Here’s motive on the Mar-a-Lago raid; or, Dog-paddling outside the OODA loop

In plain sight, with the deets – if we update our thinking to a new reality.

Divining the principal purpose of the DOJ/FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago on 8 August 2022 hasn’t really been that hard.  The timing and its juxtaposition with the Justice Department’s motion to substitute itself for FBI employees, as defendant in Trump’s RICO lawsuit over Russiagate, have produced a “speaking timeline.”

But it’s good to know that one of the two most important events in that timeline yields a treasure trove of motive for DOJ to seize materials from Mar-a-Lago.  That event is former president Trump’s filing of an amended complaint in the RICO lawsuit, which he did on 21 June 2022.

I’ve been threatening to inspect the amendments to the lawsuit, and have now completed that extensive task (So You Don’t Have To).  The short version up front:  the amendments include a raft of details that weren’t in the original complaint, although many of them have been known for years (having come from sources like the DOJ IG report on the FISA process, and summaries of findings about Russiagate/Spygate from Senate and House committees).

Other details come from Special Counsel John Durham’s court filings over the last 12 months.  Those details mostly have to do with the Alfa Bank allegations.  A few are additions to earlier-submitted facts on Igor Danchenko’s (and his “sub-sources’”) role with the Steele dossier and the FBI.

Both sets of new details, amounting to hundreds of new individual facts offered in evidence (which I will henceforth refer to as “Facts”), are significant.  But it’s very probable that the Facts that got the scalded-cat reaction from DOJ are the mostly long-known items about the baseline Russiagate hoax:  revolving around the Steele dossier, leading to the falsified FISA applications, and implicating Hillary Clinton and the DNC.

That’s because they also implicate – or bring into the lawsuit the actions of, in significant detail – the FBI, DOJ, CIA, John Brennan, the Executive Office of the President, Barack Obama’s senior staff, and Barack Obama.

It only takes a handful of keyword searches to satisfy yourself that the FBI and DOJ were the only entities mentioned frequently, and as implicated actors, in the original complaint.  Brennan’s name isn’t in the original at all, and the mentions of CIA and EOP were very minimal (fewer than a handful for each, and with no implications of complicity, prominence, or potential for significant knowledge of the other government activities).

The amended complaint changed that.  It described Brennan’s role in briefing Obama on Hillary’s plan to defame Trump with an oppo campaign, for example, and did so in some detail (Facts 162-163, p. 39; Fact 370, p. 85)).  There’s a whole new section on CIA participants in the fraudulent brief from Michael Sussmann on the “Alfa Bank” narrative (299-309, pp. 69-72), expanding considerably on the more limited summary in the original.

There’s more detail on Neustar, Joffe, and Neustar’s role in providing DNS resolution services for the communications of the EOP (Facts 127-133, pp. 32-33; 142, p. 35).  Other added references to Neustar’s role with the EOP are in revised Facts throughout the text; by keyword count, the amended complaint contains 17 such references compared to 9 in the original.

There’s also a much-expanded section of Facts on the FBI’s pursuit of Michael Flynn (Facts 345-367, pp. 80-85), which includes numerous details not present in the original complaint.

Trump made no mention in the original complaint of his decision in late 2020 to declassify government agency files on the conduct of Russiagate and Spygate (a major segment of which was encompassed by Crossfire Hurricane).

But that decision gets its own Fact number in the amended complaint (371, on p. 85), and is set in the context of other Facts – well known and not in dispute – that surrounded it.  Sort of like a honk in the driveway, if you will.

The Horowitz investigation got short shrift in the original complaint.  The amended complaint has a long section on the FISA fraud at DOJ and FBI and the findings of the IG report (see especially Facts 378-448 on pp. 87-100).

And there’s something else Trump didn’t even mention in the original complaint.  That’s Obama’s name.  It’s not there.

In the amended complaint there are 17 references to Obama, 14 of them relating to Obama’s knowledge of events in the Russiagate hoax.  (It’s not prohibitive to do your own search to find them.)

The sum total of the new facts lays out details that clarify how involved the agencies of the federal government were in handling and processing information about the Russiagate hoax.  Trump’s intent, according to his lawyers, has not been to focus on the activities of the government agencies.  That’s probably in part why the original complaint made far fewer references to their documented activities, and focused instead on the actions of individual officials; i.e., the ones named in the complaint.

The amended complaint continued to focus on the actions of individuals, but the added detail would leave someone who’d never read up on this topic before with his jaw hanging open, aghast at the picture that emerges of what the government was doing.

Basically, Trump went from holding fire in the original complaint, which was filed on 24 March 2022, to firing into the big guns with the amended complaint on 21 June 2022.

For completeness, we may note that three defendants were added to the amended complaint:  Rod Rosenstein, Neustar Security Services (in addition to Neustar, Inc., which was in the original), and Adam Schiff.

Important added perspective

A few other notes on additions of significance in the amended complaint:

The brief reference from the original to the plan to manufacture fake “communications” between servers for Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization is expanded.  In the amended complaint, Facts 134-140 (pp. 33-34) provide new detail on the enterprise of “[t]he Clinton Campaign, the DNC, Fusion GPS, and Joffe” to “dredge up confidential, proprietary, non-public information, data and/or records relating to Donald J. Trump, the Trump Campaign, and the Trump Organization.”

If necessary the data “would be falsified and/or presented in a fraudulent manner to create an “inference” of wrongdoing.”  The amended complaint gives the code name by which this operation was known among the planners: “Crimson Rhino.”  In other words, they were so well aware of what they were doing that they had a cutesy code name for it.

It’s a silly job, but somebody’s got to do it. The anti-Trump “Alfa Bank” caper gets an avatar. Images: Pixabay; author

There is in general a lot more detail in the amended complaint about the coordinated shopping of the hoax materials (the dossier, the Alfa Bank narrative) to the major media.  In the original, there are very few references to individual media outlets.  There is no reference at all, for example, to the big networks.

Item 166 of the amended complaint, however, highlights this from a Jake Sullivan interview with the House Intelligence Committee:  “Sullivan began meeting with the ‘reporting and producer teams of each of the major networks’ including ‘CNN, ABC, FOX, CBS [and] NBC.’”  As indicated in the House Committee report, this wasn’t a generic reference by Sullivan to conferring with these outlets.  It was about advising the media of themes about Trump that were being pushed by the Clinton campaign.

This Fact on Sullivan appears in a group of newly-added Facts about media contacts by the Russiagate planners in the summer of 2016, running from 164-168 (pp. 39-40).  For more added material on the media onslaught, which illuminates how much of the anti-Trump material was simply being handed from the Hillary-DNC-Fusion group to the major media, see the Facts in and around 191-192 (p. 45), and 254-268 (pp. 60-63).

Others are scattered throughout the Facts section.  The media outlets don’t come off well.

Facts 175-179 (pp. 41-43) include newly-added information about meetings from 29 July 2016 to early August 2016 involving Michael Sussmann, Marc Elias, Rodney Joffe, Fritsch and Seago of Fusion GPS, and Christopher Steele.  Sussmann’s billing of these meetings to the Clinton campaign is documented.  Steele is quoted about his 29 July meeting with Sussmann to the effect that the “instruction to produce [Memorandum 112 (of the dossier – J.E.)] was absolutely definitely linked to the server issue [Alfa Bank hoax – J.E.].” (Item 176(c) p. 42)

The Facts juxtaposed in this passage point, in other words, to a comprehensive enterprise including both the dossier and the Alfa Bank effort, all being billed by traveling salesman Sussmann to the Clinton campaign.

It’s not that we didn’t know this.  The point is that Trump’s RICO complaint was amended to include it.  It’s pretty hard to wriggle out of the implications.  That goes directly to the goal of the complaint, which is to recover Trump’s costs of litigation ($24 million) from the defendants.

But in the process of fighting the issue in court, where defendants are likely to try to deflect responsibility to government agencies that can clam up at will, the breadth of implications about those agencies, from the Facts he sets forth, would give Trump the opening to use the declassified material on Russiagate/Spygate to slice responsibility with accuracy and precision.

Here’s motive

Speaking of which.  Item 196 (p. 46) is a bit of a stand-alone, but a very important one.  It covers the following:  “On September 7, 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral to Comey and Strzok regarding ‘U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server.’”

The brain trust, briefing Congress in 2014. (Image: Defense Intelligence Agency)

This connects dots from Obama, whom Brennan had briefed on this matter a few weeks before, to the USIC, of which Brennan was one of the most senior members, providing information on it to Comey and Strzok.  Students of Russiagate will of course recall Peter Strzok’s text to Lisa page on 2 September 2016 in which he said “potus wants to know everything we are doing.” That text came on the heels of a month of John Brennan briefing the Gang of Eight on Capitol Hill most urgently on the “Trump-Russia” allegations.  The text was sent five days before the USIC prompt to Comey and Strzok.

It was also sent after a five-weeks-and-counting cavalry charge by Fusion GPS and the Clinton campaign to force-feed the media with those same allegations.  In September of 2016, there were probably more people in Washington who did know this was all a big enterprise involving Hillary, of which high-level Obama officials were well aware (and about which they were doing dubious, Twilight-zone things), than who didn’t.

The Trump RICO complaint doesn’t connect all those dots. That’s not the job of its Facts section.

But it’s a good bet the Russiagate/Spygate material declassified by Trump does connect them.

That’s a very good reason for DOJ – now under the undisputed sway of the same party and same actors who controlled the agencies of government in 2016 – to not want the declassified files to see the light of day.

There are too many topical groups of added material in the amended complaint to highlight them all.  Briefly, here are two more.

Little pokes in the eye

One is a much-expanded section on the activities of The Democracy Integrity Project, funded by the Penn Quarter Group (six important words), and its founder Daniel Jones (312-326, pp. 73-77).  These entities were involved in the Alfa Bank saga and the retention of Fusion GPS during Trump’s term in office.

The Penn Quarter Group isn’t mentioned in the original complaint.  The cognoscenti recognize that the added reference to it is basically a “poke George Soros in the eye, why don’t you” move.

The other passage is Facts 289-292 (pp. 67-68), which outline the December 2016 interlude with David Kramer, John McCain, Steele and Simpson, and the dossier.  This chapter in Russiagate wasn’t mentioned in the original complaint.

I doubt it was put in the amended complaint for mere completeness.  Something changed – at a minimum, a decision was made – between 24 March and 21 June 2022, and with the amended complaint, Trump came out swinging.  You decide how epic that feels to you; for me, it’s not so much a feeling of epicness as of a decision to go for the whole wad on this charge.


We looked at the timeline before (links at top).  There are probably other things to add to it, and those will be added with time and/or by alert correspondents.

The basic premise here is that it’s Trump’s vision for the declassified material to come out, and it’s the permanent state’s vision for it to not come out.

The key dates seem to include, at a minimum, 3 June 2022, when the FBI was eyes-on with the material Trump was holding at Mar-a-Lago.  As noted in an earlier article, Kash Patel is certain that that material includes the declassified files.  The FBI presumably verified that on 3 June.

On 8 June, Trump’s lawyers got a letter from federal investigators asking for a storage room containing documents to be “further secured.”  A padlock was placed on the storage room.

On 19 June 2022, Trump sent a letter to the National Archives naming Kash Patel and John Solomon as “representatives for access to Presidential records of my administration.”  (See the Politico report, which was made on 24 June, well before the 8 August raid.  Politico got a statement from Solomon, conveying, in part, that Solomon “said this work is for a narrow, targeted research project, and not on Trump’s behalf — that he is ‘going in as a journalist’ to get documents of ‘great public interest.’”)

It was clear the records were the ones declassified by Trump at the end of his term.

U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C. National Archives image

It appears very likely that at that point (19 June), Trump was aware of an impending move by which the Biden administration would try to remove his copies of presidential records from Mar-a-Lago.

It would have taken considerable time to prepare the amended RICO complaint – filed two days later – whose most recent Fact references date to Durham case activity in May 2022.  We can deduce that at the time of his appointment of Patel and Solomon, Trump’s amended complaint was substantially completed, and he knew he’d be sparking action of some kind from the Biden agencies when he filed it.

The triggering event for the amended complaint could well have been the grand jury subpoena issued to Trump on 12 May 2022, requesting “material the government believed to be in Trump’s possession even after he turned over the prior material” (i.e., material turned over in January 2022). 

As noted, again, in a previous post, Judge Bruce Reinhart recused himself from his magistrate position on the RICO case the day after the amended complaint was filed.  His exit on 22 June was followed by three more magistrate judges departing the pattern between 22 June and 1 July 2022.

One obvious construction to put on that parade of recusals is that the amended complaint put a lot of evidence and discovery in play that’s likely to affect a whole lot of people in government.  Only three defendants were added (two of them government officials, Rosenstein and Schiff, neither of whom is affected by the DOJ substitution motion), but numerous new references to government agency activities were appended in the Facts.

It was then on 14 July 2022 that the DOJ filed its motion to substitute itself as defendant in the RICO case for Comey, McCabe, Strzok, (Lisa) Page, and Clinesmith.  There’s been a robust back and forth on that matter in Judge Donald Middlebrooks’s court in the Southern District of Florida.  That has been mostly invisible to the public.  But it’s the real “thing” that’s going on, in my view.

Regarding the DOJ motion being filed first, followed nearly a month later by the raid on Mar-a-Lago, it’s a good hypothesis that DOJ knew from at least 3 June 2022, if not before, that it would want to seize the records Trump was holding.  But it would have created quite the prejudicial appearance for the substitution motion in court, if DOJ had executed that raid before it filed the motion.

Waiting to execute the raid also gave Trump the opportunity to show his reaction to the substitution motion first.  On 4 August, in his motion opposing the DOJ move, Trump signaled that he intended to fight it.

The OODA loop perspective

Nothing I’ve said here or anywhere else is intended to insist that the raid on Mar-a-Lago is not about background information on 1/6, or prejudicing the 2022 election, or keeping Trump out of the 2024 race.  I imagine there are people with all those interests considering them in the tactical decisions about what to do this summer.

But we’ve really been reacting too slowly, by looking at form over substance on all these matters.  Some of our most expert pundits, whose lifetime of experience in their career fields is impressive and unquestioned, are for that very reason failing to see that all things are no longer equal in their professions, whether politics or law or media.

Will we ever get inside? Images: Pixabay; author

The 1/6 committee, just for starters, isn’t even “about” 1/6 – certainly not in the sense of the committee actually trying to get to the bottom of anything.  It’s about preventing Trump from doing anything in politics again.  To the extent the whole apparatus of government can pull together, it’s also about impugning Trump’s voter base and handicapping it with legally actionable suspicions.  It’s political warfare, which is why it’s not being waged as a fair fight.

In electoral politics, a great deal of what used to be a predictable, formulaic exercise in polling and appealing to the voters has now become one approach corridor or another of a political warfare campaign.  (See Liz Cheney’s reelection campaign, for example, in which 95% of her donations came from outside the state, and she openly requested Wyoming Democrats to vote for her in the primary this week.  Political statisticians have estimated that as many as half of her 49,000-odd votes came from Democrats in the two counties that went for Biden in 2020.  That’s not principle, issue politics, or “democracy”; it’s take-no-prisoners election warfare.)

National intelligence has also become a corridor for political warfare, which is easy for everyone to see and think because hardly anyone comes from national intelligence, and even those who do aren’t actually blinded by their inside knowledge of it.  (For some, it’s convenient to affect to be.)  If anything, their perspective on how the sausage is made is enlightened, rather than obscured by outdated expectations.

Law and judicial process is another area where the old conventions and expectations are less and less a useful guide to what’s really going on.  It was blatantly obvious, for example, that in 2020, Judge Emmet Sullivan was running some kind of bizarre delaying action, for months and months and months, on the Michael Flynn case.  (See here, here, and the Wikipedia summary here for the end of the saga with Flynn’s pardon in November 2020.)  Without dismissing or disrespecting the attempts of experts to identify some good-faith reason for this, the most useful and accurate take on it was the pragmatic acceptance by non-experts that there was some reason Sullivan was doing something shady and out of bounds from the standpoint of judicial norms and precedent.

Image: Wikipedia. Christine Davis – maralago1

Similarly, with the Mar-a-Lago raid and predictions about its follow-up (e.g., why Judge Reinhart is splitting babies on the release of the affidavit for the warrant), there’s little to be discerned from trying to fit his decision into “good law.”  What matters a whole lot more is the effect of his decision.  (The decision was to ask DOJ to decide which portions of the affidavit it wants to redact in a limited release).

The effect, of course, is to enable DOJ to control what the public perceives about the basis for the warrant.  There is no “judicial” or “legal” interest, per se, in producing such an outcome.  The kind of interest being served comes from a combination of political influence and personal stakes in outcomes.

As long as we don’t recognize that we need to accept thinking in these tracks – even if we resist assuming they’re the controlling factors – we’ll keep operating outside the OODA loop.  That means being outthought and outmaneuvered, time and again.

It needn’t be the case that the entire system is corrupt, and I don’t assume it is.  We continue to see good faith in courtrooms and intelligence reports and electoral politics and law enforcement.  But we see it alongside bad faith more and more often.  What to do about that is a separate question, but we can’t answer it by assuming away the growing impact of bad faith in government institutions – and in other institutions as well – on our entire nation.

Feature image:  Dogpaddling. Pixabay.


7 thoughts on “Here’s motive on the Mar-a-Lago raid; or, Dog-paddling outside the OODA loop”

  1. A highly informational analyis. Like many, I view my government as a foreign occupying power, and anyone who works for it as a Quisling. I rely on the opinion of my lawyer friend in government, that none of the criminals implicated in this horrid scandal will pay any price for their involvement, certainly not Hillary or Obama. Most Nazis dodged justice after WWII and many were recruited by the CIA, so escaping punishment is what they and their apprentices are trained to do. The rest of us will just have to stand our ground, and be castigated as nihilists.

  2. Wow. Thank you so much for the swimming Beagle with Gravitas, and, especially for:
    I’ve been threatening to inspect the amendments to the lawsuit, and have now completed that extensive task (So You Don’t Have To).

    To date, my great disappointment on the MaL Raid has been Most, not Some of our most expert pundits Even the Russiagate sleuths fail to link the amended Trump v. Clinton, et. al. Just like the expert pundits are afraid to mention recently twitter-banned Paul Sperry’s

    Aug 18 2022 FBI Unit Leading Mar-a-Lago Probe Earlier Ran Discredited Trump-Russia Investigation By Paul Sperry,

    except for a shorter version in the NY Post Opinion section: NYPost has not been the same since Sohrab Ahmari departed, landing at

    Was FBI’s invasion of FL Melania’s wardrobe a feint?

    In 2022, will Best Beagle Snoopy finally hold the football,bird for Charlie Brown’s perfect kick?

    1. Yes, Football is more fun, but, here is Sundance’s take on Judge Donald Middlebrooks’ Sept. 9 dismissal of Trump v. Clinton, et. al. (with zero mention of the June 21 amended lawsuit.)

      A Different Take on the Dismissal of the Trump v Clinton Lawsuit. September 11, 2022 | Sundance | […]this was not a lawsuit; this was a legal transfer mechanism created by lawyers to establish a proprietary information silo. […] the silo created by the lawsuit is also grounded upon attorney-client privilege, a legal countermeasure to a predictable DOJ-NSD lawfare maneuver, which unfolded in the Mar-a-Lago raid and ongoing issues. […] this is going to take a lot of documentary evidence to back up the claims in the assertions. Dozens of attachments would be needed and hundreds of citations to the dozens of attachments would be mandatory. Except, they were not there. […] There were no attachments and/or citations to the documentary evidence in the 108-page filing, because there was a legal risk to citing evidence with a status in dispute by the corrupt people in Main Justice and the FBI. Secondarily, there was an obstruction risk to the President, if his legal team was to publish citations that were part of an ongoing investigation (Durham). However, this doesn’t negate the value of constructing the information silo, an attorney-client privilege.
      If the documents seized by the FBI were part of the lawsuit established by President Trump and his legal team via Trump -v- Clinton, then the material seized is all attorney client work product. Lawfully obtained, constitutionally declassified and legally protected material.
      This is where the ‘special master’ will play a key role. Keep watching.

  3. No Trump was at MAL. Just some caretakers and the Secret Service. The Secret Service is not going to challenge a facially valid, and certainly not get involved in a gun battle with the FBI. They both work for the same side.

    So heavily armed 30 FBI agents with local cops with lights flashing was unnecessary. It was designed to send a message to Trump. As was going through Melania’s wardrobe.

    But it has backfired. Many who would have been ambivalent about a Trump comeback now are solidly behind him. And the federal bureaucracy is no longer filled with civil servants, but with minor nobles.

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