John Durham Suggests April Lorenzen Thinks He Bullied Her

In a truly hysterical self-own, the Federalist’s Margot Cleveland read this John Durham filing and (in addition to claiming that Marc Elias’ grand jury appearance must mean he testified to crime-fraud excepted matters even though he previously testified publicly about this matter without any such exception) predicted that the “corrupt media” would soon quote “false charges” of threats and intimidation “by this weekend.”

Then she quoted precisely those charges.

In addition to detailing all of the information the special counsel’s office had already provided Sussmann or would shortly, in requesting an extension to finish discovery, Durham’s team stressed the breadth of Sussmann’s discovery demands and the transparency with which those demands were met.

For instance, Sussmann’s attorneys requested “all of the prosecution team’s communications with counsel for witnesses or subjects in this investigation, including, ‘any records reflecting any consideration, concern, or threats from your office relating to those individuals’ or their counsels’ conduct…and all formal or informal complaints received by you or others’ about the conduct of the Special Counsel’s office.”

After noting that “communications with other counsel are rarely discoverable,” the government said it expects to produce responsive documents later this week. But the special counsel office added, “it is doing so despite the fact that certain counsel persistently have targeted prosecutors and investigators on the Special Counsel’s team with baseless and polemical attacks that unfairly malign and mischaracterize the conduct of this investigation.”

For instance, “certain counsel have falsely accused the Special Counsel’s Office of leaking information to the media and have mischaracterized efforts to warn witnesses of the consequences of false testimony or false statements as ‘threats’ or ‘intimidation,’” Durham explained to the court.

In other words, with Sussmann’s lawyers soon to receive this cache of complaints against Durham’s team, watch for the corrupt media to be quoting those false charges by this weekend, spinning a narrative of a corrupt special counsel’s office.

Cleveland was, as far as I saw, the first to quote those charges and one of the only ones to do so before the weekend. But given that, in the past, she has presented evidence that undermined Durham’s conspiracy theories without admitting that they did, I’d say she qualifies for her own designation as corrupt. A self-fulfilling prediction!

That said, I suspect that Durham is trying to get ahead of something potentially more problematic.

In the Sussmann indictment, Durham needlessly referred to April Lorenzen — who had used the pseudonym “Tea Leaves” to speak of the Alfa Bank allegations in 2016 and who could have been referred to by that same pseudonym here — by the moniker “Originator-1.” That introduced additional confusion and with it implied, without charging Lorenzen, that she had made up the anomalous data at the core of the allegation. It’s sort of like referring to someone by the pseudonym “Forger-1” or “Lady-with-the-Knife-1” in an indictment; it respects DOJ’s rules against naming uncharged individuals, but does so in such a way that insinuates wrong-doing.

Indeed, in the indictment, Durham repeatedly called the anomalous data “purported,” barely hiding that he believes Lorenzen manufactured the data, even though a shit-ton of evidence from later in 2016 makes it clear Lorenzen believed the anomaly was real and important.

Durham’s treatment of Lorenzen is all the more problematic given that she was among those that, this NYT story credibly argued, Durham had cited out of context in the indictment.

The indictment quotes August emails from Ms. Lorenzen and Mr. Antonakakis worrying that they might not know if someone had faked the DNS data. But people familiar with the matter said the indictment omitted later discussion of reasons to doubt any attempt to spoof the overall pattern could go undetected.


The indictment suggested Ms. Lorenzen’s reaction to the paper was guarded, describing an email from her as “stating, in part, that it was ‘plausible’ in the ‘narrow scope’ defined by” Mr. Joffe. But the text of her email displays enthusiasm.

“In the narrow scope of what you have defined above, I agree wholeheartedly that it is plausible,” she wrote, adding: “If the white paper intends to say that there are communications between at least Alfa and Trump, which are being intentionally hidden by Alfa and Trump I absolutely believe that is the case,” her email said.

So Lorenzen has good cause to be miffed with Durham’s insinuations in the indictment.

Which brings us to the passage that Cleveland face-planted on.

Durham brags that he has been so kind as to respond to Sussmann’s request for records suggesting that Durham’s team might be bullying or bribing witnesses.

On December 10, 2021, the defense requested, among other things, all of the prosecution team’s communications with counsel for witnesses or subjects in this investigation, including, “any records reflecting any consideration, concern, or threats from your office relating to those individuals’ or their counsels’ conduct. . . and all formal or informal complaints received by you or others” about the conduct of the Special Counsel’s Office.” Although communications with other counsel are rarely discoverable, especially this far in advance of trial, the Government expects to produce certain materials responsive to this request later this week. The Government notes that it is doing so despite the fact that certain counsel persistently have targeted prosecutors and investigators on the Special Counsel’s team with baseless and polemical attacks that unfairly malign and mischaracterize the conduct of this investigation. For example, certain counsel have falsely accused the Special Counsel’s Office of leaking information to the media and have mischaracterized efforts to warn witnesses of the consequences of false testimony or false statements as “threats” or “intimidation.” Despite the inflammatory and unfounded nature of these accusations, the Special Counsel’s Office intends to produce these materials to the defense to avoid any suggestion that it seeks to conceal these communications for some bad purpose.

Sussmann made this request after having been shown — months after he was indicted — James Baker’s interview reports with Durham’s team, which Sussmann’s lawyers noted at a December 8 status hearing had radically changed from his past sworn statements. Sussmann’s lawyers made it clear they may argue at trial that Baker’s testimony changed because Durham threatened to charge the former FBI lawyer if he didn’t change his story. And that’s clearly why, just days after seeing how dramatically Baker’s sworn testimony did change, Sussmann made this discovery request. Sussmann wants to test whether Durham has been pressuring witnesses — Baker, as well as others — to back Durham’s baseless conspiracy theories.

Durham is turning over this material not, as he suggests, out of the spirit of generosity. Rather, he’s turning it over because, to survive as Special Counsel long enough to write his report, he needs to avoid giving Merrick Garland cause to fire him. Sussmann has effectively put Durham on notice that he’s going to ask every witness whether they were bullied to tell a false story. And if Durham were to sit on records even hinting at such bullying, withholding them in discovery when the complaint is bound to come out at trial would provide Garland that cause for firing.

Which makes it all the more interesting that Durham stated he had included reports of calls with Lorenzen’s lawyer specifically.

numerous reports of phone calls between the Special Counsel team and counsel for several witnesses or subjects in this investigation, including counsel for the individual referred to in the Indictment as “Originator-1;”

Complaints from Lorenzen would be neither Jencks — the requirement to provide the interview reports and grand jury testimony from witnesses the prosecution plans to call at trial — nor Giglio — the requirement to tell defendants about any benefits witnesses received for their testimony. That’s because Durham is treating Lorenzen as a subject of the investigation, not a witness. Like all Fusion employees, Rodney Joffe, and all but one employee of the Clinton Campaign, she is not listed as having been interviewed. That suggests either that Durham still wants to charge Lorenzen as part of his conspiracy charge or that he tried to subpoena her and she told him she’d invoke the Fifth. (According to an earlier Sussmann filing, Durham has immunized at least one witness and he could do so with Lorenzen as well if he really wanted her testimony.)

Of course Lorenzen has a complaint. While I don’t think Durham leaked her identity (he doesn’t need to because there’s a whole slew of researchers, including suspected Russian agents, who guarantee anything he says will soon be attached to a name), he improperly included insinuations about Lorenzen not backed by any evidence as part of his grand conspiracy theory about why Sussmann lied. He has done real reputational damage to Lorenzen without presenting any evidence to back such damage.

Durham provided Sussmann whatever complaints she made about the reputational harm he had done to cover his ass — to ensure it doesn’t get him fired — because Sussmann has the ability to obtain (and may have already obtained) such records from Lorenzen directly.

For now, then, Durham has protected himself.

But if it were to come out, as I think is likely, that DOJ has in its possession information about someone who claimed to have brokered one of the more incendiary parts of the Alfa Bank story, someone who fabricated other Internet routing data in May 2016 (the month that, Alfa Bank claims, its own data started getting spoofed), it might make any bullying Durham has done of Lorenzen the kind of thing that would be actionable against Durham. All the more so if Durham had not provided such information in discovery to Sussmann (which would be shocking, but I’m getting used to being shocked by Durham’s incompetence).

Durham has covered his ass, for now. But if it came out that Durham insinuated Lorenzen had fabricated this data even though DOJ knows of a more likely candidate to have done so, that would cause all sorts of new problems for him.

19 replies
  1. John Paul Jones says:

    The whole “case” reminds me of Jim Garrison’s pursuit of Clay Shaw for organizing the Kennedy assassination (spoiler alert: he didn’t), in that at the heart of it all is a lie, that is, what the prosecutor alleges happened didn’t actually happen. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it won’t get to trial, but it probably does mean (speculation) that Sussmann is unlikely to be convicted. In the Shaw trial, the jury took one hour to find him not guilty.

  2. Rugger9 says:

    I do not think Merrick Garland fires Durham until that link is proved in the public record (preferably a court filing and judicial admonishment) simply because of the firestorm it would create by the RWNM. Even the slightest justification would be blown up in the “but her emails” or Vince Foster” ways. It’s better IMHO to let Durham keep screwing this up, and hopefully soon Sussman’s team files to dismiss the case with prejudice due to prosecutorial misconduct. That would be a very public blowback on Durham and would provide Garland with such a clear cut reason to fire Durham that even Chuckles and Hannity would have trouble trying to justify claims of political interference. Tucker, Laura, Jeannine, etc… would of course try anyway but it wouldn’t have traction outside of the fever swamps.

    • bmaz says:

      Garland firing Durham is more problematic than people think. He basically promised not to interfere in his confirmation hearing, and it would be seized on loudly by Trump and the GOP members of Congress. That said, Garland did not have to approve the charge against Sussman, nor anybody else. So we will see where it goes from here. But just up and terminating Durham, while arguably in Garland’s power, is likely not a good idea.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        Does Garland have some options for dealing with Durham which are less-unpleasant than firing him? If so, what are those?

        • bmaz says:

          I would suppose so, but honestly do not know. There are legal considerations and practical considerations, exactly where they ought meet is not an easy consideration.

        • joel fisher says:

          Don’t special counsels have a reporting obligation? Sure would be nice for somebody to ask Durham about the chats he had with Barr and other Political appointees.

  3. dwfreeman says:

    This is a horrible historical legal comparison. Garrison’s prosecution of Clay Shaw for helping conspire to assassinate the 35th president, the crime of the century, was based in truth. Except the trial was subverted by the government and media.

    Here’s a recent story with firsthand agency documentation as evidence to support the conclusion that Shaw was a longtime contract agent for the CIA, probably since 1956, and that its top officials were deeply concerned that Garrison would win a conviction in his trial linking Shaw to people and events surrounding JFK’s murder.

    Whether Shaw was a critical player in the assassination conspiracy is a different story. However, the CIA was directly engaged in efforts to prevent Shaw’s implication at trial as having any connection to it.

    The elongated Durham investigation and Sussmann indictment has no real value in telling any truth about the Trump presidency, except how corrupt Trump was in using the Justice Department to advance his own political agenda and punish his perceived enemies.

    • bmaz says:

      Ahem, wow. No, I’m sorry, the bullshit propagated by Jim Garrison and Oliver Stone has been a complete and total stain on history. But at least you didn’t waste ten column inches with your repetitive speculative drivel this time. Thank you for that.

      • Tom S. says:

        I contributed what I know to be misunderstood about Garrison’s efforts.
        I could not disagree more. What Garrison did is still hiding in plain sight, as he must have intended. 1967 was the year of the CBS broadcast, week long inquiry, complete with a supporting book, in response to growing questioning of the Warren Report. After Shaw’s trial, no additional inquiry began until the 1975 Rockefeller Commission and the Church Committee in the U.S. Senate. The conflicts of interest author Lemann did not disclose in his 1991 GQ article critical of Stone’s film strongly support my opinion.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      You’re correct to the extent that any comparison to anything involving the assassination of either Kennedy is by definition a horrible comparison; even if such a comparison is accurate, it’s likely to generate far more heat than light.

      As to the details… there’s a passage in the Illuminatus Trilogy which puts the whole thing in perspective.

      • John Paul Jones says:

        Apologies if people think it was a horrible comparison. My point was simply that Garrison had nothing to support his conspiracy theories except dubious witness testimony which evolved over time, and which may even have been created by pressure on the part of the prosecution during interviews. To that extent, the comparison struck me as reasonable; as to heat vs light, each will have to use their own powers of discrimination. Stone is a gifted and brilliant film-maker but most of “JFK” was just straight-up bs. I still have a soft spot for his “Alexander,” even though it doesn’t really cohere.

        • blueridgebill says:

          I knew this guy slightly, in Little Five Points in Atlanta in the ’80s-90s: The founder of Discordianism (a world religion) and Lee Harvey Oswald’s roommate in 1959. He was a character, a gentle drunk, who appeared to work for Illuminet Press, writing some of their screeds, and churning out a stream of satiric pamphlets by pseudonymous cranks, poster and flyer for nonexistent concerts and events, stickers with appropriated images..
          I bought him a drink at the Little 5 Points Yacht Club and he told us about how Stone had flown him to LA, and questioned him about Oswald, and particularly if Oswald was “homosexual”. Kerry, who’d been pressured by Jim Garrison in the Shaw case, and indicted for perjury by Garrison(and charges dropped by Harry Connick Sr.) told him no. He said Stone was not happy with this, and insistent he knew more.
          I saw Thornley one time after that: he was in the bar preparing to auction off a letter from his pen pal Charlie Manson, to pay to get a girlfriend who’d fallen afoul with Southern California Authorities a bus ticket back to ATL.

        • Tom S. says:

          Once you consider the actual background, the only conclusion that seems reasonable to draw is that Garrison was attempting to make any inquiry subsequent to the Warren Commission not only seem unwarranted, but also ridiculous. Coinciding with the late 1991 release of Oliver Stone’s “JFK the Movie,” Nicholas B. Lemann wrote this scathing critique for GQ Magazine, a Conde Nast pub.
's%20Quarterly/Item%2001.pdf – Stone’s co-screenplay writer, Zachary Sklar, also the editor of Garrison’s autobiography responded, and Lemann replied,
          This tells us Garrison did not share with Sklar, Stone, or author Joan Mellen who Garrison knew since 1969, what Clay Shaw and Nicholas B. Lemann certainly knew. Joan Mellen to Rex Bradford in a 2006 interview, “JOAN: – when Baldwin was present, he was a CIA asset, his brother worked for the International Trade Mart and Clay Shaw, David Baldwin, and these, these are CIA people….”
          Shaw had hired David Baldwin as first PR Director at the Trademart after Baldwin returned from a covert CIA assignment in 1953. In his biography of Clay Shaw, “A Man of a Million Fragments,” author Donald H. Carpenter shares a letter written by Baldwin to his friend Shaw a week after his arrest in March, 1967.
          “Garrison happens to be married to my Godchild and first cousin.”
          He felt that the latest actions established “beyond argument his (Garrison’s) psychopathic tendencies.” Baldwin suggested that Shaw document his case for false arrest.” In his GQ article and reply to Sklar, Nicholas B. Lemann is silent about Baldwin’s wife being the daughter of Lemann’s step grandmother, Mildred Crumb Lyons Lemann, and the step-sister of Lemann’s father Thomas and uncle, Stephen, co-owners with Edgar Stern, of WDSU broadcasting. In May, 1867, Garrison’s letter to the FCC Commis. accused “WDSU outside counsel” of being a CIA paymaster in NOLA distributing funds to lawyers of clients resisting Garrison’s subpoenas. Garrison, Shaw, and Nicholas B. Lemann were remarkably tight lipped.

    • Tom S. says:

      dwfreeman, you could not be more wrong if you deliberately tried. Garrison, (and Shaw to an extent by ignoring the advice of David Baldwin), deceived co-screenplay writers of the film, “JFK the Movie,” Zachary Sklar, also editor of Garrison’s autobiography, and Oliver Stone.

      • Rayne says:

        Okay, we’ve got your take. You’ve now had 3 comments in this thread about a topic unrelated to the post.

        Let it go.

        dwfreeman, John Paul Jones, that goes for you two as well. Stay on topic, quit DDoSing this thread.

  4. cmarlowe says:

    Since IANAL, I’d like to ask a question that is also not on topic with respect to the original post (sorry), but I am asking because I think this is the best place to get a good answer.
    Once Trump is indicted (and I do believe that will ultimately happen, as does he apparently):
    1) If he then calls on followers to show up in large numbers at, say, the courthouse or nearby, could that conceivable lead to any further charges?
    2) Alternatively, could the Judge proactively ban him from making public statements (or posts) about the case? — like Roger Stone in 2019 I think.

  5. Tom S. says:

    Aaron Maté’s long, January 20 article mention Danchenko, but not Sussman, despite opening with, “As he documents the role of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in generating false allegations of Trump-Russia collusion, Special Counsel John Durham has also previewed a challenge to the FBI’s claims about how and why its counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign began…” (I don’t think it deserves including an obvious link.) It has been 21 months since Barr and Powell interfered in Flynn’s guilty plea(s) in Judge Emmet Sullivan’s court. Nearly four years ago, Murray Waas described the numerous ways Trump and congressional G.O.P. allies successfully instigated multiple IG Horowitz reviews in reaction to numerous, baseless Trump accusations and demands.
    Why does it seem major controversies are almost never fully exposed for what they are, not the Hoover & Dallas Police “WE HAVE OUR MAN,” non-investigation of the JFK Assassination, or the MLK (see King Family dissastisfaction) or RFK Assassinations) or the Rockefeller Commission inquiry by the unelected VPOTUS, or the Garrison “Investigation,” and all subsequent defense and dissent of it, certainly not the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, or the 9/11 Commission Inquiry, or the Iraq War & WMD fiascos, and “R-s” still claim the 2007 housing bubble collapse resulted from democrats’ relaxed lending to low income mortgage loan applicants, no prosecution of Wallstreet or retail banking scions, Bush & Trump commuted and pardoned Libby/Cheney out of notoriety, Mueller contributed to what should have been anticipated and pre-empted, Trump is relentlessly still eroding democracy and the legitimacy of state and federal prosecutors and grand juries. MSM has never been more incentivized to publicize and feature the alarmingly few Emptywheel and Justsecurity examples of “fine tooth comb” examination, presentation, and analysis, but where are they, if not continuing to attempt “both sides” news & commentary that could result in MSM subjected to a fate similar to public school teachers in red states.

  6. papposilenus says:

    Stupid newbie question: what is witness bullying? Is it the actual crime of witness intimidation, committed by Federal agents? Or is it a rhetorical tool, used by defense lawyers to throw doubt on a deposition or other testimony a prosecution witness gave?

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