In both his opening and closing statements, John Durham prosecutor Michael Keilty described the materiality of the alleged lies Igor Danchenko told the FBI about Sergei Millian by pointing to the role the Steele report on Millian played in getting FISA warrants targeting Carter Page.
The evidence in this trial will show that the Steele dossier would cause the FBI to engage in troubling conduct that would ultimately result in the extended surveillance of the United States citizens. And the defendant’s lies played a role in that surveillance.
So let’s now talk about why the defendant’s lies matter. The defendant’s lies about Sergei Millian mattered because the information he allegedly received from Millian ended up in a FISA warrant against a U.S. citizen, one of the most intrusive tools the FBI has at its disposal. The FBI gets to listen to your calls and read your emails. It’s a really significant thing.
You heard Brian Auten testify that that Millian information — alleged Millian information was contained in every single FISA application on four different occasions. The FBI surveilled a U.S. citizen for nearly a year based on those lies.
Even accepting the problems of the FISA warrants, the claim never made any sense.
According to the trial record, Danchenko’s information didn’t end up in FISA applications. Language Christopher Steele wrote based on Danchenko’s information did. Danchenko claimed that Steele had exaggerated it, and even after interviewing Steele twice, the FBI believed Danchenko.
Keilty was accusing Danchenko of doing something that — no one has contested — that Steele did, not Danchenko.
Plus, two of the alleged lies took place after the FBI had ceased surveilling Page, in October and November 2017. Even if Danchenko did lie, it would defy the laws of physics to blame those alleged lies for surveillance that ended in September.
Crazier still, one reason why DOJ retroactively withdrew the probable cause claims for the last two FISA orders on Page, obtained in April and June 2017, is because FBI didn’t integrate the warnings Danchenko gave them about the report in the applications. Danchenko is the last person you should blame for the FISA surveillance of Page. He claims he didn’t even know the reports were being shared with the FBI!
The obvious problems with this claim have not stopped stupid propagandists like Margot Cleveland from repeating the nonsensical claim.
It all the weirder, though, when you consider that John Durham was himself responsible for obtaining senseless search warrants against two American citizens.
First, there are the warrants Durham served to obtain Chuck Dolan’s communication, as Stuart Sears had Dolan explain on cross examination.
Q You’re aware, Mr. Dolan, aren’t you, that the government was investigating you at some point?
Q You’re aware that they issued search warrants and subpoenas for your email communications?
Q You’re aware that they issued subpoenas for your phone records?
Q Your work email records?
Q Your Facebook records?
As Sears had Dolan explain, those warrants yielded nothing to refute his claim never to have “talked” to Danchenko about anything that appeared in the dossier.
Q And I think you have already testified to this, but even knowing everything that the government has done to look into you, it’s still your testimony today that you’ve never talked to Mr. Danchenko about anything that ended up in the dossier, correct?
Last Friday, in dismissing the single count pertaining to Dolan, Judge Trenga ruled that any evidence these warrants targeting Dolan yielded did not prove a crime.
And Durham also obtained warrants targeting Sergei Millian — one of his purported victims! — who at least in 2016 had dual citizenship. Durham had his case agent, Ryan James, describe all the surveillance Durham did of Millian.
Q With respect to those documents, tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury whether you personally have been involved in sorting through those records.
A Yes, I have.
Q Travel records, the travel records relating to Sergei Millian was brought to the jury’s attention. Who obtained those records?
A Our team did.
Q The jury has heard testimony relating to a number of telephone numbers involved with a fellow by the name of Sergei Millian. Would you tell the jury, sir, whether or not you have any knowledge about records and information being retrieved concerning Sergei Millian.
A Our team requested legal process on some of his numbers that we’ve identified that belong to him.
Q When you say legal process, just so the jurors have an understanding of that, what kind of legal process would typically be involved in getting those records?
A In this particular case, subpoenas.
Q All right. And in addition to subpoenas, do you know if Facebook records and the like were retrieved using the leal process?
Q And what kind of legal process was used to obtain those records?
A Those would be via search warrants.
Even more than the Facebook warrant, Durham’s collection of Millian’s travel records — all the way through current day! — are probably more intrusive on Millian’s privacy.
Q Now, let me start, if I might then. With regard to the records in this matter, you’ve told the jurors that among those records that you obtained were travel records for Sergei Millian, correct?
Q And with respect to Millian’s travel records, how would you describe them? Were they plentiful or there was one or two? What’s your best recollection as to Millian’s travel records?
A I would say he frequently comes in and out of this country.
Q Based on your review of all the travel records, has he been in the country anytime recently?
It’s too early to say whether any of these records included evidence of a crime. After all, DOJ’s KleptoCapture complaint against Elena Branson shows that one of Millian’s colleagues at the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce viewed the requirement to register under FARA as a “problem” way back in 2013.
But according to an EDVA jury, any evidence the warrants and subpoenas targeting Millian obtained did not prove Danchenko committed a crime.
Durham unpacked the digital lives of two American citizens, plus Danchenko, partly through search warrants that he attacked Mueller’s investigators for not obtaining.
And unless the evidence obtained ends up being used to show that Millian was an illegal foreign agent of Russia, that evidence did not provide that anyone committed a crime.
The right wing is defending John Durham today because he avenged an American who was unfairly targeted by a warrant. And along the way, they seem to have missed that Durham himself obtained a bunch of apparently pointless search warrants targeting American citizens, including Trump fan Sergei Millian.