusion, and has denied that his father has any conflicts of interest. These denials contradict an interview Eric Trump gave in 2013 in which he reportedly boasted that Trump golf-course project received “all the funding [they needed]” from Russia, enabling them to continue developing properties despite the global recession. (Eric Trump later denied having discussed receiving Russian funds.)
  3. Ivanka Trump
    • Ivanka Trump currently serves as a special assistant to the President and was an active participant in her father’s campaign. Ivanka was involved in the development of Trump SoHo, during which she worked alongside Felix Sater. She has also been involved in key developments with ties to Russia and other former Soviet states, including Trump Tower in Baku, Trump Ocean Club Panama, and efforts to launch the Trump Tower Moscow.
  4. Jared Kushner
    • Jared Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser. Kushner oversaw the digital aspect of the Trump campaign, which has reportedly become a major focus of Robert Mueller’s investigation. He also attended the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower; he claims he arrived late and missed any conversation about damaging information on Clinton, although Donald Trump, Jr., has contradicted this claim.
  5. Paul Manafort
    • Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort spent over a decade advising former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and also lobbied on behalf of or worked with several Russian oligarchs, including Oleg Deripaska. In August 2018, a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, found Manafort guilty on eight charges, including tax fraud, hiding foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud. In September 2018, Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice.  Manafort had been reportedly cooperating with the Mueller investigation, but it has now been reported that Manafort has “breached” his plea agreement by lying to investigators during recent interviews. According to The New York Times, Manafort maintained his joint defense agreement with Trump’s legal team after he pleaded guilty.
  6. Rick Gates
    • Rick Gates is a lobbyist who worked for Paul Manafort both in Ukraine and on the Trump campaign. In February 2018, Gates guilty pleaded guilty to criminal charges of conspiring to defraud the United States and making false statements. These charges stem from Gates’ previous work with Paul Manafort. Both men were indicted by the special counsel in October, to which they originally pleaded not guilty, and again in early February. While it is unclear if Gates ever had a joint defense agreement with Trump, his guilty plea would have effectively ended any cooperation between their two legal teams.
  7. Michael Flynn
    • Michael Flynn resigned from his position as national security advisor after it was revealed that he lied about having direct contact with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty for having lied to the FBI on January 24, 2017, about his conversations with Kislyak during the transition period. Flynn signed a plea agreement indicating his cooperation with Mueller, officially leaving the joint defense agreement.
  8. George Papadopoulos
    • George Papadopoulos was originally a member of Trump’s national security advisory team during the campaign. He later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian individuals. According to his plea agreement, he was informed that the Russians possessed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. He subsequently sent multiple emails to his superiors on the Trump campaign about his Russian contacts and his efforts to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin. Papadopoulos’ plea deal would have likely excluded him from being part of a joint defense agreement.
  9. Michael Cohen
    • Longtime personal Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has publicly denied any involvement in collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign. Despite this, both the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee have shown interest in Cohen during the course of the ongoing Russia investigations. In August 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty in a Manhattan federal court “to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a bank and two campaign finance violations: making an unlawful corporate campaign contribution and making an excessive campaign contribution.” Although he was initially part of Trump’s joint defense agreement, he has since backed out.
  10. Stephen Bannon
  11. Don McGahn
    • Don McGahn served as White House Counsel until October 2018 having previously served as counsel to the Trump campaign. Trump often took his frustration out on McGahn, angry that he was unable to prevent Sessions from recusing himself. In his final conversation with McGahn, “the President groused to McGahn about Mueller’s appointment made on McGahn’s watch as White House counsel, and the cloud the investigation has continued to cast over the presidency.”
  12. Jeff Sessions
    • Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions served as the head of Trump’s foreign policy advisory team during the campaign. During the 2016 election, Sessions met at least three times with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. During his confirmation hearings, Sessions initially claimed to not be aware of any communication between the Trump campaign and representatives of the Russian government. When reports emerged that Sessions had, in fact, discussed campaign-related issues with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Sessions recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation.
  13. Rick Dearborn
    • Rick Dearborn formerly served as White House Deputy Chief of Staff. In August 2017, congressional investigators unearthed an email from Dearborn to campaign officials “relaying information about an individual who was seeking to connect top Trump officials with Putin.” It has been suggested that this request, which Dearborn reportedly refused, fits into a pattern of attempts by Russia to establish lines of communication with the Trump campaign.
  14. Mike Pence
    • Vice President Mike Pence served as the head of Trump’s transition team. In the months between the election and Trump’s inauguration, several campaign and administration officials met or conversed with Russian oligarchs and government officials. Despite his official role leading the transition, Pence has repeatedly denied any knowledge of these meetings and conversations. Pence’s lawyer has reportedly met with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to indicate Pence’s willingness to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.
  15. Roger Stone
    • Longtime Republican party operative and Trump adviser Roger Stone reportedly played a major role in ensuring that Manafort joined the campaign and ultimately became its chairman, although he left the campaign in August 2015. Stone has also claimed to have communicated during the campaign with both Guccifer 2.0, the Russian operative reportedly behind the DNC and Podesta hacks, and Julian Assange, and repeatedly evinced advance knowledge of information from hacked emails that would ultimately appear on WikiLeaks. Stone has denied that there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
  16. John Kelly
    • White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was appointed to this position in July 2017. Reportedly, the White House contested the Special Counsel’s request to interview Kelly. As a high-ranking Trump administration official, Kelly may prove to be a valuable witness to the Mueller investigation.
  17. Stephen Miller
    • White House adviser Stephen Miller was interviewed by Robert Mueller in November 2017. He was reportedly questioned about his role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and about his reported attendance at the March 2016 meeting during which Papadopoulos offered to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin.
  18. John Mashburn
    • Former Trump campaign policy director John K. Mashburn stated during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he received an email from George Papadopoulos in the first half of 2016 “alerting the Trump campaign that Russia had damaging information about Hillary Clinton.” Investigators for the Senate Judiciary Committee and representatives from the Trump campaign have reportedly been unable to locate this message.
  19. Sam Clovis
    • Sam Clovis is a former Trump campaign adviser who reportedly recruited and vetted Carter Page. Clovis has refused to confirm allegation that he vetted Page for the campaign by running a Google search on him.
  20. Kellyanne Conway
    • Former Trump campaign manager and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has firmly denied Russian interference in the 2016 election. In December 2016, Conway went on “Face the Nation,” and John Dickerson asked her, “Did anyone involved … in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?” Conway responded, “Absolutely not. And I discussed that with the president-elect just last night. Those conversations never happened. I hear people saying it like it’s a fact on television. That is just not only inaccurate and false, but it’s dangerous.”
  21. Brad Parscale
    • Brad Parscale is a digital strategist who served as the digital director on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Parscale spearheaded Trump’s digital strategy, with a specific focus on Facebook advertisements and data analytics. During this time, Cambridge Analytica was contracted by Kushner, who was Parscale’s boss at the time, to run data operations for the campaign. He is now serving as the campaign manager for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign.
  22. Hope Hicks
    • Hope Hicks formerly served as the White House Communications Director, and previously held several roles on Trump’s campaign and transition teams. After the June 9th, 2016 meeting, Hicks was reportedly involved in drafting Donald Trump Jr.’s initial misleading response to the story. According to reports, Hicks met with special counsel Robert Mueller in December 2017. She also appeared before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed-door hearing on February 27, 2018, during which she refused to answer questions related to any post-election activities.
  23. T. McFarland
    • T. McFarland previously served on the Trump team as deputy national security adviser under Michael Flynn. In July 2016, McFarland testified before congress that she had not been aware of any “issues or events” related to Flynn’s contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; however, in December 2017 The New York Times revealed that McFarland did in fact have knowledge of communications between Flynn and Kislyak.
  24. Sean Spicer
    • Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reportedly knew of Flynn’s December 2016 phone calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In February 2017, Spicer was asked whether “the President has an improper relationship with Russia” and responded, “He has no interests in Russia. He has no—there’s only so many times he can deny something that doesn’t exist.”
  25. Reince Priebus
    • Reince Priebus served as the RNC chairman during the 2016 election and as Trump’s first chief of staff. During his time in the White House, Priebus said intelligence officials had cleared the Trump campaign of collusion with Russia and reportedly requested that the FBI refute allegations that Trump associates had been in communication with Russian intelligence officers. Special Counsel Robert Mueller interviewed Priebus as part of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia on October 13, 2017.
  26. Sarah Huckabee Sanders
    • White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders has flatly denied contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign, stating, “This is a nonstory because to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place, so it’s hard to make a comment on something that never happened.”
  27. Michael Flynn Jr.
    • Michael Flynn Jr. attended the December 2015 RT gala with his father, and reportedly caught Mueller’s attention due to his involvement in “several financial deals involving the elder Mr. Flynn.” Flynn Jr.’s involvement in the Flynn Intel Group’s work lobbying on behalf of Turkish interests has provoked speculation that he too could be in jeopardy of being indicted by Mueller’s team.
  28. Erik Prince
    • Erik Prince reportedly held a secret meeting in the Seychelles in January 2017 in an apparent effort to establish back-channel communications between then-President elect Trump and Putin. Prince, who did not have an official role with the Trump campaign or transition team but has connections to both Steve Bannon and mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, reportedly set up the meeting with the CEO of the sanctioned Russian Direct Investment Fund Kirill Dmitriev while portraying himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump. Prince testified before the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017.
  29. Mark Corallo
    • Former Trump legal spokesman Mark Corallo was involved in the cover-up around the June 9th The Trump team tried to hide the President’s involvement in the initial false statement about the meeting from his son, and Corallo later revealed that that during a conference call with President Trump and Hope Hicks, Hicks said that “emails written by Donald Trump Jr. before the Trump Tower meeting […] will never get out.”
  30. Rhona Graff
    • Rhona Graff, Trump’s personal assistant, facilitated communications between Trump and the Agalarovs. Reportedly, “at key campaign milestones, the Agalarovs sent notes wishing good luck, conveying congratulations, and offering gifts to Donald Trump,” going through Rob Goldstone and Graff. Trump reportedly replied to these messages “with hand-written notes.”
  31. Keith Schiller
    • In response to questioning regarding allegations in the Steele dossier, Trump’s personal bodyguard Keith Schiller testified before Congress that he actually turned down an offer from a Russian individual to “send five women” to Trump’s hotel room during his 2013 Moscow visit.
  32. JD Gordon
    • In his capacity as one of the campaign’s foreign-policy advisers, J.D Gordon successfully advocated for removing language from the Republican Party platform calling on the U.S. to supply “lethal defensive weapons” to assist the government of Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russian forces attempting to annex Crimea. Gordon later met with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the Republican National Convention.
  33. Boris Epshteyn
    • Former campaign aide and White House press office official Boris Epshteyn left the White House in March 2017. He later testified before the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017. Epshteyn has refused to admit that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
  34. Sergei Millian
    • Sergei Millian is a Belarusian-born American citizen who has reportedly been identified as a Steel dossier source. In June 2016, Millian allegedly told an associate that “Trump had a long-standing relationship with Russian officials” who were feeding him “damaging information” about Hillary Clinton. This associate then reportedly passed the information to Christopher Steele, who documented it in the dossier. A version of the dossier obtained by the FBI reportedly names Millian as a source, although the claims have yet to be verified. Since the release of the dossier, Millian has appeared on Russian television to deny having any damaging information about Trump.
  35. Carter Page
    • Carter Page served as an early foreign-policy adviser to Trump, and has been under investigation for his communications with Russian officials during the campaign. In 2015, Page was actively recruited by Russian intelligence, which was exposed when the FBI arrested the Russian agents. Page was subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee in the course of the Russia investigation, and he subsequently informed the committee that he intends to plead the Fifth. He has acknowledged meeting with Russian government officials.
  36. Anthony Scaramucci
    • Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci met with the head of the sanctioned RDIF, Kirill Dmitriev, at the 2017 Davos World Economic Forum; after the meeting, he criticized U.S. sanctions on Russia in an interview with a Russian news agency. Scaramucci “served on the executive committee for Trump’s transition team” and later briefly served as White House communications director for ten days.
  37. Robert Mercer
    • Billionaire Trump donor and former Breitbart benefactor Robert Mercer was behind the launch of Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica was the brains of the Trump team’s vaunted digital operations, identifying targets and blanketing social media with campaign messaging. The firm also has links to Russia, and the former head revealed that he “asked the WikiLeaks founder for help finding Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails.”
  38. Rebekah Mercer
    • Robert Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, was also involved in running Cambridge Analytica. Reportedly, Alexander Nix, an employee at Cambridge Analytica, informed Rebekah Mercer that he had emailed Julian Assange about tracking down emails deleted from Clinton’s servers; Assange has confirmed that the company received the email, but rejected Nix’s offer.
  39. Thomas Barrack
    • Thomas Barrack is a long-time Trump associate who was instrumental in getting Manafort hired onto the Trump campaign. Barrack was also involved in Flynn’s attempt to further a “Middle East Marshall plan” and served as chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee.
  40. Corey Lewandowski
    • Corey Lewandowski served as Trump’s campaign manager. Lewandowski was reportedly aware of Papadopoulos’ efforts to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, and of Page’s 2016 trip to Russia.
  41. David Bossie
    • David Bossie served as a deputy campaign manager to Trump’s 2016 campaign. Donald Trump Jr. reportedly emailed Bossie and digital director Brad Parscale about his contact with WikiLeaks.
  42. Jerome Corsi
    • InfoWars conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, who wrote the book on birtherism, was an early booster of Trump’s candidacy. Along with his friend and fellow long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone, Corsi reportedly told the Trump campaign he had advance knowledge of future document dumps from WikiLeaks. Corsi has been questioned extensively by Mueller’s team. In October 2018, Corsi announced that he had been offered a plea deal by the special counsel on one count of perjury but that he would be refusing the offer, although this has not yet been confirmed.
  43. Ted Malloch
    • Ted Malloch is a UK-based political scientist and longtime Trump supporter. Malloch was detained by FBI investigators in March 2018 at Logan International Airport in Boston. He was served with a subpoena from the special counsel, and was reportedly questioned about his ties to former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone and Wikileaks. In November 2018, a leaked plea deal reportedly offered to Jerome Corsi by the special counsel revealed that in July 2016, Stone contacted Corsi and directed him to go to the Ecuadorian embassy in London to see WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and to “get the pending [WikiLeaks] emails.” Corsi passed this request along to Malloch, instructing him to “see” Assange. A little more than a week later, Corsi reportedly emailed Stone to tell him that WikiLeaks had damaging information on Hillary Clinton that would be released in October. Malloch has denied visiting the Ecuadorian embassy, and has not been accused of any wrongdoing.