Wall Street Journal: Bigger Dupes of John Durham or Alexsej Gubarev?

The Wall Street Journal claims they’ve cracked the Steele dossier!

In a 4,300-word romantic comedy, they claim that, “many of the dossier’s key details originated with a few people gossiping after they had been brought together over a minor corporate publicity contract.” There are several incorrect aspects of this fairy tale.

First, WSJ claims that, “the [Igor Danchenko] indictment pointed to Mr. Dolan as an important source for the dossier.” Even assuming the allegations in the indictment were accurate (some are not), that’s not what the indictment claims. It alleges that Dolan was the source for the perhaps most verifiably true claim in the dossier (which is not surprising given that Dolan told the FBI he simply repeated a news story). It suggests, as part of uncharged materiality claims, that Dolan may have played a part in but does not charge that he was the direct source for three other reports. That doesn’t make him “an important source” (though I’m sure Durham is happy he duped some reporters into making that claim).

Here’s how WSJ credulously takes the most spectacular of those materiality claims and repeats it, all without explaining that in the FBI interviews they otherwise cite repeatedly, Danchenko attributed the kompromat claim to Sergey Abyshev, who confirmed that he and Ivan Vorontsov met with Danchenko on that trip to Moscow.

One of Mr. Danchenko’s chats with Mr. Dolan appeared to figure in the dossier’s most inflammatory entry.

Mr. Dolan was helping to organize a fall 2016 conference in Moscow to drum up foreign investment. While in Moscow in June to lay the groundwork, he stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, a few hundred yards from the Kremlin. He met with the hotel’s general manager and got a tour of the hotel, including the presidential suite, according to the indictment of Mr. Danchenko. It says he also met with Mr. Danchenko, who was in town.

Less than a week later, Mr. Steele’s first dossier chapter alleged that a “Source D,” described as a close associate of Mr. Trump, had said Mr. Trump once hired prostitutes to urinate on the bed when he stayed in the Ritz-Carlton’s presidential suite, because former President Barack Obama, whom the dossier said Mr. Trump detested, had stayed there.

The dossier said the Kremlin had video and was holding it as kompromat, or compromising material. It said the episode had been confirmed by a senior member of the hotel staff and a female hotel staffer.

Prosecutors noted that the dossier reflected some details Mr. Dolan had learned on the hotel tour, such as that Mr. Trump had stayed at the hotel’s presidential suite.

Telling Danchenko that Trump had stayed at the Ritz — if that is where Danchenko learned that detail — is not serving as the key source here. Maybe Danchenko did make more of what Dolan told him, maybe Danchenko or Steele turned Dolan into Source D, but Durham has neither alleged nor charged it.

I’m sure he loves when reporters insinuate that he did, though.

Meanwhile, by claiming they’ve cracked the dossier with its “minor corporate publicity contract” story, WSJ misrepresents the relationship between Danchenko and someone who is an important source of the dossier, Olga Galkina. She played a part in more claims in the dossier than Dolan and those claims were far more important. Those include the most important one used in the Carter Page FISA application, the discredited Michael Cohen in Prague stories, as well as one of the claims that Durham suggests Dolan was involved with. WSJ suggests Danchenko only started obtaining information from her in the context of her relationship with Dolan.

What brought Mr. Danchenko, Mr. Dolan and Ms. Galkina together was a marketing campaign—funded by the Dolan PR client whose company was cited in the dossier.

He was Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian internet entrepreneur living in Cyprus, who decided in early 2016 to launch a U.S. marketing campaign to burnish the image of his cloud server company.

That’s affirmatively misleading, because Danchenko was using Galkina as a source before he ever formally met Dolan. In Danchenko’s interview, for example, he describes using Galkina as a source for other projects. “[Danchenko] has been able to collect information for Orbis across a wide range of topics — major Russian firms; Russian state entities, including the Kremlin.” Importantly, Galkina knew that Danchenko worked in business intelligence and even tried to task him in the period after the dossier became public.

Having therefore misrepresented the relationship between Danchenko and Galkina, WSJ repeats a second time that many of the claims in the dossier came from “this route,” meaning the PR relationship.

Mr. Danchenko told the FBI of other people he also spoke to in gathering information for Mr. Steele. Many of his details, however, came through this route, the Journal’s review shows.

The spreadsheet the FBI used to vet the dossier identified well over a hundred discrete claims in the dossier. Durham alleges that Chuck Dolan was the source for one claim and involved with part of the sourcing for three others. That’s not “many” out of a hundred. So once you correct for WSJ’s false claims about the Galkina relationship, that claim too falls apart.

Crazier still, WSJ makes no mention of the reason the newly formed relationship between Galkina and Dolan was important — and important to at least one of the central false claims in the dossier. As the indictment describes, that relationship allowed Galkina to use Dolan’s access to the Kremlin for her own benefit.

b. Additionally, on or about July 13, 2016, [Galkina] sent a message to a Russia-based associate and stated that [Dolan] had written a letter to Russian Press Secretary-1 in support of [Galkina]’s candidacy for a position in the Russian Presidential Administration.

Dolan used his ties to Dmitry Peskov to help Galkina. That’s the import of the relationship! But if you acknowledge that, then a key premise of the story, most notably its claim that, “much of the dossier’s information came from [] anything but Kremlin insiders,” falls apart because it presents the possibility that the Cohen in Prague story came from Peskov.

Dmitry Peskov is the quintessential Kremlin insider. He also knew firsthand that Donald Trump was lying on the campaign trail to hide a secret conversation Michael Cohen had had with Peskov’s own office in January 2016. Dolan helped Galkina get closer to Peskov. And after that happened, when Danchenko asked Galkina for information on a number of Trump flunkies, Cohen’s name is the one that Galkina “almost immediately” recognized. If Peskov was involved in all that, then it explains a great deal about the most damning claim in the dossier.

Peskov’s name doesn’t appear in the WSJ story.

Another name that doesn’t appear in the WSJ is Oleg Deripaska’s, even while WSJ puzzles over whether the dossier was intentionally filled with disinformation.

One remaining riddle is whether the dossier’s misinformation was purely careless or might have included disinformation sown by the Kremlin itself.

WSJ cites the DOJ IG Report on Carter Page repeatedly, so they know all the references to Deripaska in it (though perhaps not the declassified footnotes reporting that Deripaska, whose associate Konstantin Kilimnik played a key role in the election interference operation, may have learned of the dossier project by early July). But they’re silent on Danchenko’s earlier tasking to collect on Paul Manafort for Deripaska, which is at least as central to understanding the dossier as the ties between Dolan and Galkina.

Mr. Danchenko’s work for Mr. Steele, which had mostly involved business intelligence, also took a turn toward politics. Mr. Steele, a former agent in Russia for the British intelligence agency MI-6, asked Mr. Danchenko to work on a new assignment Mr. Steele had accepted: to look for compromising material on Mr. Trump in Russia.

It’s like WSJ made a conscious decision not to name any of the sanctioned Russians who played a role in the dossier.

Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, that the WSJ journalists who claim to have cracked the dossier make several false claims about the Mueller investigation.

But Mr. Mueller reported no evidence that the campaign conspired with Russia’s military intelligence apparatus as it hacked into the email of the Democratic National Committee. The dossier took real events, such as the visit of a Trump adviser to Moscow, and expounded on them by describing meetings with high-level Kremlin officials for which no corroborating evidence surfaced.

It’s actually false that there was no corroboration for the Igor Sechin claim. The son of the guy who hosted Carter Page in Moscow described hearing the rumor too (and also described that they couldn’t account for all of Page’s time in Moscow).

Crazier still, it takes a special kind of incompetence to assert, as fact, that, “Mueller reported no evidence that the campaign conspired” with GRU, basing that claim on a report on Bill Barr’s letter to Congress that a judge subsequently ruled lacked candor. Mueller found evidence that the campaign conspired with Russia, just not enough to charge. He also got verdicts or rulings that Michael Cohen lied about his secret communications with Peskov (in which Cohen said he’d be happy to chase a real estate deal relying on a former GRU officer as broker), the Coffee Boy lied about getting advance notice of Russia’s plans, Manafort lied about passing polling data and campaign strategy to Kilimnik, and Mike Flynn lied about his attempt to undermine sanctions on Russia. The Mueller Report also revealed that “a Section 1030 conspiracy charge against Stone,” and the GRU was, “the subject of ongoing investigations that have been referred by this Office to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office” (though Barr buried this detail in the 2020 election); a referral for further investigation of a hacking conspiracy is the opposite of finding no evidence of a conspiracy. And a jury found that Stone had lied to cover up what his real ties to the Russian operation were.

I mean, seriously, it’s 2022. No legitimate journalist has an excuse for sounding like a Seth Rich truther, as WSJ’s two journalists do.

So the WSJ doesn’t mention Peskov and doesn’t mention Deripaska. It does, however, mention Aleksej Gubarev, who seems to have enthusiastically participated in a misleading story claiming that his contractor, Dolan, and his employee, Galkina, were singularly responsible for the dossier.

Mr. Gubarev’s company flew Mr. Dolan and two KGlobal colleagues to Cyprus in July 2016 and put them up at the Four Seasons hotel so they could deliver a sales pitch, Mr. Gubarev said. With Mr. Trump clinching the Republican nomination in the U.S., the talk in Cyprus wandered into politics.

[snip]

Mr. Gubarev said he learned about the report when a friend sent him a link to the BuzzFeed article. Mr. Gubarev said that at first he didn’t take it seriously, writing an email to Mr. Dolan with a smiling emoticon in the subject line and saying “need to found out who is make this stupid report.”

Mr. Dolan told him he thought the report might get traction in public. “It will have some legs with the sex allegations,” he wrote

Mr. Gubarev had declined to renew the publicity campaign for which he hired Mr. Dolan, saying he expected more for the $75,000 his company spent. But after the dossier’s publication, Mr. Gubarev hired Mr. Dolan again, this time to fight off the bad press, as Western banks were moving to cut his credit lines.

Mr. Gubarev said Mr. Dolan told him that Mr. Danchenko likely had compiled the dossier for Mr. Steele.

Mr. Gubarev sued BuzzFeed and Mr. Steele, lodging defamation claims in Florida and at the High Court in London.

[snip]

Mr. Gubarev said he was shocked that the indictment pointed to Mr. Dolan as an important source for the dossier. He said Mr. Dolan did a good job helping him fight to clear his name. “He is a nice guy, he did his best,” Mr. Gubarev said. “Washington is a strange place that I don’t understand.”

WSJ repeats all these Gubarev claims without noting that his lawfare was just one part of an extended campaign of lawfare, one that involves people like Petr Aven and Yevgeniy Prigozhin with known direct ties to and taskings from Putin.

In a story that openly wonders about instruments of disinformation, you’d think they’d be a bit more curious about why Gubarev would participate so enthusiastically. But then, a story that claims to explain, “how the Steele dossier was created,” by ignoring Deripaska’s pre-existing relationship with Steele and four of the most important sources for it is itself a vehicle of disinformation.

Update: In related news, Durham wants another month extension on classified discovery; the people they need help from are too busy indicting Russian foreign agents, including one who discussed that FARA was a “problem” with an employe of one of Durham’s star witness, Sergei Millian. Danchenko objects to the delay.

However, recent world events continue to contribute to delays in the processing and production of classified discovery. In particular, some of the officials preparing and reviewing the documents at the FBI and intelligence agencies continue to be heavily engaged in matters related to overseas activities. Nevertheless, the Government is continuing to press the relevant authorities to produce documents in classified discovery as quickly as possible and on a rolling basis, and no later than the proposed deadline set forth below.

Durham claims there are only 5,000 still-classified pages in discovery.

To date, the Government has produced to the defense over 5,000 documents in classified discovery and nearly 61,000 documents in unclassified discovery. The Government believes that the 5,000 classified documents produced to date represent the bulk of the classified discovery in this matter.

For the reasons laid out in this post, I find that spectacularly unbelievable.

The original deadline was March 29. They want the deadline extended to June 13, which would be a 76-day extension.

Three Years into the Durham Investigation, a Jury Will Get to Hear about Trump’s Request that Russia Hack Hillary

There was a funny exchange in yesterday’s pre-trial hearing in the Michael Sussmann case. In the part of the hearing focused on objections to exhibits, Andrew DeFilippis raised the newspaper articles that — I noted — were necessary background to understand the mindset that led Sussmann and Rodney Joffe to believe that the Alfa Bank DNS anomaly raised national security concerns.

These articles explain why it was reasonable, not just for the Democrats’ cybersecurity lawyer who was spending most of his days trying to fight back against a persistent Russian hack, but also for the researchers and Rodney Joffe to try to first look for more Russian hacking (including that victimizing Republicans), and when they found an anomaly, to try to chase it down and even to bring it to the FBI for further investigation. Several threads of these articles — pertaining to Trump’s request that Russia hack Hillary and to Manafort’s corruption — were explicitly invoked in discussions that Durham wants to claim must arise from political malice.

In the hearing, DeFilippis predictably complained that prosecutors didn’t want this to become a trial on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

MR. DeFILIPPIS: The last category we had identified were a number of news articles about — again, on the face of — the headlines of the articles about — “Donald Trump’s ties to Russia,” I think, was the primary theme of the news articles.

We just — number one, they’re news articles, which we don’t think have, you know, probative weight here. Number two, we do not want to make this a trial on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

And again, we don’t have a lot of context for which it would be — why the defense would want to offer all of those. But I think our initial reaction is they would be a distraction.

Sussmann’s attorney Sean Berkowitz noted that prosecutors — who have made several newspaper articles the central point of their case — aren’t so much opposed to newspaper articles as evidence as they’re opposed to articles about Trump and Russia.

MR. BERKOWITZ: So as we understand the objection, your Honor, it’s not to articles generally. They have articles on their exhibit list. It’s to articles that talk about the issues with Trump and Russia in the summer of 2016.

Judge Christopher Cooper correctly noted that it would be unfair to send a bunch of articles back with the jury to read.

THE COURT: I think it’s broader than that. It’s sending back multiple newspaper articles to the jury with all sorts of stuff in them, and the jury is spending its time reading newspaper articles.

Berkowitz noted that they’re really trying to get to the mindset of Sussmann and Joffe, particularly their response to Trump’s request that Russia hack Hillary some more.

MR. BERKOWITZ:  The articles that we think are relevant, your Honor, relate to what’s going on in the world in July and August of 2016, which provide context and animate what’s going on for Mr. Sussmann and Mr. Joffe and why there are potential national security issues associated with this.

As you’ll remember, you know, on July 27th, at a press conference — again, this is shortly before the researchers start looking into issues, according to the Government — Trump has a press conference that says: Russia, if you’re listening, I hope that you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you’ll probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

That fact being out there and well known provides context for the work that’s done and the motivation potentially to go to the FBI as to why it would be relevant that there were connections between — potential connections between Trump and Russia.

[snip]

But the fact that this was what was going on in the world at this time we think is very relevant to the state of mind and the rationale behind this as well as the opposition research that was going on.

Cooper cut off Berkowitz before he could explain how this related to the DNC hack. But he suggested that such information could instead come in via questioning of Robby Mook, Marc Elias, and James Baker.

THE COURT: — Mr. Elias, Mr. Mook, Mr. Baker perhaps can all certainly testify to that. Right?

MR. BERKOWITZ: I think that they certainly could, your Honor.

As I’ve noted, that the main redacted part of Elias’ declaration explaining why they hired Fusion for Russian-related research was introduced via a reference to Trump asking Russia to hack Hillary.

Because both sides have separate scope of testimony they’d like to elicit from Elias, he’ll be asked both sets when prosecutors call him.

I’m sure Elias has quite a lot he’d like to say about serving as General Counsel for a candidate whose opponent was soliciting help — and appears to have gotten it — from a hostile foreign country.

Friday is the three year anniversary of the Durham investigation. Tuesday, the likely day both sides will make opening arguments, marks the five year anniversary of the Mueller investigation.

And on that day, a jury will finally hear an argument about how reasonable it was to believe Donald Trump posed a threat to the United States after he asked Russia to help hack his opponent.

The Witness List for the Michael Sussmann Trial

According to the transcript for the pre-trial hearing yesterday, here is the status of the witness lists. The most interesting one, to me, is Michael Horowitz, who presumably will testify that Rodney Joffe shared a worthwhile tip on the same terms that Sussmann attempted to do with James Baker.

Prosecution:

  • Trisha Anderson: Yes, for 30 minutes
  • Apple custodian: stipulation
  • Manos Antonakakis: “Possibly yes” for less than an hour of testimony
  • James Baker: Yes, for several hours
  • Special Agent Batty: Unclear
  • Mr. Chadason: Under a half hour
  • David Dagon: Likely no (possibly on rebuttal)
  • Mr. DeJong (who pulled data for Joffe): Probably yes, for half hour
  • Marc Elias: Possibly yes, for 45 minutes
  • Robby Mook: Yes, for 30 to 45 minutes
  • Special Agent Gaynor (on the course of the investigation): Yes, 30 to 45 minutes
  • Mr.Grasso (Special Agent whom Joffe provided a piece of the Alfa Bank allegations to): Yes, a half hour
  • Special Agent Heide (one of the case agents on the investigation): Yes, a couple of hours
  • Special Agent Hellman (who first analyzed the allegations): About half an hour
  • Agent Martin (expert): Under half an hour
  • Steven M: Unlikely to call in case in chief
  • Mr. Novick (CEO of one of Joffe’s companies): 45 minutes to an hour
  • Kevin P (CIA meeting): 30 minutes
  • Bill Prestap: 30 minutes
  • Ms. Sands (one of case agents): a couple of hours
  • Special Agent Schaaf: Unlikely on case in chief
  • Laura Seago: Perhaps an hour
  • Mr. McMahon (former DNC employe, had lunch immediately before Sussmann’s meeting with Baker): under 15 minutes
  • Perkins Coie billing department
  • Debbie Fine (Clinton lawyer who participated in daily Fusion GPS meetings): An hour or less
  • Not looking to put one of their own agents on the stand

Defense (may change in light of Prosecution decisions):

  • Steven M: May call
  • Marc Elias
  • Ben Gessford (LYNC messages involving Clinton hacks): 30 minutes
  • Marc Giardina (who wanted to open investigation in response to Slate article)
  • Tasha Gauhar: Under 30 minutes
  • Not Shawn Henry
  • Michael Horowitz: Referrals to law enforcement
  • Eric Lichtblau: An hour or so (concern about limits of privilege)
  • Mary McCord
  • Jonathan Moffa (as to Sussmann’s credibility)
  • Scott Schools (possible stip): 15 minutes
  • Character witnesses

Update: I had accidentally left Priestap out.

Update: I also accidentally left out McCord and Moffa.

Fun with Bates Stamps, Part One: John Durham Confuses His Two Defendants to Rile Up the Frothers

Before I look at what newly disclosed notes from March 6, 2017 (written by Tashina GausharMary McCord, and Scott Schools) reveal about the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, including that Carter Page’s FISA was “fruitful,” which will pose Durham some difficulties in the Igor Danchenko investigation, I want to do two posts having some fun with Bates stamps.

Bates stamps are the way that lawyers track the documents they shuffle around in discovery. Every page of a document should be stamped sequentially to show the document’s chain of custody; the numbers also make referring to such documents in court filings easier. Just as one not-at-all random example of how it is supposed to work, this January 31, 2017 document John Durham obtained from the CIA shows three Bates stamps.

We can’t really be entirely sure what chain of custody this shows. Perhaps CIA stamped the outgoing files with  “CIA-0000019” and DOJ stamped the incoming CIA file, “DOJ_REQ_0242039.” We know, however, that Durham’s stamp is “SC-00081634.” Because Bates stamps are sequential, they help us to understand the order in which certain documents are handled.

One thing Bates stamps show us is that John Durham got approval to use a bunch of mostly-irrelevant Fusion GPS exhibits and did not get approval for the ones he actually wants to use at Michael Sussmann’s trial.

Because his team is made up of professionals, along with his objections to Durham’s exhibits, Michael Sussmann included a list that tied the exhibit numbers Durham assigned to the Bates stamps of the documents in question. That allows us to compare what exhibits Durham used to get Judge Christopher Cooper to buy off on submitting Fusion GPS documents with the jury with the Bates numbers of the Fusion GPS documents he really wants to introduce (thanks to William Ockham for doing a lot of this work).

A comparison of what Durham accidentally-on-purpose published to the docket with what Durham actually wants to introduce at trial shows that, of 62 pages of exhibits, he has identified just the following as exhibits at trial:

  • SC-00082558[-559]: July 31, 2015 email between Jake Berkowitz, Tom Hamburger, and Glenn Simpson re: Carter Page and Walid Phares
  • SC-00100359[-361]: September 24 through 27, 2016 email thread including Eric Lichtblau, Glenn Simpson, and Peter Fritsch on open source claim regarding Sergei Millian having a tie to Alfa Bank
  • SC-00027527[-541]: October 5, 2016 email from Fritsch to Isikoff sharing Alfa Group overview
  • SC-00027501: October 5, 2016 email from Fritsch to Lichtblau sharing link sent by Mark Hosenball claiming, “found this published on the web”
  • SC-00027483: October 5, 2016 email from Fritsch to Lichtblau claiming he had “no idea” where the link had come from
  • SC-00027475[-76]: October 5, 2016 exchange between Hosenball and Fritsch about how to respond to Trump statement on Tea Leaves’ allegations
  • SC-00027309: October 18, 2016 Fritsch email suggesting that Hosenball “call David Dagon at Georgia Tech”
  • SC-00027283: October 31, 2016 exchange between Isikoff and Fritsch about “big story on trump Alfa server moving early pm”
  • SC-00027233: November 3, 2016 blank response from Fritsch to Lichtblau regarding request about Sergei Millian

Just the last one, which I’ve bolded, has an assigned exhibit number in Durham’s list, suggesting either that he wants to use the documents with witnesses but not let the jury review the documents or that he’s not all that serious about using the documents as exhibits.

The list enables a tremendous amount of fuckery and more possible depending on how dishonest Durham wants to be.

For example, Durham has not obviously included the email where Mark Hosenball sent the link to the mediafire package to Fusion GPS, even though all the emails strongly support that’s what happened. Thus, as laid out, Durham seems intent to mislead the jury into believing that Fusion got that link via Tea Leaves or Michael Sussmann directly and not, as they’ve explained, via a journalist.

As noted, there are places where the list Sussmann used included only the first page of a series. Given the way Durham is treating serial October 5, 2016 emails (most notably those involving Eric Lichtblau), it’s possible he does not intend to include follow-on pages in his exhibits. In several cases, that would leave out important context.

For example, in the October 5, 2016 thread between Fritsch and Hosenball, including just the first page of that exhibit would leave out where Fritsch said,

the DNS stuff? not us at all.

outside computer experts

we did up an alfa memo unrelated to all this

It would also leave out where Fritsch pointed Hosenball to the public tutanota email included at the link that Hosenball himself sent to Fritsch, another piece of evidence showing that this was not an internal operation.

That is, as described, Durham may plan to falsely suggest these efforts were more closely tied than the evidence shows (it might exclude, for example, a key piece of evidence that Judge Cooper pointed to that showed this wasn’t a grand conspiracy).

Similarly, if just the first page of these exhibits were to come in, it would mean the jury got to see that Fusion sent out their Alfa Bank report, but not read the Alfa Bank report itself. Certainly, Durham could credibly argue that including the report would be prejudicial and as such might distract the jury. But excluding the report would also deprive the jury of the only material shared with the FBI that non-experts would have the ability of assessing themselves, both for the quality of the research and the validity of concerns of alleged ties between Trump and Alfa Bank.

For example, the report describes Richard Burt’s publicly acknowledged role in Trump’s first speech (though not a later role discovered as part of the Mueller investigation).

Burt has acknowledged that he played a significant role in writing Trump’s first major foreign policy speech. “I was asked to provide a draft for that speech. And parts of that of my draft —- survived into the final,” he told NPR.”‘

In the April 27 “America First” speech, Trump laid out an isolationist foreign policy. He criticized NATO and promised he would pursue better relations with Russia– skipping over its invasions of its neighbors and human rights abuses?’

It describes several allegations of Alfa Bank’s involvement in spying on adversaries.

Diligence also investigated a reporter from The Vail Street ournal who had contacted the CPI regarding the Alfa libel case. Private investigators for Diligence conducted a trash-stealing operation against the personal residence of the journalist. The operation was eventually exposed by an insider at Diligence. The affair caused high-level consternation in Washington due to a bizarre snafu: Unknown to the Diligence investigators, the reporter had vacated his home and rented it to a top White House official. That led to a confidential national security investigation of possible espionage by Alfa.

It even notes Petr Aven’s close ties to Putin, ties that Putin would exploit within months of the report in an attempt to form a back channel with the Trump Administration (though I suspect Putin did this in part to fulfill these suspicions).

As the face of Alfa Bank, Peter Aven remains the group’s key interface with the Kremlin. It appears his importance has only grown. Alfa Group, and specifically Alfa Bank, have a longstanding presence in the US and the UK.

[snip]

It is clear that Aven remains the key political figure in Alfa Group, with multiple current links to the government and security services, as outlined above. He has also driven the development of international links through the expansion of Alfa Bank in the US and Europe. The bank has carried out careful outreach, running an international Alfa Fellows program and maintaining a high profile. Although not itself a target, the bank has suffered from sanctions however, and has a particular interest in lifting sanctions’.

There’s a lot of crap that came from Fusion GPS, but their straight Russian research held up pretty well, and this is an example why it was reasonable for Perkins Coie to hire Fusion. So while Durham might successfully argue that this would be prejudicial, it is also one of the best ways for the jury to assess the credibility of Perkins Coie’s basis for relying on Fusion. It’s also necessary to explain why Michael Sussmann and Rodney Joffe might believe sharing this material with the FBI pertained to national security, not political malice.

Perhaps the most alarming detail in what Durham included in his exhibit list is that last one, the only one that includes an actual exhibit number.

Durham has made much of the fact that Lichtblau sent an email to Peter Fritsch asking if he had told him (at an in-person meeting) that Sergei Millian had an Alfa email address. As included here as an exhibit, Durham would present this without context, insinuating that Fritsch learned of this via Joffe or someone.

But the actual email thread — exchanged in September, when Lichtblau was in the thick of trying to publish this story — makes it clear that Fusion formed this inference based off entirely public ip information, research entirely unrelated to the DNS allegations.

So as laid out here, Durham has allowed for a good deal of at least possible fuckery.

But then there’s the question of what emails he did present to Judge Cooper claiming he wanted to use as exhibits.

The vast majority of these emails are entirely unrelated to the case against Sussmann. Many of the emails, though, might be related to Igor Danchenko’s case. They pertain to publicly sourced concerns about Sergei Millian, concerns shared far outside of Fusion, as well as to open source research on Carter Page. They do seem to reflect knowledge of a single Christopher Steele report, but at a time before Rodney Joffe first met anyone at Fusion GPS.

Meanwhile, in addition to the emails over which the Democrats or Rodney Joffe have claimed privilege, there are around another 35 that aren’t privileged but which Durham didn’t include in his exhibit of the emails that, he claimed, he wanted to rely on at trial.

In other words, those emails were utterly useless as an exhibit to allow Judge Cooper a good way to assess the exhibits that Durham actually wants to use at trial. They were, however, really useful at riling up the frothers.

The fact that Durham included many emails he doesn’t want to use as exhibits, but didn’t include many emails (including unprivileged ones) that he wants to use as exhibits, including all but one of the ones to which he has assigned an exhibit number, makes it all the more curious that Durham “accidentally” posted these emails publicly to the docket and the unpublished them.

In any case, it’s still possible this fuckery will blow up at trial (assuming that Durham doesn’t find some reason to make an interlocutory appeal, which I think is likely). As Judge Cooper noted in his order regarding motions in limine, “The Court will reserve judgment as to the admissibility of any additional email it has not yet seen.”

March 6, 2017: Sussmann Claims Durham Brady Violation over Meeting Notes Flynn Falsely Claimed Were a Brady Violation

In this post, I noted that the notes from a March 6, 2017 meeting that Sussmann wants to introduce at trial might be a way to prove his claimed lie was not material.

But it gets far worse. In a filing explaining the basis for submitting the notes from that meetingwritten by Tashina Gaushar, Mary McCord, and Scott Schools — Sussmann explained that the reason he didn’t include these notes in his motion in limine is because Durham only gave them to him in March, past his discovery deadline. When Durham provided this late discovery, Durham noted there were references to “a client” in some of the documents, without identifying where those references were.

That, Sussmann says, is a Brady violation.

In late March 2022, the Special Counsel produced extraordinarily significant Brady material. See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Specifically, the Special Counsel produced handwritten notes of several participants at a meeting held in March 2017, at which senior members of the FBI briefed DOJ’s Acting Attorney General about various aspects of the FBI’s investigation into potential Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election (“Russia Investigations”). During that meeting—at which James Baker (FBI General Counsel), Bill Priestap (Assistant Director of FBI’s Counterintelligence Division), and Trisha Anderson (FBI National Security & Cyber Law Branch Deputy General Counsel), among others, were present— Andrew McCabe (Deputy Director of FBI) described the FBI’s investigation of the Alfa Bank allegations. Specifically, Mr. McCabe stated that the Alfa Bank allegations were provided to the FBI by an attorney on behalf of his client. 2

[snip]

As a preliminary matter, we address the Special Counsel’s suggestion that Mr. Sussmann should have filed a motion in limine regarding the March 2017 Notes. The Special Counsel neglects to mention that these handwritten notes were buried in nearly 22,000 pages of discovery that the Special Counsel produced approximately two weeks before motions in limine were due. Specifically, the Special Counsel produced the March 2017 Notes as part of a March 18, 2022 production. The Special Counsel included the March 2017 Notes in a sub-folder generically labeled “FBI declassified” and similarly labeled them only as “FBI/DOJ Declassified Documents” in his cover letter. See Letter from J. Durham to M. Bosworth and S. Berkowitz (Mar. 18, 2022). And although the Special Counsel indicated on a phone call of March 18, 2022 that some of the 22,000 pages were documents that made references to “client,” he did not specifically identify the March 2017 Notes or otherwise call to attention to this powerful exculpatory material in the way that Brady and its progeny requires. See United States v. Hsia, 24 F. Supp. 2d 14, 29-30 (D.D.C. 1998) (“The government cannot meet its Brady obligations by providing [defendant] with access to 600,000 documents and then claiming that she should have been able to find the exculpatory information in the haystack. To the extent that the government knows of any documents or statements that constitute Brady material, it must identify that material to [defendant].”); United States v. Saffarinia, 424 F. Supp. 3d 46, 86 (D.D.C. 2020) (“[T]he government’s Brady obligations require it to identify any known Brady material to the extent that the government knows of any such material in its production of approximately 3.5 million pages of documents.”). All this aside, the Special Counsel has also failed to explain why this powerful Brady material was produced years into their investigation, six months after Mr. Sussmann was indicted, and only weeks before trial.3 Had the material been timely produced, Mr. Sussmann surely would have filed an appropriate motion in limine on the timeline for such motions.

3 In addition, the March 2017 Notes were produced over one month after the February 11, 2022 deadline for classified and declassified discovery, although they do not appear to fall within any of the categories of discovery for which the Special Counsel sought, and was granted, an extension to produce certain documents. See ECF No. 33, at 13-18.

Durham still hasn’t handed over all the notes from the meeting.

2 The defense has requested that the Special Counsel search for any additional records that may shed further light on the meeting and certain of those requests remain outstanding. To date, the Special Counsel has represented that the only additional notes from attendees at the meeting that he has identified do not reference whether or not Mr. Sussmann was acting on behalf of a client. The absence in those notes of any reference to whether Mr. Sussmann was acting on behalf of a client also raises questions regarding materiality of the charged conduct: if the on behalf of information were truly material to the FBI’s investigation, presumably all note takers would have written it down.

That he has not done so — and that the notes he did share appear unaltered — is significant because we know Jim Crowell also took notes, and it is virtually certain that Peter Strzok did too. Jeffrey Jensen redacted and added a date to the Crowell notes. Given that two sets of Strzok’s notes from related meetings were submitted in varying and altering form over the course of the Flynn litigation, who knows what happened to Strzok’s notes? McCabe was also a note-taker (though was the one speaking at the time).

In other words, Durham appears to be withholding notes from at least two people whose notes have been altered in the past.

Notably, the Crowell notes from the meeting were among those that Sidney Powell falsely claimed the withholding of which amounted to a Brady violation (and as I’ll show, these notes prove that claims made as part of the effort to blow up Mike Flynn’s prosecution were affirmatively false).

So Sussmann is credibly claiming a Brady violation (albeit not one that will get the case thrown out) over a set of notes that Flynn falsely claimed amounted to a Brady violation.

But as Sussmann argues, the late sharing of the notes is far more damning to Durham’s case.

Sussmann will present the notes, in part, to show that sometime after Sussmann sent James Baker a text on September 18, 2016 saying he wanted to help the FBI, Baker came to learn that he did have a client (and shared that information with Andy McCabe, who is the one who explained this at the meeting). When McCabe explained that in the March 6 meeting, neither Baker nor the people Durham will use to corroborate Baker’s credibility regarding his September 2016 representations corrected him.

And yet, at some point between September 18, 2016 and March 6, 2017, the FBI apparently came to believe that Mr. Sussmann did have a client in connection with his meeting with Mr. Baker, and that the Alfa allegations were provided “on behalf of his client.” The FBI could not have come to that belief based on conversations they had with Mr. Sussmann after his phone calls with Mr. Baker the week of September 19, 2016, because the FBI chose not to interview Mr. Sussmann about the information he provided to Mr. Baker, and the FBI chose not to ask Mr. Sussmann about or interview the cyber experts whom Mr. Sussmann identified as the source of the information he shared with the FBI.

Therefore, it is highly significant that, as of March 2017, when the FBI was asked to provide DOJ leadership with a summary of the Alfa Bank investigation (which by that time had concluded), the FBI at the highest levels described the Alfa Bank allegations as having come from an “attorney . . . on behalf of his client,” see Ex. A, Tashina Gauhar Notes, at SCO-074100, or from an attorney who had a client, but “d[id]/n[ot] say who [the] client was,” see Ex. B, Mary McCord Notes, at SCO-074070. The significance of the March 2017 Notes is further underscored by the fact that Mr. Baker, Mr. Priestap, and Ms. Anderson, all of whom are on the Special Counsel’s witness list, attended that March 2017 meeting. To the extent the Special Counsel argues, as the defense expects he will, that Mr. Baker’s recollection of the meeting has been “refreshed” by Mr. Priestap’s notes, it is obvious that the Special Counsel’s failure to refresh Mr. Baker’s recollection with the contradictory March 2017 Notes is relevant to Mr. Baker’s credibility as well as the manner in which the Special Counsel has handled a critical witness.

[snip]

At the briefing, as related to the Alfa Bank investigation, Mr. McCabe appears to have provided a general summary of the allegations that had been brought to the FBI. Most importantly, notes from other participants at the meeting indicate that Mr. McCabe explained that the allegations were brought to the FBI by an attorney “on behalf of his client,” see Ex. A, Tashina Gauhar Notes, at SCO-074100 (emphasis added), but that the attorney “d[id]/n[ot] say who [the] client was,” see Ex. B, Mary McCord Notes, at SCO-074070 (emphases added). There is no indication whatsoever from any participants’ notes that Mr. Baker—or Mr. Priestep or Ms. Anderson—refuted or corrected Mr. McCabe’s explanation. Such a statement—recorded by multiple participants, made in the presence of Mr. Baker, Mr. Priestep, and Ms. Anderson, and regarding the FBI meeting that is the subject of the charge against Mr. Sussmann—is both admissible and material to the defense.

The implication is that at some point very early in the investigation — either in their face-to-face September 19 meeting, or in calls on September 21 and 22 — Sussmann told Baker he did have a client. And Durham can’t prove when that was, because he has no original notes from Baker. At the very least, it proves that Sussmann wasn’t lying as part of a big cover-up. But it hurts Durham’s ability to prove the lie generally, because it’s possible he told Baker he wanted to help the FBI on September 18 (which is not charged), said nothing on September 19, and then explained he had a client on September 21 or 22.

Given the treatment of these and other notes from the same set, however, I’m more interested in Sussmann’s other argument: Durham chose to refresh Baker’s memory with Bill Priestap’s notes, but never showed him these.

In addition, as noted above, the Special Counsel apparently intends to elicit testimony suggesting that Mr. Baker landed on his latest version of events after reviewing notes from a separate meeting, taken by Mr. Priestap and provided to Mr. Baker by the Special Counsel. However, the Special Counsel conspicuously did not show Mr. Baker the March 2017 Notes when attempting to refresh his recollection. The March 2017 Notes are thus also admissible to attack the Special Counsel’s prejudicial handling of a critical witness, as well as Mr. Baker’s current recollection of events. See United States v. Fieger, No. 07-CR- 20414, 2008 WL 996401, at *2-3 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 8, 2008) (defendants permitted to “bring in the factual scenario” of the government’s investigation, including by “asking witnesses about the circumstances surrounding their questioning by Government agents”).

That is, he was coaching Baker to tell him the story he needed to be true and suppressing the story that Baker had already told publicly for which Durham had corroboration.

The most likely explanation is that Baker learned (and shared) that Sussmann had a client in one of the September calls, and the conflicting stories explain why Baker’s story has been so inconsistent. Ultimately, though, if Sussmann told Baker he had a client within days, it says he didn’t originally (in a September 18 text that was not charged) claim he was coming to help the FBI as part of a big cover-up. He did so because he wanted to help the FBI and then, within a week, proceeded to do so.

Here’s the thing: From the start, I’ve been expecting Durham to have real discovery problems (and, given that he’s slow-walking on turning over Crowell’s known and Strzok’s likely notes, will continue to have such problems here).

But he has no excuse with these notes. They’re notes he would have reviewed closely in 2020. These are in no way notes he couldn’t have known about. They’re not even notes that the Ukraine invasion would have created a delay in reviewing; the primary classified information in the notes pertains to Walid Phares, who was investigated for his ties to Egypt, not Russia.

These are the notes he was ordered to make a case out of. He had and reviewed them before he started hunting Michael Sussmann.

And yet he chose not to use the documents that hurt his case to refresh Baker’s memory and then buried them in a stack of tardy discovery.

Update: Intro and close fixed.

The March 6, 2017 Notes: Proof about Materiality

Update: Read this post on the March 6, 2017 notes before this one.

I want to return to John Durham’s objection to Michael Sussmann’s plan to offer notes from an FBI Agent and notes from a March 6, 2017 meeting as evidence.

The defense also may seek to offer (i) multiple pages of handwritten notes taken by an FBI Headquarters Special Agent concerning his work on the investigation of the Russian Bank-1 allegations, (including notes reflecting information he received from the FBI Chicago case team), and (ii) notes taken by multiple DOJ personnel at a March 6, 2017 briefing by the FBI for the then-Acting Attorney General on various Trump-related investigations, including the Russian Bank-1 allegations. See, e.g., Defense Ex. 353, 370, 410. The notes of two DOJ participants at the March 6, 2017 meeting reflect the use of the word “client” in connection with the Russian Bank-1 allegations.1 The defendant did not include reference to any of these notes – which were taken nearly six months after the defendant’s alleged false statement – in its motions in limine. Moreover, the DOJ personnel who took the notes that the defendant may seek to offer were not present for the defendant’s 2016 meeting with the FBI General Counsel. And while the FBI General Counsel was present for the March 6, 2017 meeting, the Government has not located any notes that he took there.

The Government respectfully submits that the Court should require the defense to proffer a non-hearsay basis for each portion of the aforementioned notes that they intend to offer at trial. The defendant has objected to the Government’s admission of certain notes taken by FBI officials following the defendant’s September 19, 2016 meeting with the FBI General Counsel, and the Government has explained in detail its bases for admitting such notes. Accordingly, the defendant should similarly proffer a legal basis to admit the notes he seeks to offer at trial. Fed. R. Evid. 801(c).

1. The notes of the March 6, 2017 briefing do not appear on the defendant’s Exhibit List, but the Government understands from its recent communications with counsel that they may intend to offer the notes at trial.

As I noted here, attempting to introduce the notes achieves some tactical purpose for Sussmann: presumably, the rules Judge Christopher Cooper adopted in his motions in limine order will apply to these two potential exhibits. So putting these exhibits out there provide a way to hem Durham in on that front.

But they may be more central to Sussmann’s defense. Sussmann may be preparing these exhibits (and one or more witnesses to introduce them) to prove that his alleged lie was not material.

We know a bit about the meeting in question and the potential note-takers.

The DOJ IG Report on Carter Page explains that, after Dana Boente became acting Attorney General after Sally Yates’ firing, he asked for regular briefings because he believed that, “the investigation had not been moving with a sense of urgency,” and that, “it was extraordinarily important to the Department and its reputation that the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections were investigated.” DOJ IG may have muddled the scope of these meetings (as they did the scope of Bruce Ohr’s actions), because Boente was obviously talking about all the Russian interference allegations, and Alfa Bank was, as far as we know, always separate from Crossfire Hurricane (and in any case never became part of the Mueller investigation).

On January 30, 2017, Boente became the Acting Attorney General after Yates was removed, and ten days later became the Acting DAG after Jefferson Sessions was confirmed and sworn in as Attorney General. Boente simultaneously served as the Acting Attorney General on the FBI’s Russia related investigations after Sessions recused himself from overseeing matters “arising from the campaigns for President of the United States.” Boente told the OIG that after reading the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) report on Russia’s election influence efforts (described in Chapter Six), he requested a briefing on Crossfire Hurricane. That briefing took place on February 16, and Boente said that he sought regular briefings on the case thereafter because he believed that it was extraordinarily important to the Department and its reputation that the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections were investigated. Boente told us that he also was concerned that the investigation lacked cohesion because the individual Crossfire Hurricane cases had been assigned to multiple field offices. In addition, he said that he had the impression that the investigation had not been moving with a sense of urgency-an impression that was based, at least in part, on “not a lot” of criminal legal process being used. To gain more visibility into Crossfire Hurricane, improve coordination, and speed up the investigation, Boente directed ODAG staff to attend weekly or bi-weekly meetings with NSD for Crossfire Hurricane case updates.

Boente’s calendar entries and handwritten notes reflect multiple briefings in March and April 2017. Boente’s handwritten notes of the March meetings reflect that he was briefed on the predication for opening Crossfire Hurricane, the four individual cases, and the status of certain aspects of the Flynn case. [my emphasis]

As noted, these meetings focused on ways to “reenergize” the Russian investigations, including the one into Paul Manafort’s corruption.

Additionally, notes from an FBI briefing for Boente on March 6, 2017, indicate that someone in the meeting stated that Ohr and Swartz had a “discussion of kleptocracy + Russian org. crime” in relation to the Manafort criminal case in an effort to “re-energize [the] CRM case.”

And we know who attended the March 6 meeting, because Jeffrey Jensen released highly redacted notes — with a date added — as part of his effort to blow up the Mike Flynn case.

Jim C[rowell, who took the notes]

FBI/McCabe/Baker/Rybicki/Pete/Toscas

Scott/Tash/McCord/Dana/

For the benefit of the frothers who are sure David Laufman was part of this: sorry, he was not.

Laufman did not attend the meetings in January, February, and March 2017 that were attended by Boente, McCord, and other senior Department officials.

The IG Report describes that in addition to Crowell, Boente, Tashina Gauhar, and Scott Schools took notes of these meetings. We also know Strzok was an assiduous note taker, so it’s likely he took notes as well. People like Crowell (who is now a Superior Court judge) or Boente would make powerful witnesses at trial.

And according to Durham’s objection, among the as many as five sets of notes from this meeting that James Baker attended, two say that the word “client” came up in conjunction with the Alfa Bank allegations.

Durham seems to suspect this is an attempt to bolster possible Baker testimony that, after the initial meeting between him and Sussmann, he came to know Sussmann had a client (which would be proof that Sussmann wasn’t hiding that). He did, and within days! That’s one important part of the communications during which Baker got Sussmann and Rodney Joffe’s help to kill the NYT story: as part of that exchange, he learned that Sussmann had to consult with someone before sharing which news outlet was about to publish the Alfa Bank story. For that purpose, according to the common sense rules just adopted by Cooper, one or some of the ten people at the meeting would need to remember Baker referring to a “client,” and one of the two people who noted that in real time has to remember doing so.

But there’s likely another reason Sussmann would want to introduce this information.

Not only did a contemporaneous record reflect that everyone involved learned if they did not already know that there was a client involved in this Alfa Bank allegation, but by then everyone involved also knew that Glenn Simpson worked first for a GOP and then a Democratic client.

Finally, handwritten notes and other documentation reflect that in February and March 2017 it was broadly known among FBI officials working on and supervising the investigation, and shared with senior NSD and ODAG officials, that Simpson (who hired Steele) was himself hired first by a candidate during the Republican primaries and then later by someone related to the Democratic Party.

The things that, Durham insists, would have led the FBI to shy away from this investigation were known by the time of this meeting.

And, I suspect, that’s why Sussmann wants to introduce the FBI Agent’s notes (and yes, it is possible they are Strzok’s). Because the actions taken in the wake of this meeting provide a way of assessing what the FBI would have done — and did do — after such time as they undeniably knew that Sussmann had a client.

Boente wanted more action taken. Ultimately, whatever action was taken led shortly thereafter to the closure of the investigation.

But Durham’s entire prosecution depends on proving that the FBI would have acted differently if they knew Sussmann had a client. So it is perfectly reasonable for Sussmann to introduce evidence about what the FBI said and did after such time as they provably did know that.

 

Judge Cooper Rules for Durham on Key Issues, But Rules against His Conspiracy Theory

Judge Christopher Cooper has issued his ruling on the various motions in limine from the two sides in the Michael Sussmann case. As I understand it, his ruling means:

  • Durham can introduce otherwise admissible evidence of how the data was collected, but unless Sussmann makes affirmative claims about the accuracy of the data, Durham cannot introduce evidence that it was inaccurate
  • Because of his other rulings, Durham will likely be left introducing how the data was collected via testimony from one or both of the Georgia Tech researchers
  • But unless Durham proves that Sussmann knew about them, the emails between the researchers and Joffe are not relevant and would also be excluded under Cooper’s limits on discussions about the accuracy of the data
  • Unless Durham presents evidence that Sussmann knew the data was collected in objectionable manner, he also cannot introduce such evidence
  • Durham can submit Fusion emails “to demonstrate that Fusion GPS and the researchers shared the ultimate goal of disseminating the Alfa Bank allegations to the press” [note he does not include Sussmann in this statement]
  • In part because Durham has not charged Sussmann with a conspiracy and in part because there’s lots of evidence the collection of the data was not a conspiracy, Durham cannot treat that as a conspiracy to obtain a hearsay exception
  • Because Cooper has ruled against a conspiracy foundation, Rodney Joffe’s email stating that “the ‘VIPs’ were ‘looking for a true story that could be used as the basis for closer examination’ is not admissible
  • Joffe’s email to the Georgia Tech researchers “soliciting their views on the white paper he had been drafting with Mr. Sussmann” is admissible because it is not hearsay
  • Joffe’s email claiming he had been offered the top cybersecurity job is not admissible
  • Bill Priestap and Trisha Anderson’s notes are admissible but only if 1) Sussmann challenges James Baker’s credibility at trial  and 2) if Priestap and Anderson testify that the notes refresh their memory of being told Sussmann had said he was not representing a client, but 3) the notes themselves will not go in as evidence
  • Durham can introduce what he claims are two false statements Sussmann made to the CIA — that he was not representing a client and that the YotaPhone data he was sharing was not related to what he had brought in September — but he cannot present evidence about what the CIA said about the data
  • Durham does not have to immunize Joffe to make his testimony available (Cooper muses that, because he has excluded the allegedly improper means via which the data was collected, Joffe might be willing to testify, which I find to be credulous)
  • The existence of privileged communications can be introduced at trial, but via a means that eliminates multiple pages of redaction [note, Cooper reiterated this ruling after receiving documents for which he will review the privilege claims]

I’ll have to think through the implications of this (and a lot of it depends on Cooper’s ruling on the privilege claims).

Perhaps as important as those evidentiary rulings, though, is this characterization from Cooper about what this case is about.

This dispute is framed by the parties’ competing theories of how the data came to be. In brief, the government contends that the Alfa Bank data was gathered as part of a concerted effort to collect and disseminate derogatory opposition research about Donald Trump. Participants in this purported joint undertaking, according to the government, include the Clinton Campaign; the Campaign’s General Counsel and then-partner in the Perkins Coie law firm, Marc Elias; an investigative firm retained by Mr. Elias, Fusion GPS; the defendant; Mr. Joffe; and several computer researchers working at Mr. Joffe’s direction. The government has proffered the existence of at least some circumstantial evidence connecting Mr. Sussmann to certain aspects of the data gathering effort. See Gov’t Opp’n to Def.’s Mots. in Lim. at 17–18, ECF No. 70 (promising that testimony will establish that Mr. Sussmann was aware of the “corporate sources” of the data and assured Researcher-2 that the data had been lawfully collected); Indictment ¶¶ 20, 23 (alleging that beginning in mid-August, Mr. Sussmann, Mr. Joffe, and Mr. Elias met on two different occasions and, shortly thereafter, Mr. Joffe emailed the researchers about the data); id. ¶ 24 (describing billing entries indicating that Mr. Sussmann helped draft one of the white papers that was provided to the FBI). The government contends that Mr. Sussmann’s desire to conceal this joint venture—particularly the Clinton Campaign’s involvement—supplied a motive for him to misrepresent to Mr. Baker that he was not providing the data to the FBI on behalf of any client, when he was actually representing both Mr. Joffe and the Campaign.

The defense paints a different picture. As the Court gleans from various of the defense’s pleadings and arguments, its case will be that Mr. Joffe obtained and analyzed the relevant data independently of Mr. Sussmann and the Clinton Campaign; that Mr. Joffe enlisted the defendant, with whom he a preexisting attorney-client relationship, for legal advice on how to handle and disseminate the data to a wider audience; that Mr. Sussmann reasonably believed, based on the understanding of the data that he gained from Mr. Joffe, that it tended to support the existence of a communications link between Alfa Bank and Mr. Trump; that Mr. Sussmann and Mr. Joffe shared the view that bringing the potential communications channel to the FBI’s attention was important to protect national security, regardless of any political implications; and that Mr. Sussmann sought an audience with Mr. Baker for that purpose. The defense has acknowledged that Mr. Sussmann at least received the data in connection with his legal representation of Mr. Joffe, see Mot. Hr’g Tr. at 38:6–18, but (as the Court understands) denies that he had an attorney-client relationship with the Clinton Campaign that covered activities related to the Alfa Bank data.

The jury is entitled to hear both these narratives.

This framework is important for several reasons. First, I think Cooper has a misunderstanding of how the two technical white papers were written, based off Durham’s projection of billing records onto actual drafting. If I’m right that that’s a misunderstanding, it will be a significant issue at trial.

There are a few other details that Cooper may not have entirely correct. But Cooper views these two competing stories to be Durham’s political malice story versus Sussmann’s national security threat story.

And if that’s how he understands it, he will be far more likely to allow a bunch of exhibits that Sussmann wants in that Durham wants excluded. Some of it would be necessary anyway — as I keep saying, Trump’s request of Russia to hack Hillary some more, plus the likelihood Sussmann knew in real time that the request was immediately followed by a renewed wave of attacks, is central to Sussmann’s state of mind when he met with Baker, and Cooper is treating this as a trial about Sussmann’s state of mind. But for Sussmann to convey why the Alfa Bank anomaly raised real national security concerns, he will need to explain the background of Trump’s false claims about Russia.

But the most important thing Cooper said, in the context of ruling against letting Durham treat all this as a conspiracy, is this:

Because no conspiracy is charged in the indictment, this undertaking would essentially amount to a second trial on a non-crime conducted largely for the purpose of admitting “other acts” evidence of Mr. Sussmann’s motive rather than his commission of the singular and narrow crime with which he has been charged.

This sort of particularized evidentiary analysis is especially unwarranted given that the Court has already ruled on the admissibility of many of the emails on other grounds.

This is the point I made in this post — one that several frother lawyers claimed suggested I didn’t understand these evidentiary issues. These evidentiary decisions are not made based on whether frothy Durham fans want the evidence in, but based on a set of interlocking evidentiary rules. Cooper has, overly optimistically, I think, set up a framework (primarily by excluding discussion about the accuracy of the information) that he thinks will guide all these decisions. But even within that framework, the rules of evidence will still apply.

And that will leave significant parts of Durham’s conspiracy theory out of the trial.

John Durham Wails about Michael Sussmann Adopting His Own Evidentiary Standards

Last month, I noted that John Durham had forgotten to file a motion in limine to exclude evidence of the rampant hacking Russia did against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

But along the way, Durham’s tunnel vision about 2016 led him to forget to exclude the things that do go to Sussmann’s state of mind, such as the very real Russian attack on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s public call for more such attacks.

So while Durham may be excluded from claiming that a private citizen’s attempt to learn about real crimes by a Presidential candidate before he is elected amounts to a criminal conspiracy, it is too late for Durham now to try to exclude evidence about Sussmann’s understanding of Donald Trump’s very real role in a hack of his client.

In a challenge to Michael Sussmann’s trial exhibits last night, Durham has effectively tried to belatedly correct that error.

Meanwhile, in Sussmann’s own challenge to Durham’s exhibits, he labels 121 exhibits as hearsay, 267 as irrelevant, and 143 as prejudicial.

Durham objects to three kinds of evidence, all utterly pertinent to Sussmann’s defense, and all akin to the same kind of evidence Durham has fought to introduce to substantiate a conspiracy theory Durham admits he doesn’t have evidence to prove.

The first are hundreds of emails Sussmann had with the FBI pertaining to hacks of the DNC and Hillary (Durham describes hacking attempts against Hillary as “cybersecurity issues” as if unsuccessful hacks don’t count as hacks).

Durham claims that these should come in primarily to disprove Durham’s assumptions about Sussmann’s billing entries, not to illustrate how reasonable it was to be concerned about a DNS anomaly involving Trump and a Russian bank. Durham — who asked to include a voir dire question assuming as fact that the Hillary campaign “promot[ed …] the Trump/Russia collusion narrative” — doesn’t want the FBI’s investigation of serial hacks targeting Democrats to come in to support the fact that such hacks occurred. And he wants to exclude the sheer volume, arguing (not unfairly) that would be cumulative, but not acknowledging that the volume does speak to Sussmann’s focus during a period when Durham claims Sussmann was instead feverishly conspiring to attack Trump. Finally, Durham claims that Sussmann’s focus on Russian cyberattacks is totally unrelated to his concern about an anomaly seeming to suggest a tie between Trump and Alfa.

First, the defendant’s Exhibit List includes more than approximately 300 email chains between and among the defendant and various FBI personnel reflecting the defendant’s work relating to (i) the hack of the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”), and (ii) cybersecurity issues pertaining to the Hillary for America Campaign (“HFA”). As an initial matter, the Government is not contesting that the defendant worked for both of those entities on cybersecurity issues. The Government also acknowledges that certain emails reflecting the defendant’s work on behalf of HFA on cybersecurity matters are potentially relevant and admissible insofar as the defendant might use those emails to argue that some or all of the billing entries to HFA that the Indictment alleges related to the Russian Bank-1 allegations were, in fact, related to work on other matters for HFA. The Government respectfully submits however, that the Court should carefully analyze each email that the defendant offers at trial to ensure that it is not admitted for its truth but instead is offered for a permissible purpose, such as to prove the defendant’s state of mind or the email’s effect on one or more of its recipients. Fed. R. Evid. 801(c); United States v. Safavian, 435 F. Supp. 2d 36, 45–46 (D.D.C. 2006). In addition, the defendant should not be permitted to offer dozens of emails to establish such basic facts because such voluminous evidence would be cumulative and unduly prejudicial. Fed. R. Evid. 403 (permitting courts to preclude parties from “needlessly presenting cumulative evidence”).

As to the dozens of communications regarding the defendant’s work regarding the DNC hack, these emails are largely irrelevant. The defendant billed his work on that matter to the DNC, not HFA. The Indictment alleges specifically that the defendant billed time on the Russian Bank1 allegations to HFA. These emails therefore do not support any inferences or arguments relating to the defendant’s alleged billed time for the Russian Bank-1 allegations. Instead, they contain extensive detail on collateral issues. See, e.g., Defense Ex. 306 (Email dated September 14, 2016 from FBI Special Agent E. Adrian Hawkins to Michael Sussmann, et al., stating in part, “We just got notified by some industry personnel that some previously unreleased DNC documents were uploaded to Virus Total today. In the files there was a contact list that I attached here with lots of personal emails for people. Rumor is that these files are supposed to be the network share for a guy named [named redacted] who worked IT until April 2011.”)

To the extent the defendant is offering such emails in support of arguments that (i) the defendant was an accomplished cybersecurity lawyer, (ii) the defendant was known and respected at the FBI, or (iii) the defendant was concerned about, and involved in responding to, cyberattacks carried out by the Russian Federation, such arguments are peripheral to the charged offense because they do not concern the Russian Bank-1 allegations or the defendant’s statements to the FBI about those allegations. The defendant’s potential arguments in this regard support, at best, the admission of a limited quantity of these emails to establish basic facts about the defendant’s representation of the DNC. Admitting all or most of these exhibits, however, would be highly cumulative and would waste the jury’s time with highly-detailed evidence concerning a tangential matter (the DNC hack) that is not at issue in this trial. Accordingly, the Government respectfully submits that the Court should admit only a limited number of these emails that are not being offered for their truth. [my emphasis]

It is, of course, rank nonsense to claim that the ongoing hacks targeting Democrats were unrelated to efforts to chase down a DNS anomaly. But Durham’s entire team either claims or genuinely does not understand the connection.

Then, in addition to attempting to exclude the notes of an FBI Agent who investigated the Alfa Bank allegations, Durham wants to exclude notes showing that the word “client” came up at a March 6, 2017 briefing on all the Russian allegations for Dana Boente.

The defense also may seek to offer (i) multiple pages of handwritten notes taken by an FBI Headquarters Special Agent concerning his work on the investigation of the Russian Bank-1 allegations, (including notes reflecting information he received from the FBI Chicago case team), and (ii) notes taken by multiple DOJ personnel at a March 6, 2017 briefing by the FBI for the then-Acting Attorney General on various Trump-related investigations, including the Russian Bank-1 allegations. See, e.g., Defense Ex. 353, 370, 410. The notes of two DOJ participants at the March 6, 2017 meeting reflect the use of the word “client” in connection with the Russian Bank-1 allegations. The defendant did not include reference to any of these notes – which were taken nearly six months after the defendant’s alleged false statement – in its motions in limine. Moreover, the DOJ personnel who took the notes that the defendant may seek to offer were not present for the defendant’s 2016 meeting with the FBI General Counsel. And while the FBI General Counsel was present for the March 6, 2017 meeting, the Government has not located any notes that he took there.

I mean, Durham is not wrong on the evidentiary issue: these notes far post-date Sussmann’s alleged lie (though, ironically, the Jeffrey Jensen team added a date to and relied on what must be one set of these notes in their efforts to blow up the Mike Flynn prosecution). While they may reflect James Baker’s statements reflecting knowledge that Sussmann had a client, they’re hearsay.

But Durham is doing both those same things, presenting hearsay notes to substantiate Baker’s knowledge and claiming that meetings that long post-date Sussmann’s alleged lie may be indicative of what Sussmann and Baker actually said in September 2016. Durham has no grounds to complain about such evidentiary sloppiness, because that’s what his entire case consists of.

Finally, Durham — who started his speaking indictment by focusing on two news articles and not only considers Fusion’s communications with the press to be key evidence in his conspiracy theory but even insinuates that everything certain reporters were doing must have come from the Democrats — complains that Sussmann wants to introduce a slew of newspaper articles from 2016. He’s worried that it’ll elicit a sense of horror among the jury.

The Government will not dispute that the DNC was a victim of the aforementioned hack, nor will it dispute that the defendant carried out significant legal work in relation to the hack. The Government similarly will not seek to prove one way or the other whether Donald Trump maintained ties – illicit, unlawful, or otherwise – to Russia, other than to establish facts relating to the FBI’s investigation of the Russian Bank-1 allegations. Permitting the defense to admit the above-listed series of news articles would amount to the ultimate “mini-trial” – of the very sort that will distract and confuse the jury without offering probative evidence. United States v. Ring, 706 F.3d 460, 472 (D.C.Cir.2013) (“Unfair prejudice within its context means an undue tendency to suggest [making a] decision on an improper basis, commonly, though not necessarily, an emotional one.”); see also Carter v. Hewitt, 617 F.2d 961, 972 (3d Cir.1980) (explaining that evidence is unfairly prejudicial “if it appeals to the jury’s sympathies, arouses its sense of horror, provokes its instinct to punish, or otherwise may cause a jury to base its decision on something other than the established propositions in the case.”) (citations omitted). Accordingly, this Court should exclude the above-referenced news articles.

This is the argument that, I noted in real time, Durham should have made last month.

But Durham is also not accounting for how central the articles cited are to Sussmann’s ability to rebut the conspiracy theory Durham wants to tell. The articles show that:

  • Trump’s coziness with Russia, one reason cited in Marc Elias’ declaration for hiring Fusion, was broadly perceived as unusual
  • Trump’s undisclosed financial ties with Russia were a general and persistent concern
  • Public reporting had confirmed the Russian attribution of the DNC hack before Trump asked Russia to hack Hillary some more and the press widely viewed Trump’s “Russia are you listening” comment as a request for more hacks
  • The reporters or outlets Durham wants to make an issue were doing their own reporting on Trump’s Russian ties were doing reporting not seeded by Fusion
  • The corruption scandal implicating Paul Manafort led to his ouster from the campaign during the period researchers were working on the anomaly

Durham complains that “many of [the articles] far predate the defendant’s meeting with the FBI General Counsel,” but only one predates the data collection that Durham has made the central focus of his case and another — Ellen Nakashima’s article reporting the DNC hack — directly kicked off that data collection effort.

These articles explain why it was reasonable, not just for the Democrats’ cybersecurity lawyer who was spending most of his days trying to fight back against a persistent Russian hack, but also for the researchers and Rodney Joffe to try to first look for more Russian hacking (including that victimizing Republicans), and when they found an anomaly, to try to chase it down and even to bring it to the FBI for further investigation. Several threads of these articles — pertaining to Trump’s request that Russia hack Hillary and to Manafort’s corruption — were explicitly invoked in discussions that Durham wants to claim must arise from political malice.

Indeed, as a whole, these articles provide far more reasonable explanations for actions that Durham has claimed, as fact, could only arise out of political malice.

Some of Durham’s complaints are reasonable from an evidentiary standard. But they’re utterly ridiculous given his own wild conspiracy theorizing. And many of these exhibits are utterly necessary to rebut the more outlandish things Durham has been claiming for months.

John Durham May Lose His Battle But Gain New Ammunition to Fight His War

There were a number of things not said at yesterday’s hearing on the Democrats’ privilege claims in the Michael Sussmann case. The importance of having Russian-speaking experts when representing a client getting systematically attacked by Russia, for example, was not mentioned. Nor was the amount of research that Fusion did that was never released to the press. Nor were Durham’s two cheap stunts — falsely claiming an FEC settlement was not “public” in time to introduce it as part of the initial filings, and presenting exhibits without correcting for a time anomaly and thereby falsely suggesting Fusion sent a previously unpublished link to Tea Leaves’ postings to Eric Lichtblau — which made Durham’s case to pierce the Democrats’ privilege claims look stronger than it was.

Even on the issue of whether communications can have more than one purpose — an issue that Robert Trout, representing Hillary’s campaign, addressed directly — the argument could have been stronger. And when Judge Christopher Cooper asked if there were specific emails “that might support [the Democrats’] position that Fusion’s internal communications on these issues were for the purpose of providing legal support as opposed to pure opposition research and dissemination that is not covered by the privilege?,” Trout was caught flat-footed. Which is to say that the Democrats may not have presented their case as well as they could have.

It likely didn’t matter. Even before ruling that he will review the documents over which Democrats invoked privilege, Judge Christopher Cooper made it clear he was pretty skeptical of their privilege claims.

But there were a number of other things that were mentioned that may limit how much value Durham gets from this decision, even if Cooper determines that most of the Fusion documents were not privileged. Most importantly, both before and after Cooper had clearly decided he was going to review the documents, he raised the other procedural issues — which I raised in this post — that will dictate whether or not Durham can use them at trial.

The defense has raised some procedural objections to I think the use and introduction of the emails; namely, that you have waited too long after the assertion of the privilege — on the eve of trial now — to bring the issue to me.

I take it you’re saying that even if I were to agree with them about the specific emails that have been withheld, I would still have to deal with the privilege issue with respect to Ms. Seago’s testimony.

[snip]

That still leaves the relevance issues as well as the prejudice issues and the knock-on effects from the defense from the introduction and use of the emails, but I think that I’m probably going to have to deal with this issue nonetheless because of what the government may plan to ask Ms. Seago about. All right?

That is, even if Cooper agrees that the 38 documents Durham wants unsealed are not privileged, it may not mean Durham can use them at trial. The following are all possibilities, of greater or lesser likelihood:

  1. Cooper rules that one purpose of the emails was legal advice and so are privileged
  2. Cooper decides some or all of the emails are not privileged, but rules, based on representations made yesterday, that Durham violated local rules in his attempt to obtain them and so cannot get them
  3. Cooper rules that some or all of the emails are not privileged but rules that they are prejudicial, irrelevant, or hearsay to the charge against Sussmann, so Durham can have the emails, he just can’t use them at trial
  4. Cooper determines that Durham’s claims about the necessity or relevance of Laura Seago’s testimony are not only false, but Durham knew them to be false when he made them and, given that Durham has used as his excuse to pierce privilege at this late date, cannot introduce them at trial
  5. Cooper rules that the communications involving Rodney Joffe are privileged, even if the internal Fusion emails are not, adding further problems with Seago’s role as a witness
  6. Cooper rules the Fusion emails aren’t privileged, but at least some of them end up disproving Durham’s conspiracy theories

If I had to guess, I’d say a combination of 3, 5, and 6 are most likely. I’ll explain why, but if that turns out to be the case, it may mean that Durham finds a way to access the other 1,500 Fusion emails he says he wants to use in “other investigations,” but still can’t use many of the 38 emails at issue here in the trial against Sussmann. Durham’s conspiracy theories might live on, but his case against Sussmann might not.

As a reminder, Sussmann argued that Durham broke a number of rules by bypassing Beryl Howell and waiting until the last minute to try to get these emails — the procedural objections Cooper alluded to above. Cooper can’t be that impressed with the argument, or he wouldn’t have agreed to review the emails at all. But he did seem rather interested in Steven Tyrell’s assertion that he had made it clear there was never a way Durham was going to get the emails involving Joffe without litigation.

MR. TYRRELL: So if they wanted to challenge our assertion of privilege as to this limited universe of documents — again, which is separate from the other larger piece with regard to HFA — they should have done so months ago. I don’t know why they waited until now, Your Honor, but I want to be clear. I want to say without hesitation that it’s not because there was ever any discussion with us about resolving this issue without court intervention.

THE COURT: That was my question. Were you adamant a year ago?

MR. TYRRELL: Pardon me?

THE COURT: Were you adamant a year ago that —

MR. TYRRELL: Yes. We’ve been throughout. We were not willing to entertain resolution of this without court intervention.

THE COURT: Very well.

This is important because it supports Sussmann’s contention that this late bid for the emails is just an improper means of bypassing local rules and discovery deadlines. The same is not as true for Fusion, though, because they did make some concessions to Durham along the way.

Joffe’s intransigence about his privilege claims are all the more problematic for Durham, because (contrary to all my predictions!) Cooper seems far more convinced of Joffe’s privilege claims than the those of the Democrats.

With respect to the Joffe/Sussmann/Seago emails, I am dubious that the government has met its burden to pierce the privilege, but I will take a look at the emails nonetheless.

Indeed, at one point, Cooper noted that Durham’s entire theory of the case assumes, “Sussmann was in the [September 19, 2016 James Baker] meeting representing Joffe,” which would mean there was a privileged relationship between Sussmann and Joffe, and so therefore assumes Sussmann’s communications with Joffe about the topic would be privileged. If Joffe’s communications with Sussmann and Laura Seago aren’t privileged, then it’s proof that Sussmann was not representing a client. If they are privileged, then Durham can’t have them.

Catch-22.

Given what Cooper said in last week’s hearing, in which he repeatedly suggested that Joffe’s testimony might be central, the possibility that Durham may not pierce Joffe’s privilege may dictate other evidentiary (though not privilege) decisions. All the more so given how Durham excused his late bid to pierce privilege based off a late recognition they were going to immunize and call Seago.

In addition, over the course of months, and until recently, the Government has been receiving voluminous rolling productions of documents and privilege logs from numerous parties. The Government carefully analyzed such productions in order assess and re-assess the potential legal theories that might support the parties’ various privilege assertions. In connection with that process, the Special Counsel’s Office reached out to each of those parties’ counsel numerous times, directing their attention to specific documents where possible and communicating over email and phone in an effort to obtain non-privileged explanations for the relevant privilege determinations.2 The Government also supplied multiple counsel with relevant caselaw and pointed them to documents and information in the public domain that it believed bore on these issues. The Government was transparent at every step of these discussions in stating that it was contemplating seeking the Court’s intervention and guidance. Unfortunately, despite the Government’s best efforts and numerous phone calls, it was not able to obtain meaningful, substantive explanations to support these continuing broad assertions of privilege and/or work product protections.

It was only recently, when the Government determined it would need to call an employee of Fusion GPS as a trial witness (the “Fusion Witness”), that the Government concluded these issues could not be resolved without the Court’s attention. Because all or nearly all of the Fusion Witness’s expected testimony on these matters concern work carried out under an arrangement that the privilege holders now contend was established for the purpose of providing legal advice, it is essential to resolve the parties’ potential disputes about the appropriate bounds of such testimony (and the redaction or withholding of related documents).

As of yesterday, Sussmann had not received a 302 from Seago, so it’s not clear whether Durham has even interviewed her yet. But with one exception, Sussmann, Fusion lawyer Joshua Levy, and Joffe say she’ll be of limited value for Durham. Last week Sean Berkowitz said that Seago did not recall knowing Christopher Steele, much less being aware of the dossier project.

The only person from Fusion on their witness list is Laura Seago, who either I think has been immunized or will be immunized, and we understand that she would say she doesn’t recall that she even knows Mr. Steele or is able to talk about what he did. And so we don’t know that they actually are able to get anything in about what Mr. Steele did or didn’t do. Certainly there’s no evidence that Mr. Sussmann was aware of what Mr. Steele was doing. No evidence of that.

Levy noted that — as proven by the transcript of her Alfa Bank deposition, which the government has — Seago will testify she has no knowledge of either Sussmann’s meeting with the FBI or of the white paper Fusion did on Alfa Bank.

[I]n its brief, the government says that Ms. Seago has unique possession of knowledge as to what the government tries to characterize as the core issue in the case. But the government mischaracterizes that core issue. The government says that the core issue in this case is whether the defendant was representing any client in 2016 with regard to the Russian Bank 1 allegations.

That’s not the core issue in the case, respectfully. The core issue in the case is whether the defendant knowingly made a false and misleading statement to the government when he met with the government about whether he was there on behalf of a client or not that day. And as to that issue, Your Honor, Ms. Seago, the Fusion witness, has no knowledge. And the government knows this.

In parallel to the government’s investigation of this case, Russian Bank 1, Alfa-Bank, was pursuing its own discovery in a civil case. They subpoenaed and deposed Ms. Seago last year. There’s a transcript of that deposition. It’s in the public record. The government’s made clear to counsel that it has that deposition transcript, and we can furnish a copy of it to the Court.

And at the same time the government knows that Ms. Seago has no knowledge of the meeting between Mr. Sussmann and the FBI, and that’s at Pages 151 to 152 of that transcript.

THE COURT: All right. If you could file the — not file it, but provide it to the Court.

[snip]

And it’s very clear that she has no knowledge about the meeting, that she doesn’t recall any discussions about the meeting, that she didn’t work on this white paper that allegedly was provided to the government by Mr. Sussmann.

This is the memo that, again, the government has talked about today in its papers as to why it’s so important to pierce this privilege. Ms. Seago didn’t contribute to it, doesn’t know who did, doesn’t know who researched it, doesn’t know who wrote it, doesn’t know its purpose; and the government’s aware of all that.

As Sean Berkowitz followed up, Seago also does not recall knowing about the late July meeting involving Joffe, Sussmann, and Marc Elias.

And the question that was asked was: “So were you aware of this July 28th meeting between Sussmann and personnel of Fusion?

“ANSWER: Not that I recall.

“QUESTION: Were you aware of the meeting after it happened?

“ANSWER: Not that I recall.

Importantly, Durham knew (because he has been operating as a parasite on the lawfare project that Vladimir Putin probably ordered to make America less safe) that Seago would testify she didn’t know about the July meeting with Perkins Coie and Joffe or Sussmann’s meeting with James Baker or the Fusion-drafted white paper when Durham said she would be the pivotal witness to represent the relationship between Joffe and Fusion. This foreknowledge, which is incompatible with Durham’s claim that Seago’s testimony, “may be necessary to the public interest,” undermines both his relevance arguments and his excuse for the belated bid to pierce privilege.

As to Joffe, Tyrrell represented that at least some of the emails between him and Seago were the exchange of PGP keys.

MR. TYRRELL: Well, there are — Mr. Joffe is a cyber security expert, and he was trying to exchange something called PGP keys with Ms. Seago —

THE COURT: Okay.

MR. TYRRELL: — so that their communications would be secure and encrypted. So some of the attachments are actually just simply an exchange of PGP keys. But there is at least one or — there’s one or two attachments that’s not that, and I’m really not — I’d be happy to answer that in camera ex parte.

It’s the other communications that might be of value to Durham, but if they’re not privileged via Sussmann’s representation of Joffe, then his entire argument that Sussmann was representing a client may fall apart.

So Seago has, per those who know her involvement, little to offer in useful testimony (and Durham knew this). That’s a problem for Durham, because per Jonathan Algor, she was the way they planned to introduce the emails as evidence.

THE COURT: Okay. And obviously you haven’t seen these emails. You don’t know what they say. But you think there is a possibility, based on the descriptions in the privilege log, that they would be relevant and admissible through Ms. Seago for that purpose?

MR. ALGOR: Yes, Your Honor.

If Seago doesn’t know about the key issues necessary to validate the documents in question, then Durham may have a problem introducing them at trial at all.

As noted above, there are a number of possible ways Cooper resolves this, and it’s most likely he makes decisions that will displease both sides.

But given what he said yesterday, I think it quite likely Cooper will rule at least some of the Fusion emails are not privileged, even while making other rulings that will prevent them from coming into the trial as evidence.

If that happens, Durham may be able to use that ruling to get access (this time via proper methods) to that pool of 1,500 emails — many presumably of more interest to the Igor Danchenko case — that will let him spin his conspiracy theories for years to come. It might take losing the case against Sussmann, though, to continue his war of conspiracies.

Durham Prosecutor Brittain Shaw Gets Cute with Forfeited Claim

John Durham prosecutor Brittain Shaw just submitted a bunch of FEC filings from a settlement the Democrats reached in February; as with other documents designed to rile up the frothy right, she claimed the document was meant to be filed under seal but submitted it to the public docket.

In the settlement, Democrats agreed to pay a fine because they did not list the purpose of Perkins Coie’s Fusion payments as opposition research.

In her filing, Shaw claimed that conciliation agreement and the exhibits to it “were made public” on April 28.

The Government, by supplementing its motion with the attached exhibits, seeks to provide notice to the Court of a Federal Election Committee (“FEC”) conciliation agreement with the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) and the Hillary for America Campaign (“HFA”), and the FEC’s supporting findings, which were made public on April 28, 2022. Specifically, the FEC found “probable cause to believe” that the DNC and HFA improperly reported their payments to Perkins Coie for Fusion GPS’s opposition research as “legal and compliance consulting.” [my emphasis]

That’s a dishonest claim — though a necessary one to excuse Durham not raising this issue in his April 6 motion to compel or his April 25 reply.

The FEC’s supporting backup may have only been posted last week (though the backup relies on the same kind of evidence, like billing records, that Durham already has).

But the settlement, with the language about “probable cause,” was first reported on March 30 and widely covered; most stories with links to the letter informing the complainant, which included the conciliation agreements that Shaw includes in her claim stating that this documentation only became available last week. As the letter to Marc Elias’ law firm sent on March 29 noted, “these matters are now public.”

And it has been discussed in the right wing press particularly as it pertains to this privilege challenge already. Kim Strassel dedicated an entire paragraph to it on April 21, well before Durham’s scheduled reply.

These are a few of the difficulties the parties face in trying to pound the oppo-research peg into the legal-services hole. Mr. Durham also got an assist from federal regulators. Last month the FEC fined the Clinton campaign and the DNC $8,000 and $105,000, respectively, for violating strict rules on disclosure. The FEC noted that Perkins Coie in 2016 hired Fusion to “provide research services” and improperly reported the work as “legal services.” The campaign and DNC made the same argument—that Fusion’s work was in support of legal advice—but settled with the FEC. (A DNC spokesperson told the Washington Post it had agreed to settle “silly complaints from the 2016 election.”)

Some other right wing outlet did an entire piece focused on this settlement, explicitly expecting Durham to raise it in his reply.

Shaw was dishonest about more than the availability of this information last month, and therefore the fact that Durham has forfeited this claim. She also did not mention that the backup notes that the Democrats still claim privilege over the Fusion work and the conciliation agreement did not concede the point. Notably, I believe “purpose” is defined differently under campaign finance law and under the precedents at issue here.

This is a totally hackish attempt to include this issue in a way that Durham can rely on it on appeal. But the claim that this settlement (as opposed to the underlying backup) hasn’t been available to prosecutors since they first tried to pierce the Democrats’ privilege is thoroughly dishonest as to the plain meaning of the claim.

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