Putin’s Architect

Lanfranco Cirillo (via Radio Free Europe)

Not long ago, Italian authorities raided a sumptuous villa in the northern Italian town of Roncadelle. Inside, the Guardia di Finanza seized a world-class art collection: paintings by Picasso, Cezanne, Kandinsky, Modigliani, Miro, and Chagall. Some 143 works in all. Outside, there was a large Botero cat statue. In the nearby town of Montichairi, authorities also seized a Eurocopter EC130, worth an estimated 2 million Euros.

The artworks, the helicopter, and the Roncadelle villa all belong to Lanfranco Cirillo, the 63-year-old architect who has designed homes for Russian President Vladimir Putin and 44 other Russian oligarchs. Cirillo is perhaps best known as the architect of Putin’s $1.4 billion palace on the Black Sea—which earned him the nickname of “Putin’s architect.” (Cirillo didn’t deny his work on the project, but would not confirm the palace’s links to the Russian president.)

A lifetime of living large off the oligarchs has caught up with Cirillo. He faces charges in Italy of income tax evasion, money laundering, and violating laws for the protection of cultural assets. According to investigators, Cirillo failed to pay some 50 million euros in taxes from 2013 to 2019 and is said to have laundered the proceeds. But he’s unlikely to ever be held to account. Cirillo lives in Russia, where he was granted citizenship under a 2014 decree granted by President Putin.

For years, Cirillo accumulated a fortune in obscurity. In 2014, he told La Repubblica that he had thousands of employees and invoiced in the hundreds of millions of dollars. “I arrived from Italy 20 years ago with a suitcase as a representative of furniture from Mascagni of Bologna. Today 42 of the 116 Russian billionaires in the Forbes list are my clients,” Cirillo said. He had done dachas and banks, plane interiors and 20,000-square-foot mansions. Once, he said, he saw an oligarch’s wife slap her husband at a dinner. But Cirillo couldn’t name names. His wealth was built on discretion.

Not surprisingly, Cirillo was a great admirer of Vladimir Putin. “Like 92–93 percent of Russia’s population, I love our president and I think he is the right man in the right place in the current world situation,” Lanfranco said in a 2016 interview. A picture of Putin hung on the wall of his office and could be found on his now-defunct website, abitalia.com. Does he still sing the praises of his hero? Sitting in his luxurious home on the Black Sea, does Cirillo cheer as Russian soldiers lay waste to Ukraine? Or does he worry that Russia’s president has brought his new home to the brink of ruin?

Cirillo was a bridge, one of many that existed between the Russia’s ultrawealthy elite and the West. He allowed Russia’s oligarchs to live in an illusion. Yes, they were in Russia, but they were surrounded by the luxuries of the West. He stuffed the oligarch’s homes and planes with the finest furniture and kitchen cabinets from Europe and the United Kingdom. The tentacles of this operation even reached into America. One of the main suppliers of materials for Putin’s Palace was a company Cirillo controlled called Medea Investment LLC, registered in Washington DC., according to a Russian whistleblower, Sergey Kolesnikov.

Compared to the obscene wealth that surrounded and enriched him, Cirillo saw himself as a bit player. His job was to help the obscenely rich live in the baronial splendor to which they felt their corruption had entitled them. He was just a simple, poor architect, as he famously recounted in a 2009 conversation with oligarchs that was obtained by the Russian publication New Times. “I’m an architect, a simple person, I’m poor, very poor, I spent 50 million today, getting 25 (illegible), I have minus 25 million 800 (thousand) euros, for me it’s a lot of money, almost everything earned,” Cirillo said. No doubt these were trivial sums for his clients.

The bridges that people like Cirillo built between Russia’s ultrawealthy and the West now lie in ashes. The flow of luxury goods has ended. There are no more artisans carving rococo ornaments. No more consultants installing dream kitchens with Viking ranges and Subzero fridges. The meticulously-designed megayachts are being seized. The Versailles-style ballrooms he designed now stand empty. The glittering illusion Cirillo once sold to the oligarchs has been swiftly replaced by the darkness of the Soviet days from which they had all sought to escape.

Where are the sanctions on Putin’s Children?

This post has been updated to reflect that neither Putin nor his daughters are listed as partners of a company that owns a Biarritz home where Igor Stravinsky once lived.

The Biden administration is going after the children of Russia’s oligarchs.

Among those sanctioned in recent days were the wealthy sons of Putin’s former judo sparring partner; the son of the Kremlin chief of staff; and the brother and sister whose dad runs the Kremlin-backed Wagner mercenary group.

“The aid of these individuals, their family members, and other key elites allows President Vladimir Putin to continue to wage the ongoing, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” the White House said.

But one pair of names is absent from the list: Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova. These are the adult daughters of Vladimir Putin.

If the Biden administration is going after the children of the oligarchs, aren’t the children of Putin fair game?

Putin has always been extremely protective of his daughters. “I never discuss my family with anyone,” Putin said in 2015. It’s taken years just to learn the most basic facts about them.

Katerina, a dancer-turned-mathematician, and Maria, a pediatric endocrinologist, have stayed out of the spotlight and taken on different surnames to obscure their connection to the most powerful man in Russia. At the same time, they have reaped the benefits of the corrupt system that keeps their father in power.

Katerina and her former husband, Kirill Shamalov, amassed a corporate portfolio reportedly worth $2 billion before their divorce in 2018. (Shamalov was sanctioned by the US Treasury in 2018; the UK sanctioned him February 24.)

An investigation by Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation found Katerina headed a foundation that developed lands owned by Moscow State University. Her foundation, Innopraktika, collected $7.8 million from Russian-state owned companies and $7.3 million from unknown sources in 2015-2016.

Maria Vorontsova in Japan (New Times)

Her older sister Maria also lived a life of luxury. Photos on social media showed her traveling the world, riding on expensive yachts, and hiring teachers abroad, according to an investigation by the Russian publication New Times.

Maria married a Dutch citizen named Jorrit Faassen, who worked at subsidiary of Gazprom. In 2010, while driving in Moscow, Faassen got into a confrontation with bodyguards of a Russian banker. Seven bodyguards forced Faassen’s BMW to stop, beat him with baseball bats, and damaged his car. The banker, Matvey Urin, had fucked with the wrong person. Faassen, described in media reports as a Putin family friend, remembered the license plate numbers of the bodyguards that attacked him. The next day, police arrested the businessman and the bodyguards. Weapons and drugs were found in their vehicles. Urin was sentenced to prison and his banks went out of business.

There are rumors that Putin had a “secret” third daughter with a cleaning woman-turned-multimillionaire, but Putin has never acknowledged the girl as his child.

Sanctioning the daughters would put Putin family assets in the West under the reach of sanctions.

One place to go looking for Putin’s assets in the West is in the French town of Biarritz, 15 miles up the coast from the Spanish border. This seaside resort town holds a special place in the hearts of the Putin family. In the summer of 1999, Putin was vacationing in Biarritz with his wife and daughters when he learned that President Yeltsin had anointed him as his chosen successor.

According to a report published February 26 by the French radio station Europe 1, Putin purchased a home on Rue de la Fregate in Biarritz where the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky once lived. Putin reportedly paid around $400,000 for the home in 1996, at which time he worked in the St. Petersburg mayor’s office on a pittance salary. The radio station says the French secret services confirmed the report. Europe 1 says the property is held in the name of one of Putin’s daughters.

Update: I spoke with Michael Anthony, who is listed as an officer of SCI Chalet les Rochers, the French company that controls the property on Rue de la Fregate. Anthony heads Anthony & Cie, a private wealth management advisory firm in France that serves ultra-wealthy clients. Anthony checked his records and tells me that neither Putin nor his daughters are partners of SCI Chalet les Rochers. He declined to name the listed partner(s), citing client confidentiality.

Katerina and her ex-husband, Kirill Shamalov, owned a different home in Biarritz. The seaside house was acquired for 4.5 million Euros in 2012 from one of Putin’s old friends, Gennady Timchenko. It’s not clear who owns the house on Avenue du General MacCroskey today. The French company that owns the house is in turn owned by a Monaco company, SCP Alta Maria, whose beneficiaries cannot be revealed, even on request.

The home on Avenue de General MacCroskey

Lyudmila Putin, Katerina’s and Maria’s mother, also spends time in Biarritz. Lyudmila was married to Putin for three decades before they divorced in 2013.

Putin’s ex-wife has come almost every year to Biarritz to “take the waters,” both before and after her divorce, Alexandre de Miller de La Cerda, Russia’s honorary consul in Biarritz, told TIME. “She stops either at the Miramar” – one of the town’s most luxurious hotels – “or in the house that belongs to our mutual friend from Putin’s St. Petersburg circle.”

Lyudmila acquired a $7.46 million home in Anglet, next to Biarritz, six months after divorcing Putin, OCCRP reported. The Anglet home is in the name of her second husband, a St. Petersburg businessman almost 20 years her junior. In recent days, the gate of the Anglet home was marred with graffiti reading ‘Putin suka!’ (a vulgar insult in Russian), ‘Putin’s mafia’ or ‘Slava Ukraíne’ (Glory to Ukraine).

Meanwhile, the US Treasury keeps noting how the Russians it is sanctioning are close to Putin’s daughters. Kirill Dimitriev, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund who was sanctioned last week is close to Katerina and her ex-husband, the US Treasury noted in its release. It’s clear that being close to Putin’s daughters is part of being in the inner, inner Kremlin circle.

So why sanction the oligarchs’ children, and not Putin’s daughters? Is the US worried that it will be too much of a provocation for an already unstable man?

A Tale of Two Oligarchs

This was a bad week for the Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov.

First, Usmanov had his $600 million yacht, the Dilbar, seized by German authorities. Now, Usmanov, a reputed gangster and early Facebook investor, will have to say goodbye to his luxurious English properties after the UK joined the Americans and the European Union in sanctioning him. He will also have to give up his years-long quest to own a British football club. Usmanov ended the week on the sanctions lists of the US, UK, and the European Union.

It was a different story his fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich, who shares Usmanov’s taste for megayachts and storied English football franchises. Abramovich has somehow managed to avoid any sanctions at all.

Abramovich describes himself “a successful Israeli-Russian entrepreneur and businessman.” Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, puts him at the top of the list of 35 kleptocrats and human rights abusers primarily responsible for looting the Russian state and repressing human rights.

“It is a mystery to me why Roman Abramovich has not yet been sanctioned,” remarked British MP Chris Bryant, who has been bringing this issue up every chance he gets. Bryant told the House of Commons that Abramovich “is terrified of being sanctioned.” Rumors are swirling that Abramovich is selling the 15-bedroom mansion in London’s Kensington Palace Gardens he bought for £90m in 2009.

Bryant read earlier from a leaked Home Office document from 2019:

“As part of [Her Majesty’s Government]’s Russia strategy aimed at targeting illicit finance and malign activity, Abramovich remains of interest to HMG due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices. An example of this is Abramovich admitting in court proceedings that he paid for political influence. Therefore, HMG is focused on ensuring individuals linked to illicit finance and malign activity are unable to base themselves in the UK and will use the relevant tools at its disposal (including immigration powers) to prevent this.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson slipped up last month when he told Parliament that Abramovich “is already facing sanctions.” He later said he “misspoke.”

Abramovich earned his massive fortune by acquiring Russian state resources at bargain-basement prices during the vicious “aluminum wars” of the Yeltsin era. He and his partners acquired a majority stake in the oil giant SIbneft in 1995 for $100 million. Abramovich sold Sibneft a decade later to the state-owned gas giant Gazprom for $13 billion in cash. He also acquired a 50 percent stake in the aluminum giant Rusal, which he sold to Oleg Deripaska.

In court papers filed in London, Abramovich admitted agreeing to pay billions of dollars for political favors and protection fees to obtain his stakes in the former Soviet Union’s mineral wealth, the Times of London reported.

Abramovich insists he’s not, as he has been described, “Putin’s cashier.” Journalist Catherine Belton wrote in her indispensable book, Putin’s People, that Putin directed Abramovich to buy England’s Chelsea football club in 2003 for $240 million to build a beachhead into British society. That earned Belton a libel lawsuit from Abramovich. (The case was settled after the book’s publisher agreed to amend the text to include the oligarch’s denials and make clear that the claim that the oligarch bought Chelsea on Putin’s orders was not a statement of fact.) Abramovich announced this week that he will be selling Chelsea FC.

The UK has always been slow to take action against Russian oligarchs. But there’s no sense of urgency in the United States either to sanction such a tempting target.

President Biden, in his State of the Union address Tuesday, warned oligarchs that America was coming for their ill-gotten gains. “We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts your luxury apartments your private jets,” Biden said.

Abramovich owns a fleet of yachts, including the $500 million Eclipse, one of the world’s biggest. The Eclipse has two helicopter pads, 24 guest cabins, two swimming pools, and a disco hall. It also features a German-built missile defense system, which has led to speculation that the yacht really belongs to Putin. But as I write this, the Eclipse is sailing the Caribbean unmolested.

The Eclipse

Abramovich also owns a fleet of private plans. His Boeing 787 Dreamliner is in Dubai today.

Nothing is stopping Abramovich from flying to New York where he is combing three adjacent buildings to build the biggest single-family home in Manhattan. Or he can head to Colorado where he owns nearly $50 million worth of properties around Aspen. He has an 11-bedroom house on 200 acres of land in Snowmass purchased in 2008 for $36.375 million, according to property records. Abramovich also purchased a 5,492-square-foot ski-in, ski-out house on 1.8 acres of land in Snowmass Village for $11.8 million.

Wherever he goes, Abramovich smartly gives to charities to buy goodwill. If you stroll past the Jewish Community Center in Aspen, you’ll see Abramovich’s name proudly displayed on the front of the sandstone facade. Israel’s Channel 12 reported that, before Russia invaded Ukraine, the chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, and representatives of several other major Israeli organizations and charities appealed to the US ambassador to Israel, urging Washington not to impose sanctions on Abramovich. In late February, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust authority, announced a donation from Abramovich, said to be in the eight figures. This may be why the sanctions on Abramovich have been slow in coming.

I understand why Israeli charities want to protect a major source of funds. But as the investors now holding worthless shares of Sberbank know all too well, corrupt money should never be trusted.

Why did the FBI raid homes linked to Oleg Deripaska?

Editor’s note: Post has been updated to replace photo of DC property misidentified as the Haft mansion.

Sometimes you go looking for one thing and you find something else. I have a theory that’s what happened on December 13, 2018, when authorities in Britain served a search warrant on a London storage unit leased by a company connected to the Russian aluminum tycoon, Oleg Deripaska.

The warrant, made at the request of the U.S. Justice Department, was executed in search of evidence of crimes committed by Deripaska’s one-time business partner, Paul Manafort. It doesn’t appear that there was much on Manafort in that London storage unit, but U.S. authorities had obtained something else – 11 boxes and 100,000 pages of documents from the company that controls the billionaire’s global property empire.

The target of the 2018 UK raid, London-based Terra Services, controls Deripaska’s luxury properties around the globe through a network of subsidiary companies. These homes include stunning villas in St. Tropez and Sardinia, a mansion in London’s Belgrave Square estimated at £50 million, a home in Paris near the Seine, and an estate with two marble palaces in Montenegro.  

Oleg Deripaska

On Tuesday, FBI agents raided two properties connected to Deripaska in Washington and New York. Agents conducted simultaneous searches at the Haft mansion near DC’s Embassy Row and at 12 Gay Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.  

A spokeswoman for Deripaska told The New York Times that the searches were “being carried out on the basis of two court orders, connected to U.S. sanctions.” The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Deripaska in April 2018, for “having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, a senior official of the government of the Russian Federation.”  

That senior official of the Russian government may be none other than Vladimir Putin. The U.S. government received reports that Deripaska held assets and laundered funds on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I would like to ask: did you find Putin’s money in those abandoned houses?” Deripaska asked on Telegram the day after the FBI raided the New York and DC properties, an intemperate comment that was later edited out.

The sanctions on Deripaska mean that banks must steer clear of him and his money cannot enter the United States. According to Deripaska’s spokeswoman, the properties raided Tuesday were ultimately owned by the billionaire’s relatives.

But someone was paying the bills at the Haft mansion and 12 Gay Street. The property tax bill for the Haft mansion runs more than $132,000 a year.

Did the documents seized in the 2018 London raid provide evidence that Deripaska was violating sanctions with respect to the NY and DC properties?

I have a hunch they did.

First, whatever documents were in those 11 boxes seized by officers National Crime Agency, Britain’s version of the FBI, Deripaska did not want the U.S. authorities to see them. Over the course of 15 months, Terra Services challenged the warrant in five separate hearings. One of Terra’s arguments was that the materials in the boxes had little to do with Manafort, and the few pages that did involve him were already in the possession of the U.S. Justice Department. A British judge rejected Terra Services’ arguments for judicial review in March 2020, clearing the way for the documents to be sent to America.

Second, a previously-unreported court filing contended that Deripaska takes an extremely hands-on role in running his U.S. residences — down to the location of electric sockets. According to an affidavit filed in 2016 New York Superior Court, “Deripaska exercises dominion and control over NY properties.” The document cites emails Deripaska wanted kept secret that were obtained during discovery in a lawsuit filed against him by Alexander Gliklad, former chairman of a Russian coal company.

Gliklad’s lawyers cited an email from a U.S. realtor working for Deripaska that references the oligarch’s preferences for electronics and electrical outlets near his bed in 12 Gay Street. Other emails suggest Deripaska was involved in negotiating a price in a proposed sale of a $42.5 million townhome on the Upper East Side. (The document summarizing those and other emails was improperly redacted, allowing its contents to be read by selecting and pasting them.)  

Third, and finally, the person in charge of Terra Services was involved in the purchase and management of the NY and DC properties. A few months before he was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury, Deripaska handed control of Terra Services over to Pavel Ezubov, his 46-year-old cousin.

Ezubov, the son of a member of Russia’s Duma, or lower house of parliament, set up the Delaware corporation that acquired the Haft mansion in 2006 for $15 million, according to records obtained by OpenSecrets’ Anna Massoglia.

And Ezubov’s name showed up on a New York city building permit for a $42.5 million Upper East Side Manhattan townhome connected to Deripaska. On the permit, Ezubov listed his address at a rented mailbox, located a short walk from 12 Gay Street, where property tax bills for all of Deripaska’s New York properties are sent.

It would make sense if Ezubov is managing these properties because his name shows up elsewhere in connection with properties connected to Deripaska that are being run by Terra Services. This includes Hamstone House, a 10-bedroom English mansion that was reportedly the Duchess of Windsor’s favorite property.

Euzbov’s name also shows up in connection with what may be the most expensive piece of property connected to his billionaire cousin. Villa Herakles in St. Tropez includes a 15,000-square foot main house, a guest house, a 345-acre park, two swimming pools, a tennis court, and a helipad.

Villa Herakles

Renovations on Villa Herakles cost 17.9 million Euros, according to the contractor’s website. The same contractor also worked on another home controlled by a Terra Services subisidary, Villa Walkirie, on the Italian island of Sardinia.

In a French court decision, an unidentified gardener who worked on Villla Heracles in St. Tropez from 2006 to 2009 said that his “real employer” was Basic Element – Deripaska’s holding company that comprises, Rusal, the world’s No. 2 aluminum maker.

Admittedly, the connection between Terra Services and the U.S properties raided Tuesday is not as strong as it is with the homes Terra Services controls in Europe. But what better place to sort this out then the 11 boxes of company documents that Deripaska did not want the U.S. to see?

My four-year effort to find out why Donald Trump’s name was in the FBI file of a Russian Mobster

In 2017, while I was writing my book Trump/Russia, I put in a Freedom of Information request for the FBI file of a deceased Russian mobster. I foolishly thought I might be able to get a response in time to include it in my book.

Instead, it turned out to be the start of a four-year odyssey that drew to a close recently.

My FOIA request, which became a FOIA lawsuit, boiled down to a simple question: What was Donald Trump’s name doing in the file of a Russian gangster?

A few weeks ago, a federal judge declined my request to force the FBI to release 150 pages that might have shed some light on that.

The end result will do little to clarify the ongoing debate over Trump and Russia. The Russiagate deniers can continue to claim, correctly, there was no proof of any conspiracy, while those who believe that Trump successfully covered up his ties to Russia remain equally correct when they say we still don’t have all the answers.

Some of those answers may have been in the FBI file I was seeking. It belonged to Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov, a top Russian mobster or vor y zakone (“thief who follows the code”), who arrived in America in 1992. He was arrested three years later and was sentenced to prison for conspiring to extort $3.5 million from two Russian emigres who ran an investment advisory in Manhattan. Ivankov served nine years. Upon release, he was deported to Russia where he was later assassinated.

While researching my book, I learned that during his time in New York, Ivankov kept popping up in Trump’s properties. First, sources told me that agents tracked him to Trump Tower. Next, he turned up at Trump’s new casino, the Taj Mahal.

Upon his arrest, FBI agents seized Ivankov’s phone book. According to author Robert I Friedman, who obtained a copy of Ivankov’s phone book, it included a working number for the Trump Organization’s Trump Tower Residence, and a Trump Organization office fax machine.

In response to my initial 2017 FOIA request, the FBI sent me 875 previously-released pages that confirmed that agents had tracked Ivankov to the Taj Mahal.

I wondered what other secrets might be buried in the file.

The FBI’s file on Ivankov ran to nearly 38,000 pages. Processing that large a file for public release would take years and cost more than $1,000 in duplication fees, so I agreed to reduce the scope of my request.

All I was interested in, I told the FBI, were the portions of the file that dealt with Donald Trump.

In January 2018, an FBI FOIA specialist told me over the phone that what I wanted could be found in a 528-page section of the file. There would be some privacy hurdles to clear first, she told me.

This was progress and it amounted to a confirmation of sorts that Trump’s name was in the file. How many other future U.S. presidents have appeared in the FBI file of a gangster?

But this bit of information, tantalizing as it was, meant little and only raised fresh questions.

Was Trump merely an innocent third-party mentioned in passing? Did Ivankov’s gambling at the Taj Mahal result in scrutiny of Trump? Or, as some have speculated, was Trump providing information to the FBI as a confidential source?

To answer those questions, I filed a FOIA lawsuit in federal court in Washington, DC. Mark Zaid and Bradley Moss, two well-known FOIA and whistleblower attorneys, took on my case pro bono.

The case was assigned to Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who was intimately familiar with Trump and Russia. Judge Jackson had presided over the trials of Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.

This was my first time filing a FOIA lawsuit and I was surprised to see the FBI, after months of no activity, switfly handed over 378 pages. But Trump’s name was not mentioned once anywhere on those pages.

That left the 150 pages the FBI wouldn’t let me see. The Freedom of Information Act allows the government to exempt information from disclosure on a variety of grounds. Some of these exemptions, such as the names of FBI agents involved in the case, were irrelevant.

There were a few exemptions, however, that could potentially be hiding Trump’s name. The most commonly cited exemption on about 90 of the pages withheld in full was one protecting confidential FBI sources. That was followed by names of people of “investigative interest” to the FBI, an exemption cited on 76 of the pages withheld.

Even though Trump was president, he hadn’t surrendered his privacy rights. To force the FBI to disclose any of that information, we needed to show that this information was already in the public domain.

There was a precedent for disclosing this information. An FBI memo released more than 20 years ago under a FOIA request by The Smoking Gun revealed that in 1981, Trump had offered to “fully cooperate” with the bureau over a casino he was trying to build in Atlantic City, New Jersey. “Trump stated in order to show that he was willing to fully cooperate with the FBI, he suggested that they use undercover Agents in the casino,” the memo states.

With that 1981 memo, we argued, the government had already revealed that Trump was willing to cooperate with the FBI to provide information on organized crime at his casino in Atlantic City, so there was no reason to hold back when Vyacheslav Ivankov showed up at the Taj Mahal 12 years later.

The FBI responded with what’s known as a “Glomar response.” What this means is the FBI was telling us it couldn’t confirm or deny whether Trump was a confidential FBI informant but, hypothetically, if he was, the FBI still couldn’t confirm it because “doing otherwise jeopardizes the FBI’s confidential source program.” The FBI couldn’t even tell us if Trump wasn’t a CI because that could potentially reveal who the real informant was.

Furthermore, the government claimed that we couldn’t show that the 1981 FBI memo had been officially released by the bureau’s Record/Information Dissemination Section (RIDS).

RIDS was unable to confirm whether the record was officially placed in the public domain via an authorized FBI records release. The FBI does not routinely release third party informant records to the public. Therefore, RIDS did not consider this record as an authorized official disclosure by the agency that would trigger a FOIA waiver. Second, even if the FBI were to consider the record submitted by plaintiff, which it is not, the record failed to impart informant status to Mr. Trump.

Franz Kafka would have smiled at that one.

And that, pretty much, was that. Judge Jackson was left with no issue of dispute to rule on. On August 20, the case was dismissed.

While the FBI was telling us how carefully it protects the private information of future U.S. presidents, Trump’s former deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein admitted that he had made the decision to release the intimate personal texts between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page because it would not violate their rights to privacy. Trump used these texts to mock and deride Strzok and “his lover” Page, complete with fake orgasms.

It’s an old story: Where there’s an executive will, there’s a legal way. What the president wants to keep secret stays secret.