John Durham and Newly-Sanctioned Alfa Bank’s Filings: “Almost like they were written by the same people”

In a DC hearing on February 9 regarding Alfa Bank’s attempt to obtain documents from Michael Sussmann before his trial, DC Superior Judge Shana Frost Matini observed that the Alfa Bank allegations and the John Durham indictment seemed like they could be written by the same people.

[R]ight now, given the — if the closeness of Alpha’s allegations, I mean, quite frankly, it’s — reading Alpha’s submissions and what the — and that compared to the indictment, there’s — it’s almost like they were written by the same people in some way. [Alpha misspelling original]

Judge Matini, a Trump appointee, scolded Alfa — which over this past weekend was included in sanctions against Russian banks in retaliation for the invasion — for claiming that their lawsuit and Durham’s indictment of Sussmann were not closely related after having raised the indictment in the first place.

As to the claims that the criminal and civil proceedings are not closely related, this is a surprising representation for Alpha to make, given that Alpha was the one to bring the criminal charges to the Court’s attention by filing what was styled as a notice of supplemental authority in support of its Motion to Compel.

Of course, there is no Supplemental Authority here. A criminal indictment is not an opinion of the Court. It’s just a charge that the prosecuting authority is bringing against an individual with facts that are alleged to support the charge.

In dual lawsuits in FL and PA, Alfa Bank purports to be trying to figure out who allegedly faked DNS records to make it look like Alfa was in contact with Trump back in 2016 so it can sue those people. Rather than finding anyone to sue, however, it has instead spent its time subpoenaing experts to learn as much as it can about how the US tracks DNS records to prevent cyberattacks by — among other hostile countries — Russia.

Matini ruled that Alfa’s effort to get more information from Sussmann will have to wait until June, after his trial. (It’s unclear whether the sanctioned bank will still have legal means to pay Skadden lawyers to pursue this lawsuit at that point.)

But since then, the timelines of the Alfa Bank and Durham investigations have closely paralleled.

Of particular interest, on the morning of February 11, Rodney Joffe — referred to as Tech Executive-1 in the Durham filings — sat for an almost 5-hour deposition with Alfa Bank’s lawyers. He revealed that Durham had first approached him for an interview at least a year earlier. He revealed he had been asked to testify before the grand jury, but he “declined to interview,” presumably meaning he told Durham he’d invoke the Fifth (just as Don Jr and probably his daddy are understood to have done with Mueller).

Joffe’s refusal to voluntarily feed this witch hunt continued in his Alfa deposition. Citing the ongoing Durham investigation, he invoked the Fifth Amendment a slew of times (though not as many times as your average Trump man in a financial fraud deposition or even Alex Jones in an interview about an insurrection). Those questions to which he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and those he answered mapped out an interesting territory, marking who he does know and those Alfa thought he did but that he does not.

For example, he said he had never heard of Alfa Bank before investigating the anomaly related to it. He said he had never met Jean Camp or several of the other researchers that frothers are certain he conspired with. Joffe twice said he had never met Christopher Steele and also said he “had no idea” that Sussmann met with Steele about the server allegations. He denied knowing what the contract between Georgia Tech and DARPA looked like.

Alfa made a number of mistakes — confusing a domain name with a business. Claiming he authored a paper that David Dagon had. Asking him about several emails he hadn’t been sent.

There were several claims Alfa made that Joffe’s lawyer, Steven Tyrrell, established a record were unproven assumptions on Alfa’s part, such as that Joffe got one of the white papers described in the indictment. Importantly, that includes a question about the EOP server.

Q: I was just going to ask Mr. Joffe whether or not he knows who the executive branch office of the U.S. government is?

A: I have to invoke my Fifth Amendment rights.

Mr. Tyrrell: And Margaret, if I may, just — I apologize. Just for the record, I want to be clear that — that in invoking his rights and my allowing my client to invoke his rights, that should not be interpreted as an admission that the — I mean, you’ll argue whatever it is, if you do, that the allegations, which are just allegations in the indictment, are accurate.

In addition to those curious objections, there were several things alleged in the indictment that Joffe outright denied. In several questions, Joffe challenged the meaning of an email Durham has used to suggest he anticipated, and wanted, a top cybersecurity job within a hypothetical Hillary Administration. After objecting to the form of the way the Alfa Bank’s Skadden lawyer tried to corner Joffe into answering the question, Tyrrell answered,

You know, again, our position on this is Mr. Joffe is happy to answer the question that was posed about whether he was ever offered the top cybersecurity job by the Democrats when it looked like they’d win. I think he’s answered that question.

He’s not going to answer questions about communications that he may or may not have had with other people about the topic. And as to those, he would invoke his rights under the Fifth Amendment.

Joffe answered no to three questions about whether the Clinton campaign paid him for his work on the server allegations, a false claim that Kash Patel spread.  Joffe also distinguished his concern about Donald Trump from a political desire to see him lose.

I’ve never been interested in politics. I’ve never been involved in politics. I haven’t voted for many, many years. I haven’t donated to any parties or any — or given any kind of benefit to any parties, but I certainly over the last few years have had an interest in the politics of the country that I live in.

That explanation premised two invocations of his Fifth Amendment in response to questions about Trump specifically.

In other words, Joffe’s Alfa Bank deposition on February 11 undermined several of the premises of the Durham investigation, while it identified several areas where his lawyer suggested Alfa’s assumptions were wrong (in the hearing on Laura Seago’s deposition, there was a central Alfa Bank assumption I know to be badly wrong).

Joffe’s deposition ended at 2:07PM ET on February 11.

Nine hours later, at 11:32PM, Durham submitted the belated conflicts motion — which would have been filed in September if Durham really had concerns about any conflict — and floated a number of claims about Joffe, claims that went beyond those in the indictment. Joffe is mentioned twenty times, including the following:

The defendant’s billing records reflect that the defendant repeatedly billed the Clinton Campaign for his work on the Russian Bank-1 allegations. In compiling and disseminating these allegations, the defendant and Tech Executive-1 also had met and communicated with another law partner at Law Firm-1 who was then serving as General Counsel to the Clinton Campaign (“Campaign Lawyer-1”).

The Indictment also alleges that, beginning in approximately July 2016, Tech Executive-1 had worked with the defendant, a U.S. investigative firm retained by Law Firm-1 on behalf of the Clinton Campaign, numerous cyber researchers, and employees at multiple Internet companies to assemble the purported data and white papers. In connection with these efforts, Tech Executive-1 exploited his access to non-public and/or proprietary Internet data. Tech Executive-1 also enlisted the assistance of researchers at a U.S.-based university who were receiving and analyzing large amounts of Internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract. Tech Executive-1 tasked these researchers to mine Internet data to establish “an inference” and “narrative” tying then-candidate Trump to Russia. In doing so, Tech Executive-1 indicated that he was seeking to please certain “VIPs,” referring to individuals at Law Firm-1 and the Clinton Campaign.

The Government’s evidence at trial will also establish that among the Internet data Tech Executive-1 and his associates exploited was domain name system (“DNS”) Internet traffic pertaining to (i) a particular healthcare provider, (ii) Trump Tower, (iii) Donald Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and (iv) the Executive Office of the President of the United States (“EOP”). (Tech Executive-1’s employer, Internet Company-1, had come to access and maintain dedicated servers for the EOP as part of a sensitive arrangement whereby it provided DNS resolution services to the EOP. Tech Executive-1 and his associates exploited this arrangement by mining the EOP’s DNS traffic and other data for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump.)

The Indictment further details that on February 9, 2017, the defendant provided an updated set of allegations – including the Russian Bank-1 data and additional allegations relating to Trump – to a second agency of the U.S. government (“Agency-2”). The Government’s evidence at trial will establish that these additional allegations relied, in part, on the purported DNS traffic that Tech Executive-1 and others had assembled pertaining to Trump Tower, Donald Trump’s New York City apartment building, the EOP, and the aforementioned healthcare provider. In his meeting with Agency-2, the defendant provided data which he claimed reflected purportedly suspicious DNS lookups by these entities of internet protocol (“IP”) addresses affiliated with a Russian mobile phone provider (“Russian Phone Provider-1”). The defendant further claimed that these lookups demonstrated that Trump and/or his associates were using supposedly rare, Russian-made wireless phones in the vicinity of the White House and other locations. The Special Counsel’s Office has identified no support for these allegations. Indeed, more complete DNS data that the Special Counsel’s Office obtained from a company that assisted Tech Executive-1 in assembling these allegations reflects that such DNS lookups were far from rare in the United States. For example, the more complete data that Tech Executive-1 and his associates gathered – but did not provide to Agency-2 – reflected that between approximately 2014 and 2017, there were a total of more than 3 million lookups of Russian Phone-Provider-1 IP addresses that originated with U.S.-based IP addresses. Fewer than 1,000 of these lookups originated with IP addresses affiliated with Trump Tower. In addition, the more complete data assembled by Tech Executive-1 and his associates reflected that DNS lookups involving the EOP and Russian Phone Provider-1 began at least as early 2014 (i.e., during the Obama administration and years before Trump took office) – another fact which the allegations omitted.

As I noted, less than a day after Durham filed that motion, the former President suggested that Joffe had been spying and should be killed. In response to the furor, Joffe’s spox later issued a statement clarifying what went on — precisely the information he had tried to plead the Fifth over.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Mr. Joffe said that “contrary to the allegations in this recent filing,” he was apolitical, did not work for any political party, and had lawful access under a contract to work with others to analyze DNS data — including from the White House — for the purpose of hunting for security breaches or threats.

After Russians hacked networks for the White House and Democrats in 2015 and 2016, it went on, the cybersecurity researchers were “deeply concerned” to find data suggesting Russian-made YotaPhones were in proximity to the Trump campaign and the White House, so “prepared a report of their findings, which was subsequently shared with the C.I.A.”

And some of the other researchers had to provide more details to push back on the frenzy (including that the data from EOP preceded Trump’s inauguration). Few outlets, though, have presented the basic innumeracy in Durham’s filing about the rarity of YotaPhones as anything but a contested issue.

And after Durham incited claims that Joffe should be killed, one week later Alfa Bank then affirmed the tie between Joffe and Tech Executive 1 by posting his deposition in their motion to get another four months to conduct their fishing expedition. That has had the effect of further inflaming the frothy right, and providing Durham sworn testimony from Joffe that he was otherwise not entitled to (including several warnings about how his case against Sussmann may be vulnerable).

In the wake of the release of the Florida filing, Joffe’s lawyers intervened in the Sussmann case and then filed a separate sealed motion to strike the (misleading) references to Joffe in the filing.

A Trump appointed judge in DC believes these efforts look like they’re being written by the same people. Whether Durham’s sources and a sanctioned Russian Bank’s sources are “colluding,” these parallel developments had the effect of depriving Joffe of his ability to fully invoke the Fifth Amendment. And with the help of a sanctioned Russian bank, it gave Durham a substantial benefit in a criminal investigation.


January 25: Durham asks to extend discovery deadline

January 28: Durham admits that Durham was informed about the James Baker phone he claimed to forget knowing about

February 9: Michael Sussmann succeeds in staying Alfa Bank’s effort to get documents from him

February 10: Fusion GPS’ Laura Seago attempts to quash a subpoena

February 11, 9:30AM: Rodney Joffe deposition

February 11, 11:32PM: Durham files a motion purporting to be a conflicts motion that misrepresents the evidence

February 14: Sussmann asks to strike unsupported allegations in conflicts motion

February 14: Peter Fritsch deposition

February 17: Sussmann moves to dismiss the case, arguing his alleged lie would not be material

February 17: Durham claims that the close associates of the investigation that lied about what the conflicts motion said have nothing to do with the Durham team

February 18: Alfa Bank requests another extension to keep looking for John Does in FL

February 24: Rodney Joffe’s lawyers file notices of appearance in the Sussmann docket

February 25: Judge Christopher Cooper schedules a hearing on the conflicts motion for March 7

February 28: Joffe files a sealed motion to expunge the references to Tech Executive-1

March 1: Judge Cooper sets a Friday deadline for the government to respond to Joffe’s motion

March 7: Hearing scheduled to address conflicts memo

71 replies
  1. Rapier says:

    I guess Durham has fashioned himself as the leader of the fifth column. Lawfare from within the Justice Department. Why it’s almost like the constitution is a suicide pact.

    Who the hell does this guy talk to anyway?

  2. David says:

    So many of the people talking about John Durham know nothing about him. He is a prosecutor’s prosecutor. Fearless, relentless, and with a track record of holding the powerful accountable. He investigated and prosecuted the FBI in Boston who, in concert with mobsters, sent four innocent men to prison for a murder they didn’t commit. Durham got the convictions thrown out, although, sadly, one of the men had already died behind bars. Durham personally delivered apology letters to the surviving victims and to the family of the deceased. Those who think Durham is a partisan or is playing games in this investigation simply have no idea who he really is; it would be best to await further action, including his report, before smearing him. The John Durham I’ve followed speaks softly and carries a very big stick. He would not be pursuing this case for so long if he wasn’t finding serious evidence of *criminal* misconduct.

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have several community members named ” David” or “Dave.” Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Rayne says:

      Dude. We’ve been letting the current investigation and prosecution speak for itself. His past track record does nothing for his work on this case.

      Nice apologia, though, A for effort.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Reads like John Durham’s version of a John Barron press release, or something out of Durham’s PR firm. I wouldn’t give it an “A,” except as a veiled reference to some sadder-but-wiser lobbyist, hoping to win just one more “A”.

        • BobCon says:

          This is oddly polished language and I started checking it out. The depiction of Durham as a “prosecutor’s prosecutor” is one possible tell, having been used by Trump appointed former US Attorney Andrew Lelling in this interview with Breitbart.

          This doesn’t mean “David” is Lelling of course. They could just be two people working off of the same playbook cooked up by a reputation management firm.

          It’s definitely an odd choice to come in with such weird diction to try to cast doubt on a post about a judge questioning the suspicious language in a filing, though. But the payment models for reputation management companies often don’t encourage much more than this kind of content-free quick hit.

        • John Paul Jones says:

          “Oddly polished” puts it just about right. I got a weird feeling that I had read “David”s screed before, and wondered if it had been a previous comment, but I couldn’t find it; and I couldn’t find it on the internet either, even though, as I said, I got a weird feeling I had read those exact words before, and relatively recently. Very odd.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          The language of David’s comment echoes a 2019 article in the Hartford Courant, published when Durham resigned his Connecticut office. That piece, although informative, read like a draft obit repurposed for the occasion. David has upped the hagiographical content. Otherwise it could be very sophisticated theft, something I had to learn how to recognize over 25 years of teaching.

    • emptywheel says:


      First of all, do NOT come onto my site and talk about John Durham as if I didn’t cover his failure to find torture 12 years ago.

      And DO NOT come here and ignore how closely I’ve read the filings and the fucking embarrassing admissions he has had to make. You obviously HAVE NO FUCKING CLUE what you’re commenting about, while lecturing me, after I’ve written about 20 posts closely analyzing what he has done.

      • David2022 says:

        As someone who has practiced white collar criminal defense for over 30 years, I’d be happy to have an intelligent conversation with you about this subject. Let’s just spare each other the profanity and talk like grown ups. I’ve read your posts. My post was a reaction to them. If you want an honest discussion, I’d be happy to engage in one.

        • bmaz says:

          Hi there. I have practiced criminal defense, both blue and white collar, for well over three decades. There was nothing whatsoever wrong with Marcy’s post. What should be “spared” is your bullshit. If you want an “honest discussion” give one or STFU. Nobody here owes you squat.

        • Rugger9 says:

          Where and for whom? Are you in the Federalist Society?

          EW has done a masterful job of laying out the problems and issues with Durham’s claims and FWIW you don’t answer a single question she’s raised. I’d believe that you’re more than a drive-by troll if you actually cited specifics about your legalistic ordure here.

          Brush off the Cheeto dust and try again, Sparky.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          [Another comment has gone poof in the midst of editing.]

          To repeat, the “let’s just spare each other the profanity,” is a tell. It is controlling and patronizing, and oozes misogyny. A normal commentator would have gotten to the point. But despite the writer’s claim, its comment was not a critique of Marcy’s extensive work. It’s a content-free counter-characterization, not an opening to dialogue. As I said elsewhere, it suggests a lobbyist hoping to win just one more “A”.

        • Beth fron Santa Monica says:

          The phrase that caught my attention was, “I’d be happy to have an intelligent conversation with you[.]” Its hard to be more patronizing. No way “David” could keep up his end of any convo with Dr. Wheeler, let alone hold an intelligent one.

        • emptywheel says:

          Okay, Ignoring for a second that you waltzed in here and showed zero familiarity with how long I’ve been writing about this, and pretend that is not its own kind of profane rudeness.

          Answer honestly whether:

          1) You’ve read the post showing he wasn’t cutting and pasting with fidelity
          2) You read the post that laid out how he’s relying on an unverified Twitter account associated with suspected spy for the central claim in 4 charges
          3) You read the post where it laid out that he had flown to Italy chasing a conspiracy theory but not checked the record of the investigation to which his own investigation is derivative
          4) You read the post that laid out that Durham never interviewed a Clinton staffer before claiming Sussmann had coordinated with the campaign
          5) You’ve read anything more recent than Whitey

        • PieIsDamnGood says:

          Did you know you can just write things and put them on the internet?! Try it.

          Nothing wrong with a bit of profanity, it’s perfectly possible to have an honest discussion with a few fucks thrown in. But you’re just an obnoxious sealion and can be safely ignored.

        • Rayne says:

          Oh way to go, policing language — particularly women’s language — along with a completely unwarranted insult. Not helping your case whatsoever.

          “The first rule of holes is one quite familiar to lawyers and laypeople alike: when you’re in one, stop digging.” — Sheryl Ring

        • David2022 says:

          I did not even know that the author was a woman, but reality doesn’t appear terribly important here.

        • Rayne says:

          Which rather says a lot about you — you failed to look into the person whose work you were criticizing. Really not unlike Durham’s flaccid research into how DNS works.

        • timbo says:

          Oh noes! Profanity!? Guess you’re more the clean, wholesome torture ain’t torture type lawyer…

        • Rugger9 says:

          The rule for my classes was that you had to be a Trusty Shellback to use profanity. Not a censoring, just a privilege.

          I blame Pulp Fiction among other media content with encouraging the idea that profanity means you’re tough.

        • Xboxershorts says:

          Oh, come on now…there is absolutely no written rule that one needs to attain shellback status in order to use profanity. In fact, exceptional contributions to a sailor’s vocabulary are regularly acquired just by transiting a north Atlantic storm or riding out a hurricane.

          No formalities required, my good man!

          Also, as an aside, I for one am quite pleased with both, Dr Marcy’s exceptional vocabulary as well as her incredibly insightful analyses.

      • blueedredcounty says:

        I think we are all missing the conversation that must have happened prior to the hiring of “David.”

        “Hey, Bill, John Durham here. Yeah, I know it shows up on your caller ID. Hey, can you help me out here? Who have you hired to help with your current Silkwood deep-cleanse of your reputation? Yeah, the one you started before this book tour? Did you have them on retainer, or did you get them from your publisher as part of your advance?”

    • Hoping4Better_Times says:

      You have not read EW’s detailed critiques on Durham’s indictments (Sussmann and Danchenko) OR read the filings on the Sussman docket. Durham fxxked up royally. He failed to investigate thoroughly and had to ask for more time for discovery (really?). He has made false statements in his filings in the Sussmann case, which Sussmann’s lawyers have pointed out. They have asked the Judge to “strike” and have asked for a dismissal of the ONE count against Sussman. Durham is incompetent.

      • Leoghann says:

        Thank you for sparing us (particularly “David”) the anguish of having to read “fucked up.” It might have endangered our adulthood. /s

    • Bruce Fuentes says:

      John? John is that you?
      What a pathetic piece of hagiography, straw man arguments, and a general gish gallop. Seemingly you have read nothing on this site that has been written about Durham and his “investigation”. Nor will you, I am sure.

    • phred says:

      After slow walking the torture investigation until it died of unnatural causes, Durham showed the world exactly who and what he is.

      Run along now, no one here is interested in your reputation-laundering foolishness.

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      Not that my help is needed here, but I feel compelled to add the phrase ad hominem to the conversation, ad hominem being all that Bill’s post contains. Since nothing new is added to the conversation, it is not worthy of a serious reply, not even one addressing Durham’s character. (Unless perhaps he once helped a kitten across the road on a freezing night.) The comment could even be interpreted as an indirect expression of regret over what a once-decent man has become.

      As for the notion that one shouldn’t point out lies, laziness, and inconsistency in the public record of a highly politicized investigation, that’s idiotic,

      I will repeat, however, that it pleases me when EW’s incisive posts attract this kind of desperate attention.

      • David2022 says:

        It’s really fascinating to see the reaction to my posts by people who appear to observe these proceedings through an all-but-political lens, or at least a prejudgment as to the underlying events. I happened upon this website because it was the first one returned in Google news when I looked for commentary on the investigation, and I felt the need to speak up in defense of a prosecutor who has been one of the good ones—one who understands prosecutorial discretion and used it wisely, one who knows how to conduct an investigation and build a case from the bottom up, one who doesn’t permit leaks to the media, one whose word you can trust, and one who knows that not every bad act is capable of being prosecuted as a crime. Add to this a kind of fearlessness that you don’t often see in life generally, let alone in prosecutors. There’s a reason that he’s gained the trust of Presidents from both political parties, and the admiration of the defense bar and highly successful career prosecutors who know him.

        It is possible that John Durham isn’t the man he was. I didn’t follow closely his work on CIA torture investigation (which is far afield from my practice and expertise), but his ultimate decision not to bring charges in that case could have been based on a wide variety of things that have nothing to do with his integrity or investigative skills. The little I do know is that those kinds of cases are notoriously difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, particularly given the involvement of classified information.

        It is my experience, however, that character doesn’t really change over a lifetime. Integrity, in a way, is in the DNA. And I’ve seen little evidence in what’s been made public in this investigation (very little, thankfully) to suggest that Mr. Durham has changed from the man he was. I’m prepared, therefore, to give him the benefit of the doubt given what he’s thus far revealed in this case – which smells of unscrupulous practices by a political campaign and its agents to manufacture misleading evidence for the purpose of enlisting law enforcement to help swing an election. Whether it’s criminal, of course, will likely be decided based on things the public has yet to learn.

        For what it’s worth, one of the key developments in the case (for me, at least) has been the grand jury’s access to law firm billing records and the fight over the attorney-client privilege that such requests likely engendered. We don’t know what other law firm records Durham has been able to obtain, but when law firms start being required to cough up their billing records to a grand jury it’s unusual to say the least, and it also likely means they’ve lost before a judge on an assertion of the attorney-client privilege. And one thing we’ve learned from records revealed so far is that the lawyers weren’t terribly careful about how they described their activities and or in making sure the “right” client paid for them.

        • Rayne says:

          It’s really fascinating to see the reaction to my posts by people who appear to observe these proceedings through an all-but-political lens, or at least a prejudgment as to the underlying events.

          Sometimes problems are so obvious they are visible from space without any lens whatsoever; you’re trying to excuse the obvious by forcing a lens where one isn’t necessary.

          By the way, concision is appreciated in internet comment forums. Try removing filibustering filler in your comments.

        • David2022 says:

          So, I’ll be concise. How do you explain a post that seeks to soften the implications of Joffe’s decision to take the Fifth by making repeated references to the Trump family’s decisions to take the Fifth? Both decisions seem prudent, but they are likely entirely unrelated. Bringing Trump and his stooges into the picture doesn’t clarify a thing. It’s just red meat. Why?

        • WilliamOckham says:

          It’s not “red meat”. You haven’t been here long enough to understand the idioms and style of the site. I’ll ask you to explain something about Durham’s actions in this case. In one of his filings, Durham made the following claim:

          Indeed, more complete DNS data that the Special Counsel’s Office obtained from a company that assisted Tech Executive-1 in assembling these allegations reflects that such DNS lookups were far from rare in the United States. For example, the more complete data that Tech Executive-1 and his associates gathered – but did not provide to Agency-2 – reflected that between approximately 2014 and 2017, there were a total of more than 3 million lookups of Russian Phone-Provider-1 IP addresses that originated with U.S.-based IP addresses.

          Three million sounds like a lot. However, Durham knows that there are literally billions of DNS lookups every day. Durham and his team knowingly submitted highly misleading claims to the court. How do you square that with your understanding of Durham’s character?
          This has nothing to do with politics. This is a special prosecutor engaging in outright character assassination of someone who hasn’t been charged with a crime.

        • David2022 says:

          How does Durham engage in character assassination when neither he nor his office revealed the identity of the individuals involved in this activity?

        • boba says:

          bot, bot, bot…
          Rayne – that awful head tail c/p could be freshman polsci101 or my guess, bot. Besides who but a bot would try that response as a counter? Freshman compsci101?

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          David2022, John Durham did have a very good reputation here in Connecticut among the legal insiders I knew, something I have brought up here before. “Fearlessness” was not among the qualities they ascribed to him; focus would be more like it, along with integrity.

          Given that prior familiarity with his standing, I have found the slapdash aspects of the recent indictments shocking, including the careless writing that seems to betray a shoddy process–certainly not consistent with the prosecutor whose decisions, even when unpopular, we believed we had reason to respect.

          I don’t know him personally. It’s unclear whether you do. If you argued against him in court, I would value your insights. But I have learned on this site that picking schoolyard fights gets no one anywhere, and trust me that I have every impulse to snipe when irritated. We welcome any good faith efforts to contribute. This is a conversation, not a competition.

        • emptywheel says:

          I’ll note you didn’t answer my question about the multiple signs of irregularity and incompetence above. If you’ve not read those posts, then you’re giving Durham the benefit of the doubt w/o reading a fairly astonishing record.

          I even forgot to mention that Durham didn’t know what crime Carter Page was being investigated for. Did not know one of their key witnesses exhibited the mirror bias — pro-Trump tweets on his FBI device — that Durham invoked in sentencing against Kevin Clinesmith.

          Anyway, it’s possible Durham has changed. Another possible explanation is he has a corrupt AUSA running key parts of this. It’s also possible he believed Bill Barr and Fox News, neither of which are bound by reality.

          With regards to your focus on billing records, you might want to familiarize yourself with the history of what came before the Durham investigation.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          “I happened upon this website because it was the first one returned in Google news when I looked for commentary on the investigation,” David2022 wrote.

          This is great news! Google does indeed seem to be surfacing EmptyWheel much more than previously. EW came up fifth when I just looked up Katherine Friess’s Antrim County (MI) antics again. This did not happen when I first searched the story last year. I’m glad to see the world–as defined by Google, at least–recognizing the best content available.

    • noromo says:

      This, all of the above. I come for the posts but stay for the comments.

      Thanks Doc, bmaz, rayne, et al.

  3. Fraud Guy says:

    So if Alfa is sanctioned, how will their counsel handle a potential inability to keep paying their fees?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Law firms often delay or bail out when “Mr. Green” fails to show up for depositions or trial. If the money’s not paid before they render services, it can be hell to get it afterward, especially if the client loses.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Non-payment would be a valid ground, I suppose assuming that the firm was not already aware of the risk that the client would be unable to pay. That’s why BK lawyers usually get paid up front, and even the contingency lawyers charge fees that are risk-based (i.e. the 1/3 here covers a lot of losses there).

        That’s not the case with Alfa as I see it, because they’ve been in the doghouse for a very long time and sanctions have been under serious consideration for most of that time as well. So, if I were a judge (BTW IANAL, so this is an opinion) I would have a hard time accepting an attorney’s claim that they need to withdraw as counsel because they were ‘surprised’ that their client couldn’t pay the bills or something similar.

        Maybe David2022 or Makeitso or one of the other ‘lawyer’ trolls could provide some background for this topic drawing upon their extensive legal experience.

        • David2022 says:

          Even in sarcasm an intelligent question can appear. There is no real basis for thinking that Alfa’s lawyers are being compensated on a contingent fee basis. Their lawyers would never take a case like this except on an hourly basis. No need to speculate further on that point. If you know firms of this kind, you also know they insist on large retainer payments and often hold those retainers to use against the “final bill” in case.

        • Rugger9 says:

          So, paid up front with credits later. Given the known risks that would be a pretty large bill, I think.

          As for EW and bmaz, et al, they do not suffer fools who do not do their homework. So, if your experience is on the white-collar side, that might be very worthwhile here as long as the commentary deals in facts, with links.

          In the case of Durham’s prosecution, the mistakes and misrepresentations have been thoroughly documented, with links to the source docs by EW.

    • Fark Melt says:

      It may be more interesting than just that. Looks like Charlie Savage and Marcy are already picking this up on twitter: Wading through the Federal Register released today, it appears in § 587.506 “Provision of certain legal services” that the only authorised payments for legal fees are for certain situations related to official US interactions related to dealing with the Sanctions, and appeals thereof. And certain ongoing criminal cases. Skadden has a long history with and significant revenue from Alfa, so I assume they could play the “We trust them and will give them credit” card, but somewhere in the last couple of days I seem to recall that the sanctions also prohibit providing certain goods and *services* to sanctioned entities. It also seems a couple of larger law firms have already suspended projects for Russian entities (see Also of interest from Reuters was this:
      and then
      Note: “In its sanctions, the Council of the European Union described Aven as “one of Vladimir Putin’s closest oligarchs” and “one of approximately 50 wealthy Russian businessmen who regularly meet with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin.” )Someone on Twitter identified Petr Aven in the small group of Oligarchs, Ministers, and Generals who looked so uncomfortable on folding chairs 30m away from Putin last week when he discussed his reasons for going after Ukraine. The EU said that Fridman has been “referred to as a top Russian financier and enabler of Putin’s inner circle.”” The fact that Alfa has been pursuing all of the researchers etc as “witnesses” in a case against “John Does” out of Palm Beach County, Florida – where they have no presence other than having a very big fanboy at Mar-a-Lago has been impressive. But looking at the Palm Beach County Docket and the depositions, and in particular the letter from Dagon’s attorneys to the Judge highlighting exactly what kinds of questions are being asked… makes one wonder what they are actually trying to learn? And for whom? Sources and methods would seem to be more useful to the Russian Intelligence Apparatus, rather than Alfa Bank, whose original filing only seeks to identify the identities of the attackers/hackers. Makes you go “H’mmmm?”.

  4. Badger Robert says:

    How long before the DofJ seeks to end the use of litigation in furtherance of spy craft on behalf of a sanctioned nation and its various business entities? But maybe they won’t have to,. as commentators above have already suggested.
    It will be interesting to see if Ms. Wheeler thinks the invasion of Ukraine clarifies matters with respect to the Sp Prosecutor. Conspiracy theories work in both directions, perhaps.
    To me, the odds of the defense motions be granted in total just increased.

  5. WilliamOckham says:

    Who is providing John Durham with technical expertise in this investigation? Are they deliberately trying to tank his case? Or, does Durham think Kash Patel knows what he’s talking about?

    At the rate he’s going, by the time the trial starts Durham will be claiming that internet packets are carried by pixies.

    • jhinx says:

      Patel: Listen to me, I know how to Internet and DNS. What I tell you will guarantee victory in court.

      Durham: Ok, I’m listening!

      Patel: In fact, I can write it up for you.

      Durham:Even better!

      • ducktree says:

        Reminds me of the diatribe given by then-chair of the Senate Commerce Committee – Ted Stevens (R – Alaska).

        “The internet is not a truck – it’s like a series of tubes . . .”


    • emptywheel says:

      Best as I understand it, he has had real tech experts. So I attribute the incompetent filings to the AUSAs. Which would be consistent with the bad lawyering.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        A certain type of manager is only willing to hire people less talented than they are, who are easier to manipulate. Can lead to a nasty downward spiral.

        • Scott Johnson says:

          See, for instance: the Russian Army.

          Good chance that anyone who Putin thought might be a threat has been cashiered, and the current general staff are there for their loyalty and not for their military knowledge. Which could partially explain why Logistics 101 are being neglected.

      • Rugger9 says:

        That assumes Sussman’s case and the rest of the snipe hunt was done in good faith for prosecution. IMHO it’s only for publicity to feed the RWNM and I think you agree as well. You’re just nicer about saying it.

        Any DTs from Vernor’s withdrawal yet?

    • Rayne says:

      Wait, they aren’t carried by pixies?? Can’t believe I bought a damned pixie trap for nothing.

  6. klynn says:

    Thanks for the post EW. Well done.

    I hope Attorney Nora Dannehy reads the early comments on this post. SMH.

  7. Agnieszka says:

    Initially, I thought this case was just highly amusing nonsense, but the more we see, the bleaker the picture gets.

    The judge mentioned the FBI “examining this.” A Matryoshka of investigations.

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