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Bill Barr Complains that His Special Counsel Was Unable to Match Robert Mueller’s Record of Success

Even before the Igor Danchenko trial, Billy Barr declared victory in defeat — arguing that if John Durham could just “fill in a lot of the blanks as to what was really happening,” the inevitable acquittal would still give Durham an opportunity to spin fairy tales about what Durham imagines happened.

“What these cases show is that these are difficult cases to win,” Barr said. “There’s a reason it takes so long, and you have to build up the evidence because at the end of the day, you’re going before these juries that aren’t going to be disposed to side with the people they view as supporting Trump.”

Danchenko is slated to go on trial next month on charges of lying to the FBI about the Steele dossier, for which he was the main source. The dossier claimed that Trump and members of his campaign and company had established extensive ties to the Russian government and had colluded during the 2016 election.

The trial is widely expected to be the final criminal prosecution from Durham’s investigation before he submits a report of his findings to Attorney General Merrick Garland.

But despite Durham’s limited success in the courtroom, Barr defended the investigation he ordered, saying the courtroom was allowing Durham to establish a record of what had occurred with the so-called Russiagate investigation.

“I think Durham got out a lot of important facts that fill in a lot of the blanks as to what was really happening,” Barr said. “My expectation is … the Danchenko trial will also allow for a lot of this story to be told, whether or not he’s ultimately convicted. I hope he’s convicted, but if he isn’t, I still think it provides an avenue to tell the story of what happened.”

Like an obedient puppy, Durham did use the trial as an opportunity to get extraneous details into the public record. On top of the $1 million dollar offer that Brian Auten said, vaguely, Christopher Steele might have gotten if he had corroborated the dosser — which has been treated like an FBI attempt to bribe a source for dirt on Trump and as the most exonerating possible detail, rather than an effort to investigate a real threat to the country — Durham went out of his way to give the full names of people at various meetings so Carter Page and Donald Trump can add them to lawsuits.

Mind you, along the way, the trial also revealed the FBI’s own assessment of Danchenko’s cooperation, which contributed to 25 investigations and which Barr burned to a crisp by exposing him, with Lindsey Graham’s help, as a source in 2020.

Q. And you were concerned, in July of 2020, when you became aware that Attorney General Barr was going to release a redacted version of Mr. Danchenko’s interview in January of 2017?

A. Yes.

Q. You were upset about that?

A. I was.

Q. You found out about that during a telephone conference, right?

A. I did.

Q. And you disagreed with that decision?

A. I did.

Q. The OIG had already completed a report on that investigation, correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And you thought that the release of that document was dangerous?

A. Yes.

Q. You even wrote up a memo of that phone call you were on in July of 2020 where you learned that they were going to publish a redacted version of his interview, correct?

A. I did.

[snip]

Q. And within an hour of Mr. Danchenko’s January interview being released to the senate judiciary committee, the senate judiciary committee, I won’t say who, released it to the public?

A. They did.

[snip]

Q. So, Agent Helson, you wrote in October of 2020 that from 2017 until present day, Mr. Danchenko had provided information on at least 25 FBI investigations assigned to at least six field offices?

A. Correct.

Q. In addition, he aided the United States Government by introducing the United States Government to a sub-source who had provided additional information separate to his report, correct?

A. Correct.

[snip]

Q. And it’s noted that he — his reporting contributed to at least 25 active FBI investigations.

[snip]

Q. In July of 2020 his identity became public after the release of the redacted version of his interview in January of 2017. Since that public disclosure, he has received threatening messages via social media and email. It’s resulted in significant damage to his reputation from false and baseless claims aimed to undermine his credibility. Those are your words, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. The Washington Field Office had assessed that this will have negative ramifications with respect to his ability to provide for his family via personal income for the foreseeable future, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. And while the FBI cannot promise complete anonymity to anyone who provides information, his identity became public only after the decision was made to release the redacted version of his interview, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. As a result of that act, his ability to continue to provide information viable to the FBI is diminished as is his ability to provide financial support to his family.

After the trial, Barr has been spending time on Fox News declaring — as much of the frothy right has — that this record, of how he deliberately harmed national security for revenge, exposed the corruption of what Barr calls “Russiagate,” the moniker frothers use to distract from the real substance of the Russian investigation.

I was disappointed, obviously. I think they did a good job prosecuting the case. Their ability to put evidence on, in a very difficult case, was limited by some rulings, and they weren’t able to get access to some witnesses overseas. So it was a tough — it was a tough case, so this should show people that it’s hard to win these cases, and sometimes it takes time to … to achieve justice. But as people say — I think Andy McCarthy said — the real public interest being served here was exposing the full extent of the corruption that was involved in Russiagate [sic] and the abuse by the FBI in that whole episode. And I think Durham is going to get a report out that’s gonna lay out all the facts.

Barr and everyone else are pointing to the exposures they and Durham made to justify their actions because they didn’t have evidence to support their claims.

Barr is whining that getting false statements convictions is hard. But Robert Mueller was able to prove that:

  • Alex Van der Zwaan lied to cover up his efforts, in conjunction with Konstantin Kilimnik and Rick Gates, to cover up Manafort’s effort to spin Ukraine’s politicized Yulia Tymoshenko prosecution during the 2016 election
  • George Papadopoulos lied to cover up his advance knowledge of the Russian effort to help Trump
  • Mike Flynn lied to cover up his back channel calls with Sergei Kislyak to undermine Obama Administration policy (and also that he was a paid agent of Turkey during the campaign)
  • Michael Cohen lied to hide the secret negotiations he had directly with the Kremlin about an impossibly lucrative real estate deal
  • Paul Manafort conspired to cover up a front organization he set up with Konstantin Kilimnik and (at a preponderance of the evidence standard) lied to cover up his August 2016 meeting with Kilimnik
  • Roger Stone lied and intimidated Randy Credico to cover up his real back channel to the Russian operation

I mean, Robert Mueller had no problem getting convictions, whether from guilty pleas, jury verdicts, or (in the case of Manafort’s lies about the August 2, 2016 meeting) a judge’s ruling.

One reason he had no problem was that these defendants were generally guilty of a lot more than just lying. It’s a lot easier to get Flynn to admit he lied about his back channel discussions with the Russian Ambassador, after all, when he was also on the hook for secretly being an agent of Turkey. It’s lot easier to get Papadopoulos to admit he lied about his advance warning of the Russian operation when he’s trying to stave off foreign agent charges tied to Israel. It’s a lot easier to get a jury verdict against Stone when he spent months plotting out his lies with multiple people on emails.

Mueller wasn’t able to get false statement verdicts from everyone, mind you. For example, because Steve Bannon and Erik Prince deleted their texts from early January 2017, Mueller did not charge them for false statements made to cover up meetings to set up a back channel with UAE and Russia. That’s one lesson that Durham should have taken to heart: Absent the mobile app records from Sergei Millian and Igor Danchenko, he had no way of knowing whether Millian called Danchenko on July 26, 2016.

That’s not the only evidentiary complaint Barr makes here. He’s complaining that Durham was unable to get hearsay admitted against Danchenko. He’s angry that Durham was not permitted to introduce Millian’s wild Twitter boasts as evidence without requiring Millian to show up and make those claims under oath. And he’s complaining that Durham wasn’t able to introduce his pee tape conspiracies without charging it.

But the most alarming of the former Attorney General’s statements — before and after the trial — embrace the notion that it is a proper goal of failed prosecutions to expose information that does not rise to the level of criminality.

As I’ll show in a follow-up, the Durham fiasco is part of a piece of Barr’s larger actions, both his other failed prosecutions — most notably, that of Greg Craig — but also his efforts to undo the convictions for which there was no reasonable doubt of guilt.

It’s not enough to talk about Durham’s unprecedented failure … it’s not enough to note that Durham and his prosecutors repeatedly failed to take basic investigative steps before embracing and charging conspiracy theories that juries didn’t buy … it’s not enough to note how, in an attempt to prove those conspiracy theories, Durham and his prosecutors and abused the prosecutorial system.

Durham’s entire project is a continuation of Barr’s unprecedented politicization of DOJ, one that not only places Republicans attempting to secretly work for hostile nations above the law, but that has made the country far less safe in many other ways.

It’s not just Durham prosecuted two men without any real hope of winning conviction, all to expose things that aren’t crimes. It’s that Billy Barr hired him to do just that.

John Durham Wants to Lecture EDVA Jurors about Being Played by Foreign Spies

We’ve gotten to that stage of another Durham prosecution where each new filing reads like the ramblings of a teenager contemplating philosophy after eating hallucinogenic mushrooms for the first time. This time it’s a reply filing in a motion in limine written by Michael Keilty (who I used to think was the adult in this bunch).

Before I show what I mean, I’m going to just share without comment my favorite part of the filing, where someone claims in all seriousness that hotel staffers — in a foreign country!! — don’t gossip about the kink of famous people.

It strains credulity, however, to believe that Ritz Carlton managers – with no apparent relationship to the defendant – would confirm lurid sexual allegations about a U.S. presidential candidate to a guest, let alone a stranger off the street.

Well, okay, I’ll make one comment. This is a gross misrepresentation of what Danchenko said, which is that the hotel staffers did not deny the rumor, not that they had confirmed them.

That done, I’m going to jump to the end, to where Keilty argues Durham should be able to present the allegation that led to the predication of a counterintelligence investigation against Danchenko in 2009 as well as the reason it was closed (because the FBI incorrectly believed Danchenko had left the US). Durham should be able to do that, the filing argues, so that the jury can contemplate the FBI’s obligation to consider whether they’re being played by foreign spies. [All the bold and underlining in this post are mine; the italics are Durham’s.]

The defendant asks the Court to limit the admissibility of evidence concerning the FBI’s prior counterintelligence investigation of the defendant to only the fact that there was an investigation. Limiting the evidence in this manner would improperly give the jury the false impression that the investigation closed due to a lack of evidence against the defendant. As discussed in its moving papers, the Government believes the facts underlying the investigation are admissible as direct evidence because in any investigation of potential collusion between the Russian Government and a political campaign, it is appropriate and necessary for the FBI to consider whether information it receives via foreign nationals may be a product of Russian intelligence efforts or disinformation. And in doing so, the FBI must consider the actual facts of the prior investigation. Had the FBI known at the time of his 2017 interviews that the defendant was providing them with false information about the sourcing of his claims, this naturally would have (or should have) caused investigators to revisit the prior counterintelligence investigation and raise the prospect of revisiting prior conduct by the defendant, including his statements to a Brookings Institute colleague regarding receipt of classified information in exchange for money and his prior contact with suspected intelligence officers. Whether or not the defendant did or did not carry out work on behalf of Russian intelligence, these specific facts are something that any investigator would or should consider and, therefore, the jury is entitled to learn at trial about the facts of the prior investigation in assessing the materiality of the defendant’s alleged false statements. The defendant should not be permitted to introduce the existence of the counterintelligence investigation for his benefit while suppressing the details of his conduct at issue in that very investigation.

This largely repeats the argument Keilty made in his original motion, before Danchenko responded, “Bring it!” to this request. I’ve underlined the language that appears exactly the same in both.

The Government anticipates that a potential defense strategy at trial will be to argue that the defendant’s alleged lies about the sourcing of the Steele Reports were not material because they had no affect on, and could not have affected, the course of the FBI’s investigations concerning potential coordination or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government. Thus, the Government should be able to introduce evidence of this prior counterintelligence investigation (and that facts underlying that investigation) as direct evidence of the materiality of the defendant’s false statements. Such evidence is admissible because in any investigation of potential collusion between the Russian Government and a political campaign, it is appropriate and necessary for the FBI to consider whether information it receives via foreign nationals may be a product of Russian intelligence efforts or disinformation. Had the FBI known at the time of his 2017 interviews that the defendant was providing them with false information about the sourcing of his claims, this naturally would have (or should have) caused investigators to revisit the prior counterintelligence investigation and raise the prospect that the defendant might have in fact been under the control or guidance of the Russian intelligence services. Whether or not the defendant did or did not carry out work on behalf of Russian intelligence, the mere possibility that he might have such ties is something that any investigator would consider and, therefore, the jury is entitled to learn at trial about the prior investigation in assessing the materiality of the defendant’s alleged false statements.

As noted, Danchenko responded to this request by stating that he planned to elicit the fact of the investigation himself.

The government seeks to admit evidence, in its case-in-chief or to rebut a potential defense strategy, that Mr. Danchenko was previously the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation over 10 years ago. On this point, Mr. Danchenko generally agrees that the proffered evidence is admissible but likely disagrees about the extent of evidence that should be admitted at trial. It is not disputed that Mr. Danchenko was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. Nor is it in dispute that the counterintelligence investigation was closed in 2011. Likewise, it will not be in dispute that the FBI agents involved in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation were well aware of the prior counterintelligence investigation, that it was factored into their evaluation of Mr. Danchenko’s credibility and trustworthiness, that an independent confidential source review committee accounted for the prior investigation when recommending the continued use of Mr. Danchenko as a confidential human source through December 2020, and that the agents involved in the prior investigation were consulted and ultimately raised no objections, at the time, to Mr. Danchenko’s continued use as a source.

As an initial matter, those facts obliterate the government’s argument that any alleged false statements were material to the government’s ability to evaluate whether Mr. Danchenko could have been working for the Russians all along. It would be one thing to argue that the Crossfire Hurricane investigators were not aware of the prior investigation and Mr. Danchenko failed to inform them of it when asked. But, as one might expect, Mr. Danchenko was not aware of the investigation. He learned of it when then Attorney General William Barr made public a summary of that investigation on September 24, 2020. Moreover, it stretches credibility to suggest that anything else would have caused the FBI to be more suspicious of Mr. Danchenko’s statements and his potential role in spreading disinformation than the very fact that he was previously investigated for possibly engaging in espionage on behalf of Russia. Armed with that knowledge, however, and based on the substantial and “critical” information Mr. Danchenko provided to the FBI throughout his time as a source, the FBI nevertheless persisted. The Special Counsel perhaps disagrees with that decision, but Mr. Danchenko’s trial on five specific statements and this is not the place to air out the Special Counsel’s dissatisfaction.

Mr. Danchenko himself intends to elicit from government witnesses their general knowledge of Mr. Danchenko’s prior investigation. But the details of that investigation are not relevant and, more importantly, are unproven, would involve multiple levels of hearsay to establish the basis for the investigation let alone prove the allegation, and resulted in no negative action or conclusion. Indeed, the investigation was closed and to undersigned counsel’s knowledge never reopened even after the Special Counsel’s investigation and Indictment. Contrary to the Special Counsel’s insinuations and allegations, we expect the jury will hear that Mr. Danchenko was a vital source of information to the U.S. government during the course of his cooperation and was relied upon to build other cases and open other investigations. [my emphasis]

Curiously, this dispute is taking place without discussion of how Durham intends to introduce this information, other than precisely the way Danchenko proposes to: by asking the Crossfire Hurricane witnesses what they knew about it, which would lead them to explain that they knew about the prior investigation and took it into account, which would be the relevant issue as far as materiality.

Given Danchenko’s suggestion (bolded above) that the counterintelligence agents from 2011 didn’t complain that Danchenko was used as a source “at the time,” I wonder whether they’ve since decided (or been coerced, as Durham has done with so many of his witnesses) that they now think it’s relevant. That might explain why Danchenko was discontinued as a source, too: Imagine if, after Billy Barr violated DOJ guidelines by making this public in 2020, the original agents were invited to complain in October 2020, which led to Danchenko’s discontinuation. Perhaps Durham wants to have those other agents testify as witnesses about what a sketchy man they believed Danchenko to be, over ten years ago, so sketchy that they lost track of him and concluded incorrectly he had left the country.

But having learned that Danchenko not only is willing but wants Crossfire Hurricane witnesses to explain how they took this earlier counterintelligence investigation into account, Durham has doubled down that that is not enough. It is not enough to hear how the FBI personnel who interviewed Danchenko took the earlier investigation into account, the jurors must learn the details of the earlier investigation so they can take it into account.

Granted, your average EDVA jury might have one or two people who have security clearances on it. But Durham is effectively asking untrained jurors to weigh decade-old uncharged and unproven counterintelligence allegations in their deliberation over whether answers Danchenko gave the FBI five years ago should have been viewed more skeptically by trained counterintelligence personnel. He’s doing so even though (and this a key point in Danchenko’s motion to dismiss, though that MTD is unlikely to work) the FBI took action based on Danchenko’s responses on these topics as if the answer was precisely what Durham says it should have been.

The FBI took Danchenko’s descriptions of Charles Dolan’s close ties to Russians like Dmitry Peskov and opened an investigation into him, just like Durham says would have happened if Danchenko had not (allegedly) hidden that Dolan provided him information that showed up in the dossier. The FBI took Danchenko’s descriptions of how sketchy the call he thought might have been with Sergei Millian and concluded from that that the report in the dossier wasn’t all that credible (though they didn’t incorporate that into their FISA applications), just like Durham says should have happened. And based, in part, on Danchenko’s description of his contributions to the dossier, the Mueller team made no further use of the dossier — not to predicate the investigation into Michael Cohen, not to continue the investigation into Paul Manafort (which was premised instead on his money laundering), not to direct the focus of the investigation, which instead looked at things like the June 9 Trump Tower meeting and Konstantin Kilimnik’s role, both of which would have been in the dossier if it were a credible product.

Durham is accusing Dancehnko of lying about two topics that the FBI nevertheless responded to (Page FISA aside) as if they took the answer to be precisely what Durham says it should have been.

He’s doing it in a filing where Durham can’t keep straight basic details of knowability and truth.

For example, in one place he accused Danchenko of telling the truth, just not the truth that Durham wishes he had told. He says it is proof that Danchenko lied that he truthfully answered Christopher Steele would know about Dolan because Danchenko cleared his October 2016 trip to Russia with Steele.

Second, when the defendant was asked “would Chris know of [Dolan]?” the defendant replied “I think he would . . . . because I cleared my [October] trip with Chris.” However, as discussed in the Government’s moving papers, the defendant (1) attempted to broker business between Steele and Dolan, (2) provided Dolan with a copy of his Orbis work product, and (3) apparently informed Dolan of Steele’s former employment with MI-6.

Two of Durham’s complaints — that Danchenko provided Dolan something from Orbis and that Danchenko informed Dolan that Steele worked for MI6 (I suspect Durham is wrongly attributing this to Danchenko but let’s run with it) — have nothing to do with what Steele would know, and so would be non-responsive to the FBI question. They have to do with what Dolan would know, not what Steele would know (even there, as I have noted, the uncharged question Danchenko was asked and his response were not what Durham claims it was).

Durham similarly complains that Danchenko didn’t tell the FBI something he didn’t know but that they did: the extent of communications between Dolan and Olga Galkina.

Third, while the defendant did introduce Dolan to Ms. Galkina, the Government anticipates introducing evidence through the defendant’s handling agent that the defendant was unaware of the extent of communication between Dolan and Galkina. This is a highly material fact given that both Dolan and Galkina are alleged to have been sources for the Steele Reports.

Durham may mean to suggest that if only Danchenko had … I’m not even sure what, the FBI would have discovered the communications that he describes here and wants to present at trial that the FBI discovered. Except as I noted last year, the reason the FBI started asking about Dolan is because they targeted Olga Galkina with a 702 directive that disclosed the contacts she had with Dolan. The FBI came into the interview in question knowing what Danchenko didn’t know and nevertheless Danchenko didn’t hide what he did know. What Danchenko did not know but the FBI did is proof, Durham says, that Danchenko lied.

Perhaps the craziest claimed proof that Danchenko is lying in this filing is where Durham complains that Danchenko didn’t offer up something that his own witness, Dolan, still won’t testify to.

According to the indictment, Danchenko both visited Dolan at the Ritz on June 14, 2016 and posted a picture of the two of them in Red Square (remember, he’s claiming Danchenko was hiding this stuff — the stuff he posted on social media).

On or about June 14, 2016, DANCHENKO visited PR Executive-1 and others at the Moscow Hotel, and posted a picture on social media of himself and PR Executive-1 with Red Square appearing in the background.

He complains that when Danchenko was specifically asked if Dolan could be a source for Steele (Durham has persistently misrepresented the nature of this question), he did mention they were in Moscow together in fall 2016, but didn’t mention June 2016.

In the January 2017 interviews, the defendant never mentioned Charles Dolan. Further, during the defendant’s June 2017 interview with the FBI (which forms the basis of the false statement charge related to Dolan), the defendant only informed the FBI that he was present with Dolan during the October 2016 YPO conference. Again, the defendant conveniently whitewashed Dolan from the June 2016 planning trip in Moscow.

[snip]

First, as discussed above, the defendant did not inform the FBI that Dolan was present at the Ritz Carlton in June 2016. Again, this is a material omission because the defendant informed the FBI that he collected information for the Steele Reports in June 2016, but not during the October 2016 trip. Dolan’s proximity to the defendant during this time period is a highly relevant fact.

Durham wants to prove that Danchenko told an affirmative lie in June 2017 by denying that he had spoken to Dolan about topics that showed up in the dossier (in reality, Danchenko told the FBI, “We talked about, you know, related issues perhaps but no, no, no, nothing specific”). And to support that claim, he offers as proof that Danchenko offered up true information but not the information that Durham himself would have wanted him to offer up. Again, he’s arguing that Danchenko lied by pointing to his true statements.

And he’s making that argument even though his primary witness to all this — Dolan — apparently continues to testify that he does not remember meeting Danchenko at the Ritz.

[T]he Government anticipates that Dolan will testify that he has no recollection of seeing the defendant at the Ritz Carlton in June 2016.

Durham will prove that Igor Danchenko lied, he says, because along with offering true information, he didn’t offer up something that his star witness still won’t testify to remembering.

Let’s go back, shall we, to where we started: The urgency of letting EDVA jurors consider whether FBI’s counterintelligence personnel weighed Igor Danchenko’s past counterintelligence investigation adequately before they decided he was credible and took exactly the actions they would have taken if Danchenko had testified the way Durham claims he falsely did not.

It has been clear from the start that they did take the past CI investigation into account. Indeed, when his interview transcript was first made public, I observed that Danchenko’s interviewers were most skeptical of his evasions about ties to Russian spies. And Danchenko reveals that “an independent confidential source review committee” gave that earlier investigation particular focus when they did a source review of Danchenko’s reporting.

The Crossfire Hurricane team considered it and found Danchenko reliable. The confidential source review committee considered it and found Danchenko reliable. But Durham knows better, and he’s betting that an untrained EDVA jury will agree with him on that point.

But it’s not just Danchenko’s credibility that is at issue. As I previously noted, one reason Durham wants to get into the nitty gritty details of the predication of the investigation against Danchenko is because he expects Danchenko will look at the investigations of others on whom Durham is relying as sources.

[T]he Government expects the defense to introduce evidence of FBI investigations into other individuals who the Government anticipates will feature prominently at trial. Thus, the introduction of the defendant’s prior counterintelligence investigation – should the defense open the door – does not give rise to unfair prejudice that substantially outweighs its probative value.

Durham wants to be able to talk about the earlier counterintelligence investigation that the Crossfire Hurricane team did consider, because Danchenko is likely to raise the counterintelligence investigation into Sergei Millian and Dolan and probably some other people too. There’s no evidence Durham considered those counterintelligence investigations before building elaborate conspiracy theories based on the claims of those witnesses.

Durham said that in the same section where he also said,

[T]n any investigation of potential collusion between the Russian Government and a political campaign, it is appropriate and necessary for the FBI to consider whether information it receives via foreign nationals may be a product of Russian intelligence efforts or disinformation.

That is, shortly before Durham said that he has to talk about the predication of the counterintelligence investigation into Danchenko to even things out if he decides to raise the counterintelligence investigations into Millian, Dolan, and who knows who else, Durham said it is necessary to consider whether someone is being played by Russian intelligence.

In fact, he originally made this claim in a long filing in which he laid out how he had had his ass handed to him by Sergei Millian (though he didn’t confess how badly Millian had played him).

 

Before Durham charged Danchenko, he had not obtained the evidence from the DOJ IG investigation; he shows no familiarity with either the Mueller Report or the Senate Intelligence Committee Report. He never once made Millian substantiate his claims in an interview in which he could be held accountable for false claims. And he never once interviewed George Papadopoulos to learn how Millian was cultivating him during precisely the period that Durham is sure he didn’t call Danchenko. But he wants a jury to decide that the Crossfire Hurricane team didn’t consider the reliability of someone about whom the FBI has opened a counterintelligence investigation.

Durham charged two men as part of a larger uncharged conspiracy theory that the Hillary campaign “colluded” [sic] with Russia to say bad things about Donald Trump. And yet he never “consider[ed] whether information” he received from Millian and others “may be a product of Russian intelligence efforts or disinformation.”

And because he charged this case without considering that, Durham is demanding that he get to present why the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation against Danchenko 13 years ago.

On the Belated Education of John Durham

In a filing on September 2 in the Igor Danchenko case, John Durham confirmed that Danchenko had been a paid FBI source from March 2017 through October 2020.

In March 2017, the FBI signed the defendant up as a paid confidential human source of the FBI. The FBI terminated its source relationship with the defendant in October 2020.

I had heard this — though not with the sourcing such that I could publish. Apparently it was news to the frothers, who’ve been wailing about it ever since. Here’s Margot at the Federalist Faceplant, Jonathan Turley, and Chuck Ross at his new digs at the outlet that first hired Christopher Steele. Here’s the former President during an obsequious Hugh Hewitt interview.

Danchenko’s status was implicit in a lot of what is public. Even absent the frothers doing any kind of journalism, or even critical thinking, what did they think this reference in Danchenko’s motion to dismiss meant?

The government had unfettered access to Mr. Danchenko for approximately four years following his first interview in January 2017, and not once did any agent ever raise concerns about the now purportedly contradictory post-call emails.

As I hope to show in a follow-up, it actually makes a lot of sense.

Meanwhile, in Danchenko’s response to that filing, he revealed that information he provided to the FBI was used in a memorandum supporting the opening of an investigation into Charles Dolan, one of Durham’s star witnesses against Danchenko. (Note, this reference stops short of saying that the FBI did open an investigation into Dolan, just that someone proposed doing so.)

[T]he Special Counsel ignores, and conceals from this Court, that Mr. Danchenko was interviewed dozens of times and during the course of those interviews, particularly when asked specific questions about Dolan (which was not often), Mr. Danchenko (1) told the FBI about the Moscow trips with Dolan, (2) told the FBI that Steele knew of Dolan, (3) told the FBI that not only was Dolan doing work with Olga Galkina but that Mr. Danchenko himself had introduced them, and (4) told the FBI that Dolan had connections and relationships with high-level Kremlin officials, including President Putin’s personal spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov. Indeed, when agents drafted a December 2017 communication in support of opening an investigation into Dolan, they included the information Mr. Danchenko provided them as support for opening the investigation. 3 [emphasis original]

This may not be the last surprise investigation we hear about. Back in the original filing on September 2, Durham argued he should be able to talk about the 2008 allegation that led to a counterintelligence investigation into Danchenko, in part, because (Durham predicted bitterly) Danchenko will likely raise investigations into others, plural, who will “feature prominently at trial.”

[T]he Government expects the defense to introduce evidence of FBI investigations into other individuals who the Government anticipates will feature prominently at trial. Thus, the introduction of the defendant’s prior counterintelligence investigation – should the defense open the door – does not give rise to unfair prejudice that substantially outweighs its probative value.

Effectively, Durham is arguing that if Danchenko points out that Durham’s witnesses should not be considered reliable based on suspicions they were working for Russia’s interests, then he should be able to point out that Danchenko was once similarly suspected as well. Durham also wants to point out that Dolan twice asserted that Danchenko might be a Russian spook, but also allegedly always knew of his role at Orbis — assertions that, in tandem, could actually hurt Durham’s case, given the subsequent disclosure that Dolan was investigated himself. Durham may not understand that, yet.

One of these people whose investigation Danchenko will raise at trial is undoubtedly Sergei Millian, whose cultivation of George Papadopoulos in exactly the same time period Danchenko claims to have believed he spoke to Millian was one of a number of things the FBI investigated starting in 2016.

Danchenko’s response to Durham’s demand that he be allowed to raise the 11-year old counterintelligence investigation into Danchenko (besides providing a somewhat different timeline) was basically to say, “Bring it!” He intends to raise that counterintelligence investigation himself, he claims. Note: Durham doesn’t note, but it is clear from the January interviews of Danchenko, that FBI interviewers probed Danchenko about that prior investigation in their very first interviews in 2017.

As noted, I hope to return to all this dizzying spy-versus-spy shit in a follow-up. By then we’re likely to have several more disclosures, plus some details about the known investigation into Millian.

This all shows there was not a shred of prosecutorial discretion exercised before charging Danchenko. Even if Danchenko had done grievous harm to the US, no sane prosecutor would have charged this case with such easily impeached witnesses. Even Durham now seems to understand his materiality claims are flimsy. And yet, to prove a five year old false statements allegation, he has forced the government to declassify a whole range of sensitive material, including this detail about Dolan.

And that process apparently continues to be a struggle for Durham (as I predicted it would be).

Consider the timeline implied by Danchenko’s footnote about the Dolan revelation. Danchenko claims that he only just learned about the Dolan investigation opening memo.

3 The December communication is highly exculpatory with regard to the essential element of materiality and it is not clear why it was only produced 30 days from the start of trial. It was produced as Jencks material (also late by the terms of the Court’s Order requiring all Jencks to be produced by September 1) but is obviously Brady evidence. The defendant understands that the CIPA procedures may have slowed the production of certain categories of discovery but given the Indictment’s allegations about the materiality of Mr. Danchenko’s failure to attribute public information to Dolan, the production of this specific document should have been a priority for declassification.

When Danchenko says that Counterintelligence Information Procedures Act may have slowed the production of this, he’s suggesting (charitably) that someone at DOJ took a long time to release this information to Durham and that Durham had no control over that process. That’s another thing I predicted in this post about how CIPA would affect this case: “it can end up postponing the time when the defendant actually gets the evidence he will use at trial. So it generally sucks for defendants.”

The trial starts on October 11. This footnote suggests that Danchenko only received this information 30 days before trial, so around September 11, in the week before he filed this. Whenever it was disclosed, if he received it after the September 1 deadline, that would make it too late for the September 2 deadline for Danchenko’s own motion to dismiss. It would put it after Durham’s September 2 filing — the one bitching about how much of the trial Danchenko will use to focus on the investigations into witnesses, plural, against him — which means the plural reference may not have incorporated Dolan. Danchenko would have learned about this over a month after his own deadline to lay out what classified information he intended to use at trial, and at least a week after the August 30 CIPA conference, at which the two sides debated about what classified information Danchenko should be allowed to use at trial.

It also comes after a series of delays in Durham’s classified discovery. In May, I described what was publicly billed as the last one.

It’s that record that makes me so interested in Durham’s second bid to extend deadlines for classified discovery in the Igor Danchenko case.

After Danchenko argued he couldn’t be ready for an April 18 trial date, Durham proposed a March 29 deadline for prosecutors to meet classified discovery; that means Durham originally imagined he’d be done with classified discovery over six weeks ago. A week before that deadline, Durham asked for a six week delay — to what would have been Friday. Danchenko consented to the change and Judge Anthony Trenga granted it. Then on Monday, Durham asked for another extension, this time for another month.

When Durham asked for the first delay, he boasted they had provided Danchenko 60,000 unclassified documents and promised “a large volume” of classified discovery that week (that is, before the original deadline).

To date, the government has produced over 60,000 documents in unclassified discovery. A portion of these documents were originally marked “classified” and the government has worked with the appropriate declassification authorities to produce the documents in an unclassified format.

[snip]

Nevertheless, the government will produce a large volume of classified discovery this week

This more recent filing boasts of having provided just one thousand more unclassified documents and a mere 5,000 classified documents — for a case implicating two known FISA orders and several past and current counterintelligence investigations.

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.

Danchenko waited six weeks and got almost nothing new.

But then on August 16, Durham filed a supplemental CIPA filing, suggesting there were more substitutions of classified information he wanted Judge Anthony Trenga to approve (a supplemental filing is not, by itself, unusual).

The point is, for months, Durham kept saying he’d have all the secrets delivered to Danchenko by his new deadline in June, promise, and then he dropped this bombshell on Danchenko just weeks before trial.

In the August 29 hearing on all this, Judge Trenga deferred most CIPA decisions until after Danchenko files a new CIPA filing on September 22 — so if any of this remains classified, Danchenko still has a chance, with just days notice, to argue he needs it at trial. They’ll fight about these issues again on September 29.

But given Durham’s performance in the Sussmann case, it’s not entirely clear these missed classified deadlines are DOJ’s fault. After all, Durham never even asked DOJ IG for relevant discovery in Sussmann’s (and therefore, we should assume, this) case until after Sussmann was charged. He didn’t investigate Rodney Joffe’s true relationship with the FBI and other agencies until Sussmann asked him to. He didn’t ask Jim Baker for his own iCloud content until early this year, after belatedly rediscovering Baker phones he had been told about years ago.

It’s not just his belated request for information from DOJ IG that we know to have affected this case too. Durham also has never interviewed George Papadopoulos — not before he went on a junket to Italy chasing Papadopoulos’ conspiracy theories, and not since. Thus, Durham never tested whether Millian’s cultivation of Papadopoulos undermines his evidence against Danchenko — and it does, obviously and materially.

Because of Durham’s obvious failures to take the most basic investigative steps before charging wild conspiracy theories, there are several possible explanations why he’s only providing Danchenko news of this Dolan memo a month before trial:

  1. Someone tried to hide this from Danchenko and ultimately was overridden. If that’s the explanation, it makes Andrew DeFilippis’ August departure from the team and, according to the NYT, DOJ, all the more interesting.
  2. DOJ delayed the time until they let Durham disclose this because of some sensitivity about the investigation. Recall that Dolan has ties to Putin spox Dmitri Peskov, who was sanctioned earlier this year, followed by his family.
  3. Durham didn’t know.

The last possibility — that Durham had no fucking clue that one of his star witnesses had been (at least considered) for investigation — is entirely plausible. It’s entirely consistent with what we saw in the Sussmann case, though worse even than that case in terms of timing.

Durham came into this investigation treating the conspiracy theories of Papadopoulos and Trump as credible. He seems to have believed, all along, that Sergei Millian was a genuinely aggrieved victim and not someone playing him, for at least a year, for a fool. He seems to have decided that he knew better than FBI’s experts about who had credibility about Russia and who didn’t. Along the way he forced the FBI to cut its ties with Joffe and — given the October 2020 cut-off of Danchenko’s ties to the FBI, probably Danchenko as well. He did all this with a lead prosecutor who believed it was problematic for DARPA to investigate the Guccifer 2.0 persona used by the GRU.

Durham walked into this investigation believing and parroting, without first testing, Trump’s claims that the Russian investigation was abusive. Based on those beliefs, he chased all manner of conspiracy theory in an attempt to allege pre-meditation and malice on the part of Hillary and everyone else involved with the dossier. His Sussmann prosecution ended in humiliating failure. This prosecution, win or lose, may do worse for Durham’s project: it may reveal unknown details about Russian efforts to tamper in 2016, efforts that harmed both Republicans and Democrats alike.

The Durham prosecutions have been shitshows and undoubtedly a disaster for those targeted. It’s not yet clear what will happen with the Danchenko trial (or even whether it will go to trial; given that CIPA issues still have to be resolved, there’s still a chance Durham will have to dismiss it rather than going to trial). Durham will still write a report that may try to resuscitate his conspiracy theories that were disproven in the Sussmann trial.

But thus far, the actual record of the Durham investigation shows that when actually bound by the rules of evidence, when actually obligated to dig through DOJ’s coffers to discover what DOJ learned as it tried to understand Russia’s intervention in 2016, reality looks nothing like the conspiracy theories Durham has chased for three years.

John Durham’s education process has been a painful process for all personally involved (except maybe Sergei Millian, gleefully dicking around from afar). But along the way he’s debunking many of the conspiracy theories he was hired to sustain.

Update: Chuck Ross is outraged that I suggested his boss had paid for Steele (and lying that I said Paul Singer paid for the dossier, which I pointedly did not say). It is true that the payment for Fusion GPS’ Trump project had shifted to Perkins Coie before Steele first sent Danchenko to Russia.

It’s also true that, based on length of project, Ross’ current boss paid for much of Nellie Ohr’s work on Trump’s ties to Russia, which includes some of Fusion’s early work on Paul Manafort and Felix Sater, and possibly early work on Millian (she continued to work on Millian until she left Fusion).

And since Chuck is so upset, I should point out that his former co-columnist, Oleg Deripaska, also reportedly paid for Steele’s work (in that case, research on Paul Manafort), though also through the cut-out of a law firm.

“Desperate at Best:” Igor Danchenko Starts Dismantling John Durham’s Case against Him

Since he was charged on November 3 last year, Igor Danchenko and his legal team have been virtually silent, mostly watching as John Durham’s team repeatedly failed to meet classified discovery dates.

But as we draw closer to the October 11 trial date, there has been more activity.

On August 1, there was a hilariously short status conference, all of four minutes, where Durham himself showed up. On August 21, Andrew DeFilippis — the most abusive of Durham’s prosecutors — dropped off the docket. Last week, Durham’s team asked for and got permission to file their motions in limine under seal — perhaps in an effort to avoid the inflammatory claims they made during the Michael Sussmann trial. Even the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) conference, at which the two sides argued over how much classified information Danchenko needs at trial and whether the government can substitute information to make it less sensitive, seems to have ended inconclusively. Afterwards, Judge Anthony Trenga deferred decision until September 29, in part because the two sides are seemingly still trying to work things out amicably.

Before the hearing, the parties had successfully resolved all issues as to many of the listed documents and during that hearing, the parties agreed to engage in further discussions and efforts with respect to the remaining documents at issue, including Defendant’s willingness to withdraw his notice as to certain listed documents and the Government’s willingness to review the classified nature of certain listed documents and provide summaries with respect to other listed documents, following which Defendant will advise the Court concerning what further interest, if any, he has in using the listed documents at trial in light of the totality of the information provided to him by the Government.

In short, it has lacked all the pre-trial drama of the Sussmann case (perhaps because DeFilippis so badly overstepped, and still lost, in the Sussmann case).

But things may about to get interesting.

In a motion to dismiss the indictment filed Friday, Danchenko calls one of the government’s arguments (pertaining to the four Sergei Millian-related charges) “desperate at best.” The bases Danchenko challenges the indictment against him largely map some of the problems I laid out here: The questions FBI asked are not ones about the topics Durham has charged and Danchenko’s answers — he convincingly argues — were true.

For nearly a year, from January 2017 through November 2017, Mr. Danchenko sat through numerous voluntary FBI interviews and provided hours of truthful information to the government. Four years later, Special Counsel John Durham returned an indictment that alleges Mr. Danchenko knowingly made false statements about two matters when he: (1) acknowledged to the FBI that he talked with PR Executive-1 about issues “related” to the content of the Company Reports but stated that he did not talk about “specific” allegations contained in one of the reports; and (2) made four consistent statements to the FBI about his equivocal “belief” that an anonymous man who called him may have been Chamber President-1. These equivocal and ambiguous answers were prompted by fundamentally ambiguous questions, are literally true, and are immaterial as a matter of law.

Further, the government’s attempt here to stretch § 1001(a)(2) to a defendant’s equivocal and speculative statements about his subjective belief appears to be a first. And it would be a first for good reason. In order to meet its burden of proof in a case predicated on a subjective belief the government would need to prove not whether something did or did not happen but that the defendant did not truly subjectively believe what he said happened or did not happen. That would be a heavy burden in any case and it is an insurmountable one here.

Danchenko also argues (as Sussmann did) his claimed lies could not be material, in this case because Durham’s materiality claim is based in the influence of the Steele dossier, which (as Danchenko notes) he didn’t even know about, much less write.

Significantly, the indictment does not allege that Mr. Danchenko’s allegedly false statements themselves were material, but instead alleges only that the Company Reports, and the information contained in those reports, some of which allegedly came from Mr. Danchenko, were material.

In my series of posts on Danchenko’s case, I even missed some problems with the indictment. I had noted, for example, that Durham entirely misrepresented the question Danchenko was asked about Chuck Dolan on which Durham built one of the false statement charges. Durham claimed the FBI asked Danchenko if Dolan was a source for Danchenko. As I noted and as Danchenko does in this MTD, the question was actually whether Dolan was another sub-source directly for Christopher Steele.

But Danchenko notes two more problems with the charge.

First, he was asked whether Dolan and he “spoken” about the matters in the dossier; and to prove they did, Durham provides an email. 

Count One alleges that Mr. Danchenko made a false statement when “he denied to agents of the FBI that he had spoken with PR Executive-1 about any [specific] material contained in the Company Reports, when in truth and in fact, and as the defendant well knew, PR Executive-1 was the source for an allegation contained in a Company Report dated August 22, 2016 and was otherwise involved in the events and information described in the reports.”

[snip]

For “proof” of the alleged false statement under this charge, the indictment relies on an email exchange between PR Executive-1 and Mr. Danchenko on or about August 19-20, 2016.

More problematic still, in context, the question was about whether Danchenko and Dolan had spoken about allegations that remained in the dossier after Steele wrote them up, a conversation that (because neither had seen Steele’s reports in real time) could only have taken place after January 11, when BuzzFeed published the dossier.

Next, when asked whether Mr. Danchenko and PR Executive-1 ever “talked . . . about anything that showed up in the dossier [Company Reports],” Mr. Danchenko responded, “No. We talked about, you know, related issues perhaps but no, no, no, nothing specific.” Indictment at 18 (emphasis added). The most reasonable reading of this question is whether Mr. Danchenko and PR Executive-1 talked about the Company Reports themselves after they were published. Mr. Danchenko’s answer to this question was literally true because he never talked to PR Executive-1 about the specific allegations contained in the Company Reports themselves, but they did talk about issues “related” to the allegations later published in those reports. Moreover, the specific question posed to Mr. Danchenko was whether Mr. Danchenko and PR Executive-1 “talked” about anything in the dossier. That part of the question was not ambiguous and, importantly, FBI Agent1 never asked whether Mr. Danchenko and PR Executive-1 had ever exchanged emails about information that showed up in the dossier. For that reason alone, evidence that PR Executive-1 allegedly emailed Mr. Danchenko about information contained in the Reports does not make Mr. Danchenko’s answer false

In arguing that his comments about Dolan weren’t material, Danchenko later confirms something I suspected: the FBI wasn’t much interested in the dossier report at the heart of Durham’s purported smoking gun evidence.

[T]he government apparently never even asked Mr. Danchenko about the specific information regarding Campaign Manager-1 that was contained in the relevant Company Report.

Remember: Durham tried to make this exchange stand in for the pee tape report (it worked with the press, too!!). But he didn’t actually charge anything pertaining to the pee tape.

Danchenko similarly notes that the government never asked Danchenko about something else Durham treated as a smoking gun: Emails from after the time, in July 2016, when Danchenko failed to meet someone he believed to be Sergei Millian, one of which Danchenko turned over himself in his first meeting with the FBI.

Danchenko was never asked about that email because it did nothing to clarify whether Chamber President-1 had been the anonymous caller and because it was, in truth and in fact, ultimately immaterial to the FBI’s investigation.

And with regards the Millian questions, Danchenko notes that Durham doesn’t even argue his responses were material. He instead argues the dossier was (though I think Durham will rebut this one).

As an initial matter, the indictment itself fails to even allege that Mr. Danchenko’s statements to the FBI were material. Instead, the indictment argues that the Company Reports created by U.K. Person-1 prior to Mr. Danchenko’s statements to the FBI were material:

(1) the FBI’s investigation of the Trump Campaign relied in large part on the Company Reports to obtain FISA warrants on Advisor-1, (2) the FBI ultimately devoted substantial resources attempting to investigate and corroborate the allegations contained in the Company Reports, including the reliability of Danchenko’s sub-sources; and (3) the Company Reports, as well as information collected for the Reports by Danchenko, played a role in the FBI’s investigative decisions and in sworn representations that the FBI made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court throughout the relevant time period. Indictment at 4.

The materiality of the Company Reports, if any, is irrelevant to the materiality of the statements that Mr. Danchenko later made to the FBI and cannot provide a basis for a false statement charge against Mr. Danchenko. 7

He notes, as I did, that his answers in interviews after the first two Carter Page applications could not have been material to those applications.

Motions to dismiss rarely work, and this one is unlikely to either (though I think Danchenko’s argument with respect to the Dolan charge is particularly strong).

But if Durham adheres to the same sloppiness they did in the Sussmann case, the MTD may be useful to Danchenko for other reasons, besides framing the case for Judge Trenga. MTDs are supposed to rely entirely on what is charged in the indictment. But in addition to the observations that Danchenko was asked neither about the Dolan email Durham has made central to the indictment nor Danchenko’s own emails after the failed July 2016 meeting in NYC, Danchenko’s argument is also premised on there not being further evidence to substantiate what appears on the face of the indictment. For example, if Durham had testimony from Dolan about conversations with Danchenko about the pee tape, Danchenko might not have argued as he has. And Danchenko explicitly states that the indictment does not claim a July 2016 phone call Danchenko believed to be from Millian did not happen — a weakness in the indictment I raised several times.

Notably, the indictment does not allege that Mr. Danchenko did not receive an anonymous phone call in or about late July 2016. Instead, the indictment alleges only that Mr. Danchenko “never received such a phone call or information from any person he believed to be Chamber President-1[.]” The alleged false statement is that Danchenko did not truly believe that the anonymous caller was Chamber President-1. The indictment also alleges that Mr. Danchenko “never made any arrangements to meet Chamber President-1.” However, Mr. Danchenko never stated that he made such arrangements. Rather, he told the FBI that he arranged to meet the anonymous caller, but the anonymous caller never showed up for the meeting.

Nine months into discovery, Danchenko would know for a fact if Durham had conclusive proof that he didn’t get a call. He’d probably know the substance of Dolan’s testimony against him.

But in response to an attack on the shoddiness of this indictment, Durham may well — as he did with Sussmann — talk about what they would prove at trial, not what was in the indictment. If Durham has proof the call didn’t happen or thinks he can argue it, he may well reveal it in response. In the Sussmann case, anyway, Durham didn’t have the goods.

And along the way, Danchenko has nodded to where this will go if the indictment is not dismissed. Most notably, Danchenko asserts, as fact, that the FBI investigation into Millian long preceded his interviews.

Indeed, the FBI was already investigating Chamber President-1’s potential involvement with Russian interference efforts long before it had ever interviewed or even identified Mr. Danchenko.

The scope and results of the investigation into Millian is presumably one of the classified details that Danchenko has argued (correctly) he needs at trial, and if he has, then Trenga will be quite familiar with the substance of the evidence. If Danchenko does make an argument about the folly of relying on Millian as a key witness, then Danchenko’s trial may be even more of an indictment of the Durham investigation than Sussmann’s was.

In fact, early in this motion, Danchenko makes the contrast I keep making: between Mueller’s substantive results and Durham’s failure thus far to undermine that substance with shoddy false statements indictments.

Between January and November 2017, Mr. Danchenko not only answered every question to the best of his ability, even when asked to speculate, but also provided emails and contact information for other potential sources of information in the Reports. The investigation into the Reports was ultimately completed by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III, in or about November 2017 and the Special Counsel’s office closed its entire investigation into possible Trump/Russia collusion in March 2019. Approximately thirty-four individuals were charged by Mueller’s office, including several for providing false statements to investigators. Mr. Danchenko was not among them. To the contrary, not only did investigators and government officials repeatedly represent that Mr. Danchenko had been honest and forthcoming in his interviews, but also resolved discrepancies between his recollection of events and that of others in Mr. Danchenko’s favor.

In or about April 2019, and just one month after Mueller had concluded his investigation, then President Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, tapped John Durham, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, to review the origins of the Russia investigation and efforts by law enforcement to investigate the Trump campaign. Just prior to the end of former President Trump’s term, Barr appointed Mr. Durham Special Counsel to carry out his investigation. Through the instant indictment, the Durham Special Counsel’s Office now claims to have uncovered false statements made by Mr. Danchenko that the previous special counsel did not, despite relying substantially on the same evidence, the same statements, and the same agents involved in the Mueller investigation.

While he doesn’t say it explicitly, in several places Danchenko makes clear that both Mueller and Michael Horowitz will affirm that, for years, Danchenko was consistently viewed as candid and his candid views were material to both those investigations.

And because Durham is now claiming otherwise, based off issues that weren’t even of interest to investigators, Durham risks putting himself on trial in October.

“Something Like This Has 0 Repercussions if You Mess Up:” John Durham Debunked the Alfa Bank Debunkery

As you know, John Durham failed spectacularly in trying to use a false statement charge against Michael Sussmann to cement a wild conspiracy theory against the Democrats.

But Durham did succeed in one thing (though you wouldn’t know it from some of the reporting from the trial): He utterly discredited the FBI investigation into the Alfa Bank allegations. Lead prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis even conceded as much in his closing argument.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, you have heard testimony about how the FBI handled this investigation. And, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve seen that the FBI didn’t necessarily do everything right here. They missed opportunities. They made mistakes. They even kept information from themselves.

That’s a fairly stunning concession from DeFilippis. After all, DeFilippis asked the guy who was responsible for some of the worst failures in the investigation, Scott Hellman, to be his expert witness, even though Hellman, by his own admission, only “kn[e]w the basics” of the DNS look-ups at the heart of the investigation. Along with Nate Batty, Hellman wrote an analysis of the Alfa Bank white paper in less than a day that:

  • Misstated the methodology behind the white paper
  • Blew off a reference to “global nonpublic DNS activity” that should have been a tip-off about the kinds of people behind the white paper
  • Falsely claimed that the anomaly had only started three weeks before the white paper when in fact it went back months
  • Asserted that there was no evidence of a hack even though a hack is one of the hypotheses presented in the white paper for the anomaly at Spectrum Health (Spectrum itself said the look-ups were the result of a misconfigured application)

Later testimony showed that, after speaking to Hellman and before even checking whois records, the Chicago-based agent who had a lead role in the investigation told a supervisor that “we’re leaning towards this being a false server.”

Within hours, Miami-based agents had confirmed with Cendyn that was false.

In spite of being so egregiously misled from the start by the guys in Cyber, agent Curtis Heide testified in cross-examination by Sussman’s attorney, Sean Berkowitz, that Hellman’s analysis was one of the four things that he believed supported a finding that the anomaly was not substantiated.

Q. Okay. I think near the end of your examination by Mr. Algor he questioned you about your basis for concluding that there was — that the allegations were unsubstantiated. And I think you gave four reasons. I’m going to run through them. If there’s more, that’s okay. Number one, you said the assessment done by Agents Hellman and Batty. Correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Two, the review of the logs. Correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Three, the Mandiant conclusion. Correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And four, the discussions with Spectrum Health about the TOR node. Correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Anything else that you can recall, sir, as to why it was that your investigation, or rather the investigation that you oversaw, suggested that the allegations were unsubstantiated?

A. The only other thing I can think of would be my training and experience with — relating to Russia and cyber investigations.

Q. And is there anything in particular about that that you recall today?

A. With respect to the white paper, it didn’t — when I read through it initially, I had several questions, and it didn’t appear to be consistent with Russian TTPs.

Another thing Heide relied on was the analysis from Mandiant, which Alfa Bank hired to investigate after NYT reached out. According to Franklin Foer’s story, Lichtblau reached out to Alfa on September 21, after Sussmann had given the FBI a heads up but before the FBI asked Lichtblau to hold the story on September 26, so in the window when the FBI had a chance — but failed — to protect the investigation.

One of the truly insane parts of this investigation, by the way — which was conducted entirely during the pre-election window when overt actions were prohibited — was that FBI big-footed to Cendyn and Listrak before sending NSLs to them. And by that point, Alfa Bank was calling the FBI.

A report that was not explained amid the primary resources from the investigation, but which was concluded by October 3, reveals that Chicago’s conclusion was almost entirely based on what Alfa told the FBI and Mandiant.

There was nothing in the case documentation until a 302 for a March 27, 2017 interview done in association with Alfa’s 2017 claims of spoofed DNS traffic (the interview may have been done with Kirkland and Ellis) that documented that, when Mandiant arrived the previous year to investigate, there were no logs to investigate.

Indeed, Heide testified on cross-examination that he had never learned of that fact. At all.

Q. And were you aware, while you were doing the investigation, that Mandiant, when it went to talk to AlfaBank to look into these allegations, did not have any historical data, that Alfa-Bank did not provide any historical data to Mandiant? Did you know that?

A. No

We now know that at a time when “Executives at the highest level of ALFA BANK leadership” had been hoping to “exonerate them[selves]” in 2017, Petr Aven had already started acting on specific directives from Vladimir Putin, including trying to open a back channel to Trump.

Plus, at least as far as Listrak could determine, while the marketing server had sent materials to Spectrum, it had never sent anything to Alfa Bank. The stated explanation that this was spam, then, conflicts with what FBI was seeing in the logs.

As for Spectrum — another of the reasons Heide pointed to — there’s no evidence of anyone reaching out to them (as compared to interactions with agents in Philadelphia and Miami who reached out to Listrak and Cendyn, respectively).

It’s true that the anomaly at Spectrum was not a Tor node (something that researchers came to understand themselves around the time Sussmann shared the allegations with the FBI). But it’s also true that, per Cendyn (which only looked back a month), the identified IP address at Spectrum was reaching out to the Trump server.

The IP address in question showed up in traffic that may be associated with Chinese hacking.

This then might have corroborated the hypothesis, from the white paper, of a hack of Spectrum, but by this point, Hellman had long before decided there was no evidence of a hack and this was, “just garbage.”

That leaves the logs, Heide’s fourth reason for believing FBI had debunked the Alfa Bank allegations. As far as the logs in question, former agent Allison Sands (who was assigned the investigation as a brand new case agent) told one of the tech people on September 26 that, “the end user [possibly Cendyn] is willing to provide logs but they dont have what we need.” Cendyn did share details of their own spam filter, which wouldn’t address the DNS look-ups themselves.

Then, on October 12, Sands told Heide that,

the ‘logs’ we got from Listrak were not network logs

they basically just confirm that trump org is one of their email clients, but they dont show destination email addresses or IPs or anything that we can use to[ ]determine any communications

[snip]

it was two excel spreadsheets

that was all we got

The FBI did get something. Sands testified that the FBI obtained upwards of 600,000 records (she described obtaining records from Cendyn, Listrak, and GoDaddy, but not Spectrum or Alfa Bank). But it’s not clear how useful those records really were. There’s a reference to the “take” elsewhere (see below), and redacted entries that look like intelligence targeting, plus a reference to an OGA partner reporting “no attempts.” (Here’s a reference to the OGA analysis that is redacted in other versions of the same email chain.) So it seems any useful logs came from another agency. But if that’s right, it would be targeted overseas.

In trial testimony, Sands described that her task was to prove that the allegation wasn’t true, not to explain what the anomaly was.

I knew still I had to rebuild from scratch and prove that this allegation wasn’t true.

In real time, too, she saw her task as disproving that emails had been shared, not even disproving that covert communication had occurred.

I have a few more logs to definitely prove there are no emails, and then Im putting it to bed

That’s a particularly problematic description given that the FBI had been told via other channels that there was some activity reflecting more than DNS look-ups.

That leaves, according to Heide’s judgement, just the observation that the DNS traffic was not consistent with known Russian techniques. Newbie agent Sands said something similar to Chris Trifiletti, Joffe’s handler and apparently sensitive for some other reasons. In response, he mused about whether Russia was “trying other things now that look more non traditional.”

We don’t know the answer to that, because the FBI didn’t try to figure it out.

Scott Hellman, the cyber agent who insisted at every opportunity he got that this was garbage was wrong about how long the anomaly had lasted, but he was right about one thing. On October 4, he advised newbie agent Sands that,

any chance you get to work something like this that truly has 0 repercussions if you mess it up ….take those opportunities

He did mess it up. It wasn’t just his own analysis; his repeated insistence that this was “garbage” appears to have made all the other investigators less careful, too. Six years later, we’re still no closer to understanding what happened.

Hellman was right about facing “zero repercussions if you mess it up.” By all appearances, he’s one of the few people who escaped any consequences for trying to investigate Russia in 2016. We know that several people — including Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Bruce Ohr — were fired for their efforts to investigate Russia. We learned at the trial that Ryan Gaynor was threatened with criminal investigation for not answering questions the way Andrew DeFilippis wanted. Curtis Heide remains under FBI Inspection Division investigation for things he did in 2016. Rodney Joffe was discontinued as an FBI informant, according to him, at least, because he refused to cooperate with Durham’s investigation. Everyone who actually tried to investigate Russia in 2016 has faced adverse consequences.

But Hellman appears to have suffered none of those adverse consequences for fucking up an investigation into a still unexplained anomaly. On the contrary, he’s been promoted; he’s now a Supervisory Special Agent, leading a team of people who will, presumably, similarly blow off anomalies that might be politically inconvenient to investigate.

That’s the lesson of the Sussmann trial then: The only people who face zero consequences are the ones who fuck up.

Update: Corrected spelling of Hellman’s last name. Added Comey and McCabe to the list of those fired for investigating Russia. Removed Lisa Page–she quit before she was fired. In this podcast, Peter Strzok said that all FBI agents named in the DOJ IG Report are still under investigation.

Update: All the links to exhibits should be live now.

Update: Added detail that Listrak says Trump never sent marketing mail to Alfa Bank.

Timeline

I’ve put (what I believe are) all the exhibits about the FBI investigation below.

These times are surely not all correct. Durham consistently shared evidence without marking what time zone the evidence reflected. Importantly, some, but probably not all of the FBI Lync messages reflect UTC time; where I was fairly certain, I tried to reflect the time in ET, but in others, the timeline below doesn’t make sense (I’ll keep tweaking it). Some of the emails reflect the Chicago time zone.

September 19, 2:00PM: Sussmann Meeting

September 19: Priestap notes

September 19: Anderson notes

September 19, 3:00PM: Strzok accepts materials

September 19, 4:31PM: Gessford to Pientka: Moffa with info dropped off to Baker

September 19, 5:00PM: Sporre accepts materials

September 20, 9:30AM: Nate Batty to Jordan Smith: A/AD has two thumb drives.

September 20, 12:29PM: Batty accepts materials

September 20, 4:54PM: Batty and Hellman re analysis

September 21, 8:48AM: Batty to Hellman: at least look at the thumb drives [Batty Lync]

September 21, 4:25PM: Pientka Lync to Heide: People on 7th floor fired up about this server

September 21, 4:46PM: Batty to Heide and others: initial assessment

September 21, 1:10PM [time uncertain] Sands to Pape: Director level interest

September 21, 4:57PM: Norwat to Todd: Not a cyber matter

September 21, 5:06PM: Todd to Heide, cc Pientka

September 21, 5:52PM: Pientka to Heide: Nat [sic] Batty ha the thumb drives

September 22, 4:58AM: Hubiak to Heide: Let me know if you need anything from PH

September 22, 8:09AM: Todd to Marasco [noting thumb drives came from DNC, suggesting tie to debate]

September 22, 8:33AM: Pientka to Heide: Less than 24 hours to investigate, determine nexus, before losing traffic, watched by Comey

September 22, 9:30AM: Pientka to Moffa: Cyber, ugh. Read first email.

September 22, 9:59PM: Hellman to Heide: can you talk on link

September 22, 10:23AM: Marasco to Pientka: FYI

September 22, 11:13AM: Sands to Hubiak: Suspect email domain hosted on Listrak server — if you can help out with a knock and talk it would be great.

September 22, 11:14AM: Baker to Comey and others: Reporter is Lichtblau

September22, 11:34AM: Hubiak to Sands: Will start working on this now

September 22, 12:02PM: Batty to Wierzbicki: We think it’s a setup

September 22, 12:10PM: Heide to Pientka: We’re leaning to this being a false server.

September 22, 2:00PM: Pientka to Hubiak: Thanks for all your efforts. The CROSSFIRE HURRICANE Team greatly appreciates you running this to ground.

September 22, 4:22PM: Sands to all: open full investigation, summary of Hellman’s conclusions [OGA partner targeting Alfa?]

September 22, 5:33PM: Heide to Pientka: it’s a legit domain

September 22, 4:53PM: Sands to all: Cendyn agrees to cooperate, legit mail server

September 23, 8:26AM: Sands to Hubiak: Cendyn willing to cooperate and provide logs

September 23, 1:09PM: Heide to Sands: once we get that case opened, let’s cut a lead to the MM division requesting assisting with the interview, etc.

September 23, 1:53PM: Sands to others: Cendyn, as of this morning no longer resolves, picture of Barracuda spam filter

September 23, 4:04PM: Heide to Gaynor: Cyber’s review

September 23: EC Opening Memo [without backup]

September 26: Gaynor notes

September 26: Intelligence Memo

September 26, 8:02AM: Lichtblau to Kortan: You know what time we’re meeting?

September 26, 9:29AM: Kortan to Lichtblau: Baker’s tied up until later this afternoon.

September 26, 10:02AM: Lichtblau to Kortan: planning to bring Steve Myers

September 26, 10:15: Heide to Pientka: We want to interview the source of the whitepaper?

September 26, 12:09: Kortan to Baker and Priestap: some kind of recap later today?

September 26, 12:29: Sands to Hubiak: I’m writing a justification for an NSL to GoDaddy

September 26, 4:19PM: Heide to Shaw: apparently it’s going to hit the times?

September 26, 4:55PM: Heide to Hellman: We think it’s a bunk report still…

September 26, 5:02PM: Soo to Sands: searching current and historical lists of Tor exit nodes

September 26, 6:20PM: Sands to all, cc Heide: Spectrum hit at Cendyn, NSLs for Listrak, GoDaddy, redacted, Tor results

October 2, 12:02PM: Grasso to Wierzbicki: Two IP addresses

October 2, 7:02PM: Heide to Hellman: Check this out….

October 3: Tactical Product

October 3: Communications Exploitation

October 3, 1:48PM: Gaynor to Heide: Did white paper start with person of interest?

October 3, 2:49PM: Heide to Gaynor and Sands: Interview source

October 3, 3:00PM: Wierzbicki to Gaynor, cc Moffa: I agree with Heide, interview source

October 4: Kyle Steere to Wierzbicki and Sands: Documenting contents of thumb drive

October 4, 8:26AM: Sands to Hellman: 2 random IP addresses we got from tom grasso

October 4, 8:28AM: Sands to Hellman: we got a report on the Alfa Bank side that they also think this is nothing

October 4, 8:43AM: Hellman to Sands: any chance you get to work something like this that truly has 0 repercussions if you mess it up ….take those opportunities [alt version]

October 4, 10:00AM: Gaynor to Wierzbicki et al, cc Moffa: We need to know what we can learn from the logs [CT version]

October 4, 9:50PM: Grasso to Sands: SME who can help give context to the data we discussed

October 4, 11:08PM: Sands to Grasso: Sounds great.

October 5, 1:20PM: Trifiletti to Sands: i reminded him once more that he has never proceeded with anything when he wasnt absolutely sure

October 5, 1:33PM: Hosenball request for comment

October 5, 3:02PM: Strzok to Gaynor, forwarding Hosenball with Mediafire package

October 5, 4:08PM: Sands to Trifiletti: We need to speak to Dave dagon now too

October 5, 5:07PM: Sands to all: Update on CHS conversation — redacted explanation for why Alfa changed

October 5, 6:58PM: Grasso to Sands: I told Dagon that you would be able to protect his identity so that his name is not made public

October 6: Gaynor notes and drawing [alt version, more redacted]

October 6, 4:20PM: Materials to storage

October 6, 4:28PM: Christopher Trifiletti: CHS report (Spectrum: misconfigured server)

October 6, 4:54PM: Trifiletti to Sands: Actual text of 1023 submitted

October 6, 6:21PM: Wierzbicki to Gaynor: CHS debrief

October 7, 8:59AM: Sands to Trifiletti

October 12, 8:01AM: Sands to Heide: the “logs” we got from listrak were not network logs

October 13, 5:45PM: Gaynor to Wierzbicki: Mediafire (includes link)

October 19, 8:05AM: Sands to Heide: we spoke to mandiant and that we are talkingt o [sic] the tech people at the ISP today

October 19, 10:15AM: Gaynor to Wierzbicki: 2 IP addresses, Mediafire, Dagon author?

November 1, 3:09PM: Sands to Trifiletti: I have a few more logs to definitely prove there are no emails, and then Im putting it to bed

November 14, 2:52PM: Steere to Sands: [report on September 30 receipt of logs from Cendyn]

January 18, 2017: Closing Memo

March 27, 2017: Sands 302 with Alfa reports that Mandiant reported no historic data

July 24, 2017: Moffa to Priestap: Includes several other reports

July 24, 2017, 3:10PM: Sands accepts custody

There Was No Crime Predicating the Durham Investigation

Deep in a NYT piece that suggests but does not conclude that John Durham’s purpose is to feed conspiracy theories, Charlie Savage writes,

Mr. Barr’s mandate to Mr. Durham appears to have been to investigate a series of conspiracy theories.

That’s as close as any traditional media outlet has come to looking at the flimsy predication for Durham’s initial appointment.

Billy Barr, however, has never hidden his goal. In his memoir, he describes returning to government — with an understanding about the Russian investigation gleaned from the propaganda bubble of Fox News, not any firsthand access to the evidence — with a primary purpose of undermining the Russian investigation. He describes having to appoint Durham to investigate what he believed, again based off Fox propaganda, to be a bogus scandal.

I would soon make the difficult decision to go back into government in large part because I saw the way the President’s adversaries had enmeshed the Department of Justice in this phony scandal and were using it to hobble his administration. Once in office, it occupied much of my time for the first six months of my tenure. It was at the heart of my most controversial decisions. Even after dealing with the Mueller report, I still had to launch US Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the genesis of this bogus scandal.

In his shameless excuses for bypassing MLAT to grill foreigners about their role in the investigation, Barr describes “ha[ving] to run down” whether there was anything nefarious about the intelligence allies shared with the US — a rather glorified description for “chasing George Papadopoulos’ conspiracy theories around the globe.”

Durham’s investigation was up and running by the late spring. Pending IG Horowitz’s completion of his review of Crossfire Hurricane, I asked Durham to focus initially on any relevant activities by the CIA, NSA, or friendly foreign intelligence services. One of the more asinine aspects of media coverage about Durham’s investigation was all the heavy breathing during the summer as news seeped out that I had contacts with foreign governments on Durham’s behalf. Various journalists and commentators claimed this indicated that I was personally conducting the investigation and suggested there was something nefarious about my communicating with allied governments about Russiagate. [sic] This coverage was a good example of the kind of partisan nonsense that passes as journalism these days.

One of the questions that had to be run down was whether allied intelligence services had any role in Russiagate [sic] or had any relevant information. One question was whether US officials had asked foreign intelligence services to spy on Americans. Various theories of potential involvement by British, Australian, or Italian intelligence agencies had been raised over the preceding two years. Talking to our allies about these matters was an essential part of the investigation. It should not surprise anyone that a prosecutor cannot just show up on the door- step of a foreign intelligence agency and start asking questions. An introduction and explanation at more senior levels is required. So— gasp!—I contacted the relevant foreign ambassadors, who in turn put me in touch with an appropriate senior official in their country with authority to deal with such matters. These officials quite naturally wanted to hear from me directly about the contours of the investigation and how their information would be protected.

Much later, when Barr claimed that Durham would not lower DOJ standards just to obtain results, Barr again described an investigation launched to “try to get to the bottom of what happened” rather than investigate a potential crime.

I acknowledged that what had happened to President Trump in 2016 was abhorrent and should not happen again. I said that the Durham investigation was trying to get to the bottom of what happened but “cannot be, and it will not be, a tit-for-tat exercise.” I pledged that Durham would adhere to the department’s standards and would not lower them just to get results. I then added a point, meant to temper any expectation that the investigation would necessarily produce any further indictments:

[W]e have to bear in mind [what] the Supreme Court recently re- minded [us] in the “Bridgegate” case—there is a difference between an abuse of power and a federal crime. Not every abuse of power, no matter how outrageous, is necessarily a federal crime.

And then Durham lowered DOJ standards and charged two false statement cases for which he had (and has, in the case of Igor Danchenko) flimsy proof and for which, in the case of Michael Sussmann, he had not tested the defendant’s sworn explanation before charging. Durham further lowered DOJ standards by turning false statement cases into uncharged conspiracies he used to make wild unsubstantiated allegations about a broad network of others.

This entire three year process was launched with no evidence that a crime was committed, and it seems likely that only the Kevin Clinesmith prosecution, which DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz handed Durham months after he was appointed as a fait accompli and which could easily have been prosecuted by the DC US Attorney’s Office, provided an excuse to convene a grand jury to start digging in the coffers of Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie.

There was no crime. Durham was never investigating a suspected crime and then, as statutes of limitation started expiring, he hung a conspiracy theory on a claimed false statement for which he had no solid proof. Eight months into Durham repeating those conspiracy theories at every turn — conspiracy theories that Durham admitted would not amount to a crime in any case! — a jury told Durham he had inadequate proof a crime was committed and that the entire thing had been a waste of time and resources.

“The government had the job of proving beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said, declining to give her name. “We broke it down…as a jury. It didn’t pan out in the government’s favor.”

Asked if she thought the prosecution was worthwhile, the foreperson said: “Personally, I don’t think it should have been prosecuted because I think we have better time or resources to use or spend to other things that affect the nation as a whole than a possible lie to the FBI. We could spend that time more wisely.”

Compare that to the Russian investigation, which was started to figure out which Trump associate had advance knowledge of Russia’s criminal hack-and-leak operation and whether they had any criminal exposure in it. Here’s how Peter Strzok described it in his book:

[A]gents often don’t even know the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. They have a term for that: an unknown subject, or UNSUB, which they use when an activity is known but the specific person conducting that activity is not — for instance, when they are aware that Russia is working to undermine our electoral system in concert with a presidential campaign but don’t know exactly who at that campaign Russia might be coordinating with or how many people might be involved.

To understand the challenges of an UNSUB case, consider the following three hypothetical scenarios. In one, a Russian source tells his American handler that, while out drinking at an SVR reunion, he learned that a colleague had just been promoted after a breakthrough recruitment of an American intelligence officer in Bangkok. We don’t know the identity of the recruited American — he or she is an UNSUB. A second scenario: a man and a woman out for a morning run in Washington see a figure toss a package over the fence of the Russian embassy and speed off in a four-door maroon sedan. An UNSUB.

Or consider this third scenario: a young foreign policy adviser to an American presidential campaign boasts to one of our allies that the Russians have offered to help his candidate by releasing damaging information about that candidate’s chief political rival. Who actually received the offer of assistance from the Russians? An UNSUB.

[snip]

The FFG information about Papadopoulos presented us with a textbook UNSUB case. Who received the alleged offer of assistance from the Russians? Was it Papadopoulos? Perhaps, but not necessarily. We didn’t know about his contacts with Mifsud at the time — all we knew was that he had told the allied government that the Russians had dirt on Clinton and Obama and that they wanted to release it in a way that would help Trump.

The answer, by the way, was that at least two Trump associates had advance knowledge, George Papadopoulos and Roger Stone, and Stone shared his advance knowledge with Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump, among others. By all appearances, DOJ was still investigating whether Stone had criminal exposure tied to his advance knowledge when Barr interfered in that investigation in February 2020, a fact that Barr hid until the day before the 2020 election.

With the Russian investigation, there was a crime: a hack by a hostile nation-state of a Presidential candidate, along with evidence that her opponent at least knew about the related leak campaign in advance. With the Durham investigation, there were only Fox News conspiracy theories and the certainty that Donald Trump shouldn’t be held accountable for encouraging Russia to hack his opponent.

The fact that this entire three year wild goose hunt was started without any predicating crime is all the more ridiculous given Durham’s repeated focus both on the predication of Crossfire Hurricane (in criticizing Horowitz’s report on Carter Page) and the Alfa Bank inquiry (during the Sussmann trial). John Durham, appointed to investigate conspiracy theories, deigns to lecture others about appropriate predication.

And that’s undoubtedly why, in the face of this humiliating result for Durham, Billy Barr is outright lying about what Durham’s uncharged conspiracy theories revealed about the predication of the Russian investigation.

He and his team did an exceptionally able job, both digging out very important facts and presenting a compelling case to the jury. And the fact that he … well, he did not succeed in getting a conviction from the DC jury, I think he accomplished something far more important, which is he brought out the truth in two important areas. First, I think he crystalized the central role played by the Hillary campaign in launching — as a dirty trick — the whole RussiaGate [sic] collusion [sic] narrative and fanning the flames of it, and second, I think, he exposed really dreadful behavior by the supervisors in the FBI, the senior ranks of the FBI, who knowingly used this information to start an investigation of Trump and then duped their own agents by lying to them and refusing to tell them what the real source of that information was.

That’s not what the trial showed, of course. Every witness who was asked about the centrality of the Alfa Bank allegations responded that there were so many other ties between Trump and Russia that the Alfa Bank allegations didn’t much stick out. Here’s how Robby Mook described it in questioning by Michael Bosworth.

[I]t was one of many pieces of information we had. And, in fact, every day, you know, Donald Trump was saying things about Putin and saying things about Russia. So this was a constituent piece of information among many pieces of information, and I don’t think we saw it as this silver bullet that was going to conclude the campaign and, you know, determine the outcome, no.

Q. There were a lot of Trump/Russia issues you were focused on?

A. Correct.

Q. And this was one of many?

A. Correct.

In response to questioning by Sean Berkowitz, Marc Elias traced the increased focus on Russia to Trump’s own request for Russia to hack Hillary.

Q. Let’s take a look — let me ask a different question. At some point in the summer of 2016, did Candidate Trump make any statements publicly about the hack?

A. Yes.

Q. What do you recall him saying and when?

A. There was a publication of emails, of DNC emails, in the days leading up to the Democratic National Convention. And it was in my opinion at the time clearly an effort by Russia to ruin what is the one clean shot that candidates get to talk to the American public. Right? The networks give you free coverage for your convention. And in the days before the convention, there was a major leak. And rather than doing what any decent human being might do and condemn it, Donald Trump said: I hope Russia is listening and, if so, will find the 30,000 Hillary Clinton emails that he believed existed and release them. That’s what I remember.

Q. Did you feel the campaign was under attack, sir?

A. We absolutely were under attack.

Q. And in connection with that, were there suggestions or possibilities at least in your mind and in the campaign’s mind that there could be a connection between Russia and Trump?

A. Again, this is, you know — this was public — Donald Trump — you know, the Republican Party historically has been very anti-Russia. Ronald Reagan was like the most anti-communist, the most anti-Soviet Union president.

And all of a sudden you had this guy who becomes the nominee; and they change the Russian National Committee platform to become pro-Russian and he has all these kind things to say about Putin. And then he makes this statement.

And in the meantime, he has hired, you know, Paul Manafort, who is, you know, I think had some ties to — I don’t recall anymore, but it was some pro-Russia thing in Ukraine.

So yeah. I thought that there were — I thought it was plausible. I didn’t know, but I thought it was an unusual set of circumstances and I thought it was plausible that Donald Trump had relations with — through his company with Russia.

Democrats didn’t gin up the focus on Trump’s ties to Russia, Trump’s own begging for more hacking did.

The trial also showed that this wasn’t an investigation into Trump. Rather, it was opened as an investigation into Kirkland & Ellis client Alfa Bank, which FBI believed had ties to Russian intelligence.

The investigation even considered whether Alfa Bank was victimizing Trump Organization.

Barr is similarly lying about whether supervisors revealed the source(s) of this information and what it was.

The source for the allegations was not Hillary, but researchers. And the trial presented repeated testimony that David Dagon’s role as one source of the allegations being shared with investigative agents. That detail was not hidden, but agents nevertheless never interviewed Dagon.

And even the purported tie to the Democrats was not well hidden. Indeed, the trial evidence shows that the FBI believed the DNC to be the source of the allegations, and that detail leaked down to various agents — including the two cyber agents, Nate Batty and Scott Hellman, whose shoddy analysis encouraged all other agents to dismiss the allegations — via various means.

Andrew DeFilippis made great efforts (efforts that lowered DOJ standards) to claim differently, but the evidence that key investigators assumed this was a DNC tip was fairly strong.

Three years after launching an investigation into conspiracy theories, Barr is left lying, claiming he found the result he set out to find three years ago. But the evidence — and the jury’s verdict — proves him wrong.

For years, Durham has been seeking proof that the predication of the Russian investigation was faulty. The only crime he has proven in the interim is that his own investigation was predicated on Fox News conspiracy theories.

FBI’s Russian Hack-and-Leak Investigation as Disclosed by the Sussmann Trial

Now that he has been acquitted, it’s easy to conclude the Michael Sussmann prosecution was a pointless right wing conspiracy theory. It was!

But the exhibits that came out at trial are a worthwhile glimpse of both the FBI’s investigation into the 2016 Russian hack of Democrats and the Bureau’s shoddy investigation of the Alfa Bank anomalies.

I’ve started unpacking what a shitshow the FBI investigation into the latter was here and collecting technical exhibits pertaining the investigation here (though that post is currently out of date).

As to the Russian hack-and-leak, Sussmann’s team facilitated the process with a summary exhibit they included showing a selection of FBI communications pertaining to the investigation that either involve or mention Sussmann. Sussmann introduced these documents to show how obvious his ties to the Democrats would have been to the FBI, including to some people involved in the Alfa Bank investigation. A few of these communications refute specific claims Durham made, showing that meetings or communications Durham argued must relate to the Alfa Bank effort could be explained, in one case far more easily, as part of the hack-and-leak response. That is, some of these documents show that Durham was taking evidence of victimization by Russia and using it instead to argue that Sussmann was unfairly victimizing Trump.

 

 

Below, I’ve grouped the communications by topic (though a number of these communications span several topics). Note that Latham & Watkins’ paralegal only used the last date on these communications, which I will adopt. But a number reflect a communication chain that extends months and includes dates that are far more important to the Durham prosecution.

Some of these files include topics that have attracted a great deal of often misleading coverage, such as the efforts to get server images from the Democrats. Importantly, by the time the FBI asked for server images, according to these communications, the only place to get them was at CrowdStrike.

I don’t believe DNC/DCCC have the images that CS took. Only CS have those. It’s like paying ATM fees to your bank to get your cash. DNC/DCCC will be charged to get the images back.

After some discussion about who would pay CrowdStrike to create a second image, the firm offered to do it for free.

These communications also give a sense of the extent to which Democrats faced new and perceived threats all through the election. Given the communications below and some details I know of the Democrats’ response to the attacks, I suspect these communications do not include real attempted attacks, either because they were not reported or because the report went to FBI via another channel. While CrowdStrike attempted to ensure Sussmann was always in the loop, for example, that discipline was not maintained. And we know CrowdStrike found the compromise of the Democrats analytics hosted on AWS in September, a compromise that may only show up in these communications mentioned in passing. Some in the FBI seemed entirely unsympathetic to the paranoia that suffering a nation-state attack during an election caused, which couldn’t have helped already sour relations between the FBI and Hillary’s people.

Perhaps the most interesting communications — to me at least — pertain to efforts to authenticate the documents that got publicly posted and to identify any alterations to them. At least as laid out in these communications, the Democrats were way behind the public in identifying key alterations to documents posted by Guccifer 2.0, and it’s unclear whether the FBI was any further ahead. But these discussions show what kind of alterations the Democrats were able to identify (such as font changes) as well as which publicly posted documents the FBI was sharing internally.

FBI public statements

160614 DX102 A discussion of Jim Trainor’s preparation for a meeting with Ellen Nakashima in advance of her June 14, 2016 reporting the hack and CrowdStrike’s attribution. Among other things, they note Nakashima’s confidence that GOP PACs were also targeted.

160725 DX112 This email chain between Sussmann and Trainor captured Sussmann’s frustration that FBI made an announcement of an investigation into the DNC hack without first running the statement by Sussmann.

160729 DX117 Before FBI sent out a statement about the DCCC hack, Jim Trainor sent Sussmann their draft statement. In response, Sussmann complained that FBI said they were aware of media reports but not of the hack itself. The timing of this exchange is important because Durham’s team repeatedly described a meeting between Marc Elias and Sussmann that day pertaining to a server as relating to the Alfa Bank anomaly.

Points of contact

160616 DX105 An email thread sent within FBI OGC (including to Trisha Anderson) discussing an initial meeting between Jim Trainor, Amy Dacey, Sussmann, and Shawn Henry.

160621 DX107 Starting on June 16, Amy Dacey thanked Assistant Director Jim Trainor for meeting with the Democrats about the hack. The thread turned into a confused request from the campaign for a briefing about whether they, too, had been compromised.

160725 DX114 This chain reflects Hawkins’ confused response after Sussmann provided the contact information for a Hillary staffer with a role in technical security. Hawkins stated, “Nothing concerning HFA has come up.”

160809 DX127 After Donna Brazile replaced Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sussmann set up a meeting between her and Jim Trainor.

160811 DX128 An email chain among cyber FBI personnel discusses three Secret threat briefings for the DNC, DCCC, and Hillary campaign. Sussmann was scheduled to attend all three briefings, and Marc Elias was scheduled to attend the DCCC and Hillary briefings (though he testified that he did not attend).

160811 DX130 Sussmann sent the FBI notice of a public report of the DNC’s establishment of a cybersecurity advisory board. The report was passed on to Jim Trainor.

DHS outreach

160802 DX106 A Lync chain starting in the initial aftermath of the Nakashima story, referencing an Intelligence Committee briefing, and discussing how to facilitate DHS assistance to the Democrats through Sussmann.

160802 DX120 With the goal of reaching out to the Democratic victims to offer assistance, DHS asked who the point of contact for both would be.

160816 DX125 This email chain documents DHS’ “SitRep” of their understanding of the DNC/DCCC hacks and their efforts to reach out to help. This includes sharing of DNC/DCCC “artifacts” with NCCIC.

Authentication and venue

160708 DX109 An email chain seeking DNC help authenticating a document released by Guccifer 2.0.

160723 DX110 A discussion starting on July 21 about authenticating and extending after the initial WikiLeaks dump. Hawkins observed, “Looks like there will be multiple releases on that [the WikiLeaks] front.”

160802 DX118 After Adrian Hawkins asked CrowdStrike’s Christopher Scott a question about a public report that the Democrats’ analytics had been hacked, Scott explained that Sussmann had to be involved in any discussions between the FBI and their cybersecurity contractor. Hawkins also asked for specifics about the compromised servers that the FBI could use to establish venue.

160816 DX134 An email chain mentioning but not including Sussmann describes the efforts to establish venue (especially for Field staff who rely on laptops and travel a lot) as well as the efforts to authenticate documents.

160822 DX136 Two Lync messages describing a script that can be used to match WordPress documents with files stolen from the DNC.

160922 DX145 NSD’s Deputy Chief of  Cyber, Sean Newell, asks Sussmann to meet to discuss some information requests from NDCA. They set up a meeting for September 26.

160930 DX147 Hawkins follows up on Newell’s request for information with a much more detailed request from the San Francisco Division. This request includes details of the forensics NDCA was asking for, generally to include the CrowdStrike reports, network diagrams, logs, and images for the compromised hosts.

161004 DX148 In response to WikiLeaks promises about an upcoming file release, Newell follows up on a September 27 request he made of Sussmann for any files that were altered as well as a list of files that had been released but not circulated outside of the victim organizations first, including some indication whether those had been altered. Sussmann says they would have information available later that week.

161012 DX150 In another chain of responses to Newell’s information request, someone at Perkins Coie passes on a description from the DCCC about how an image posted by Guccifer 2.0 differed from the file structure as it appeared on their server, including as it pertained to a file named, “Pelosi Vote Email.”

161026 DX154 This chain is a follow-up to the Newell request, though it actually includes Guccifer 2.0 documents about Trump’s taxes discussed. It includes description of an altered document published by Guccifer 2.0, in which the font was changed. It also includes a DOJ NSD person asking FBI to print out the document because they don’t have any unattributable computers.

161024 DX165 This is yet another continuation of the Newell request, this one included the Trump Report altered by Guccifer 2.0. It includes some discussion of alterations to that document (as compared to unaltered ones released by WikiLeaks). It also describes documents that a DNC research staffer believes were taken from his local desktop.

CrowdStrike Reports

160815 DX132 Burnham to Farrar explaining there are two CloudStrike reports, one for the DNC and the other for the DCCC. The former is done, while the latter will be done soon.

160825 DX137 Hawkins asks Sussmann about the DNC CrowdStrike report, Sussmann explains it’s still a few days away, but then the next day says he’s reading “it” (which may be the DCCC report). Sussmann’s response gets forwarded to a few more people.

160830 DX 138 A Lync chain conveying that Sussmann had alerted the FBI that the CrowdStrike report was done and asking if WFO should pick it up.

Server images

161013 DX151 In another chain of responses to Sean Newell’s information request, the discussion turns from Sussmann’s effort to make sure the Democrats respond to all the FBI’s data request to how to obtain images (whether to have CrowdStrike spend 10 hours to do it or let FBI onsite to do it themselves). As part of this chain, Sussmann says that “in theory” the Democrats would be amenable to letting the FBI onsite to image the serves themselves, but then checks to see whether the data is at CrowdStrike or the DNC.

161013 DX152 This chain is follow-up to the request for server images. Sussmann connects the FBI and CrowdStrike, CS offers to image the servers for free, and the FBI provides the address where to send them.

161028 DX153 A Lync that starts with Newell requesting someone attend the October 11 meeting with Sussmann, continues through a discussion about how to get images of the compromised servers (including whether Sussmann may have misinterpreted the ask), and includes a discussion about a re-compromise.

Lizard Squad ransomware threat

160803 DX121 Late night on August 2, Sussmann reported a ransomware threat from the Lizard Squad. This email discusses the various equities behind such a threat and involves a guy named Rodney Hays, whom the Durham team would at one point insist must be Rodney Joffe.

160806 DX124 This chain reflects more of the response to Sussmann reporting a ransomware threat from Lizard Squad. As noted, it involves a guy named Rodney Hays that Durham’s team insisted must be Joffe.

160922 DX144 Over a month after the Democrats reported the Lizard Squad threat, Eric Lu wrote up the intake report, including the bitcoin address involved and Sussmann’s email to Rodney on August 9 thanking him for his assistance.

Other threats

160726 DX115 Sussmann set up a meeting with Hawkins and others so someone could report “some offline activity related to the intrusion.” This was around the time when Ali Chalupa believed she was being followed, though nothing in this chain describes the threat.

160908 DX140 On August 26, EA Hawkins wrote Sussmann directly alerting him to a new phishing campaign targeting Democrats. On September 7, he wrote back with three accounts that may have been targeted.

160916 DX141 Moore emailing Josh Hubiak — a cyber agent in Pittsburgh — asking for contact information for Michael Sussmann so she can obtain the contact information for a DNC bigwig whose Microsoft Outlook account was compromised, apparently by APT 28. Hubiak is one of the agents also involved in the Alfa Bank investigation.

160917 DX142 The day after the request for contact information for the DNC bigwig, there’s further discussion about how to contact him. The FBI also shares new files reflecting the network share for a different DNC person, a former IT staffer, that was uploaded to Virus Total.

160927 DX146 In response to public reports that some Democratic phones may have been targeted and a potential compromise of Powell’s phone (probably Colin, whose communications were posted to dcleaks), there’s some chatter about what information is available from Apple and Google. One of the key agents involved complains that, “it would be awesome if Google helped out, as I know they are at least 2 steps ahead of me and I’m in a sad, losing game of catchup.”

161011 DX149 This seems to be a collection of Lync notes from October 11, showing three different issues pertaining to Sussmann happening at once: the transfer of custody of the thumb drives to the Chicago office, a reference to a meeting with Sussmann, and a report of a new Democratic concern about exposed Social Security numbers.

161230 DX155 A Lync chain that goes from October 28 through December 30 covering the concern about a bug at DNC HQ, the response to the NYT article naming Hawkins, and another compromise alert.

161017 DX164 This may be a summary prepared for Mother Jones. Whatever the purpose (there is no date), it describes the timeline of FBI’s response to a request for a sweep of DNC headquarters in response to some anomaly. Sussmann permitted the sweep but asked that it be done covertly, so as not to alert DNC staffers.

Crossfire Hurricane

160804 DX123 On August 4, Joe Pientka forwarded the original June 14 Nakashima story to the agents who had just been assigned to the Crossfire Hurricane team with the explanation, “Just going through old — possibly pertinent emails.”

“The Bell Can Never Be Unrung” … The Many Times Durham’s Prosecutors Flouted Judge Cooper’s Orders

Thanks to those who’ve donated to help defray the costs of trial transcripts. Your generosity has funded the expected costs. If you appreciate the kind of coverage no one else is offering, we’re still happy to accept donations for this coverage — which reflects the culmination of eight months work. 

The jury in the Michael Sussmann case will return to work this morning. They deliberated for some period on Friday (I’m not sure whether how long they deliberated has been reported). But the jury was unable to get questions answered or a verdict accepted after Judge Christopher Cooper left for the long holiday at 2:30PM. Even if the jury ends up finding Jim Baker’s testimony unreliable — which would likely be the quickest way to come to a verdict one way or another — I would expect it to take the jury a bit of time to sort through the centrality of his testimony to the charges.

So while we wait, I want to catalog how Durham’s team blew off just about every adverse decision Cooper made against them.

1. Delayed Request for Privileged Material

As I laid out in this post, Cooper ruled that a bunch of the emails over which the Democrats had originally claimed privilege were not. But because Durham waited so long to request a review of the privileged documents, Cooper ruled Durham could not use the emails at trial.

In cross-examination of Fusion’s tech person, Laura Seago, DeFilippis used the content of one of those emails that apparently discussed hiding her Fusion affiliation from Tea Leaves. (I laid out this exchange in this post.)

MR. DeFILIPPIS: So we have an issue with regard to Ms. Seago’s testimony. The government followed carefully Your Honor’s order with regard to the Fusion emails that were determined not to be privileged but that the government had moved on.

As Your Honor may recall, there was an email in there in which Ms. Seago talks very explicitly about seeking to approach someone associated with the Alfa-Bank matter and concealing her affiliation with Fusion in the email. When we asked her broadly whether she ever did that, she definitively said no when I, you know, revisited it with her. So it raises the prospect that she may be giving false testimony.

And so we were — you know, I considered trying to refresh her with that, but I didn’t understand that to be in line with Your Honor’s ruling. So the government is — we’d like to consider whether we should be — we’d like Your Honor to consider whether we should be able to at least recall her and refresh her with that document?

THE COURT: I don’t remember that question, but the subject matter was concealing Fusion or her identities in conversations with the press. If I recall correctly, that email related to “tea leaves,” correct?

After repeatedly asking Seago whether she had hidden her affiliation from the media, he asked about this email, catching Seago in a gotcha (though both Judge Cooper and Sussmann lawyer Sean Berkowitz took the question, as Seago seemed to, to relate to outreach to the press).

After setting his perjury trap, DeFilippis immediately tried to recall Seago onto the stand to delve into the content of this email. In this case, Judge Cooper ruled that DeFilippis had waived his opportunity to do so.

THE COURT: Well, I think the time to have asked the Court whether using the document to refresh was consistent with the order was before she was tendered and dismissed. So I think you waived your opportunity. All right? So we’re going to move on.

2. Non-Expert Expert Testimony

One of the most contentious arguments leading up to trial was Durham’s belated attempt to use an expert witness, ostensibly to discuss the technical complexities of DNS and Tor at the heart of the case (topics which prosecutors had witnesses explain over and over in as much detail as their nominal expert witness David Martin did), to address the accuracy of the research on the DNS anomaly.

This was an attempt to lead the jury to believe the anomaly was fabricated by Rodney Joffe and the researchers, in spite of the fact that Durham obtained plenty of evidence it was not.

On April 25, Judge Cooper ruled that Durham could have an expert discuss the technicalities of the data, but could only raise the accuracy if Sussmann did so himself.

Then on May 6, Durham attempted to expand that ruling by asking the expert to address materiality. In discussions the morning of opening arguments that focused entirely on the testimony of non-DNS expert Scott Hellman, not the nominal expert on DNS David Martin, Cooper prohibited Martin’s discussion of spoofing. (I describe these discussions here.)

Ironically, this was all supposed to be about visibility, the import of understanding how much DNS traffic a researcher could access to the quality of that researcher’s work. In Hellman’s own analysis — for which he fairly demonstrably did not review the data that Sussmann shared with the FBI very closely —  he showed no curiosity about the issue.

Searched “…global nonpublic DNS activity…” (unclear how this was done) and discovered there are (4) primary IP addresses that have resolved to the name “mail1.trump-email.com”. Two of these belong to DNS servers at Russian Alfa Bank. [my emphasis]

Nevertheless, DeFilippis used this nested set of witnesses as an opportunity to get Hellman — who admitted he had only a basic understanding of DNS, who didn’t review the data very closely, and who formed his initial conclusion in about a day — to comment on the methodology of the researchers.

Q. And what, if anything, did you conclude about whether you believed the authors of the paper or author of the paper was fairly and neutrally conducting an analysis? Did you have an opinion either way?

MR. BERKOWITZ: Objection, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Basis?

MR. BERKOWITZ: Objection on foundation. He asked him his opinion. He’s not qualified as an expert for that.

THE COURT: I’ll overrule it.

A. Sorry, can you please repeat the question?

Q. Sure. Did you draw a conclusion one way or the other as to whether the authors of this paper seemed to be applying a sound methodology or whether, to the contrary, they were trying to reach a particular result? Did you —

A. Based upon the conclusions they drew and the assumptions that they made, I did not feel like they were objective in the conclusions that they came to.

Q. And any particular reasons or support for that?

A. Just the assumption you would have to make was so far reaching, it didn’t — it just didn’t make any sense.

This is precisely the kind of opinion that Cooper had prohibited from an actual expert, admitted from someone whose own shoddy analysis became a recurrent theme for the defense.

3. Hearsay Clinton Tweet

DeFilippis’ efforts to get excluded information introduced was still more brazen with hearsay materials.

On May 7, Judge Cooper issued his initial ruling on which parts of Durham’s conspiracy theory could be admitted at trial. In general, Cooper permitted the introduction of Fusion GPS emails with the press about the Alfa Bank allegations, all of which post-date Sussmann’s alleged lie. He excluded all but one of the emails between Rodney Joffe and the researchers (more on the exception below).

Cooper equivocated wildly about a tweet sent out under Hillary Clinton’s name in response to the Franklin Foer story on the anomaly. In a hearing on April 27, he excluded it as hearsay.

THE COURT: All right. The Clinton Campaign Tweet, the Court will exclude that as hearsay. To the extent that the government believes that it offers some connection to the campaign and an attorney-client relationship, it’s likely duplicative of other evidence, so the Tweet will not come in.

In a pre-trial hearing on May 9 (after he had issued his order on motions in limine), Cooper explained he was revisiting the decision.

But I guess my question, as I have thought more about this, given the sort of two competing theories of the case and two narratives laid out in the Court’s ruling on the motion in limine, is whether it is relevant not for the truth, but to show the campaign’s connection to the alleged public relations effort to play stories regarding the Alfa-Bank data with the press and that therefore it is sort of context for the Government’s motive theory, that Mr. Sussmann sought to conceal that effort, as well as the campaign’s general connection to that effort.

After Sussmann lawyer Sean Berkowitz explained that the defense would not contest that the campaign wanted a story out there, Cooper opined that would make the tweet cumulative.

Well, if that’s going to be the case, and he’s not contesting that he was representing the campaign in connection with that effort, isn’t the tweet cumulative? It’s icing on the cake. Right?

DeFilippis claimed that without the tweet they would have no evidence about how the campaign worked the press on this issue (even though both Marc Elias, called as a government witness, and Robby Mook, who was originally listed as a government witness, eventually testified to the issue on the stand). After Judge Cooper said he would reserve his decision, Berkowitz noted that in fact, DeFilippis planned to use the tweet to claim the campaign wanted to go to the FBI when the testimony at trial (from both Elias and Mook) would establish that going to the FBI conflicted with the campaign’s goals.

[T]hey are offering the tweet for the truth of the matter, that that’s what the campaign desired and wanted and that it was a accumulation of the efforts.

Number one, it’s not the truth; and in fact, it’s the opposite of the truth. We expect there to be testimony from the campaign that, while they were interested in an article on this coming out, going to the FBI is something that was inconsistent with what they would have wanted before there was any press. And in fact, going to the FBI killed the press story, which was inconsistent with what the campaign would have wanted.

And so we think that a tweet in October after there’s an article about it is being offered to prove something inconsistent with what actually happened.

Then, after both Elias and Mook had testified that they had not sanctioned Sussmann going to the FBI, DeFilippis renewed his assault on Cooper’s initial exclusion, asking to introduce it through Mook’s knowledge that the campaign had tried to capitalize on the Foer story.

Having ruled in the past that the tweet was cumulative and highly prejudicial, Cooper nevertheless permitted DeFilippis to introduce the tweet if he could establish that Mook knew that the campaign tried to capitalize on the Foer story.

But Cooper set two rules: The government could not read from the tweet and could not introduce the part of the tweet that referenced the FBI investigation. (I explained what DeFilippis did at more length in this post.)

THE COURT: All right. Mr. DeFilippis, if you can lay a foundation that he had knowledge that a story had come out and that the campaign decided to issue the release in response to the story, I’ll let you admit the Tweet. However, the last paragraph, I agree with the defense, is substantially more prejudicial than it is probative because he has testified that had neither — he nor anyone at the campaign knew that Mr. Sussmann went to the FBI, no one authorized him to go to the FBI, and there’s been no other evidence admitted in the case that would suggest that that took place. And so this last paragraph, I think, would unfairly suggest to the jury, without any evidentiary foundation, that that was the case. All right?

MR. DeFILIPPIS: Your Honor, just two brief questions on that.

THE COURT: Okay.

MR. DeFILIPPIS: Can we — so can we use — depending on what he says about whether he was aware of the Tweet or the public statement, may we use it to refresh him?

THE COURT: Sure. Sure.

MR. DeFILIPPIS: Okay. And then, as to the last paragraph, could it be used for impeachment or refreshing purposes as well in terms of any dealings with the FBI?

THE COURT: You can use anything to refresh.

MR. DeFILIPPIS: Okay.

THE COURT: But we’re not going to publish it to the jury. We’re not going to read from it. And let’s see what he says. [my emphasis]

Having just been told not to read the tweet, especially not the part about the FBI investigation, DeFilippis proceeded to have Mook do just that.

The exhibit of the tweet that got sent to the jury had that paragraph redacted and that part of the transcript was also redacted. But, predictably, the press focused on little but the tweet, including the part that Cooper had explicitly forbidden from coming into evidence.

4. Hearsay about Joffe’s Request for Feedback

As noted above, Judge Cooper permitted just one email between Joffe and the researchers to come into evidence: a request for feedback Rodney Joffe made of the researches. But he did so based on Durham’s representation that either David Dagon or Manos Antonakakis — both of whom received the email — would testify.

Neither did.

During Sean Berkowitz’ cross-examination of Curtis Heide, one of the agents assigned to investigate the anomaly, Sussmann’s attorney had Heide explain how they knew David Dagon had a role in the research, but nevertheless never bothered to speak to him directly.

AUSA Jonathan Algor used that as an opportunity to ask to introduce not just the email that had been permitted, but also the response, claiming that by highlighting how shoddy the FBI investigation was, Berkowitz was opening the door to accuracy questions.

MR. ALGOR: So, Your Honor, there was a good amount of cross-examination regarding David Dagon.

THE COURT: Yes.

MR. ALGOR: And specifically asking about reaching out to him and also going into that he was the source of the white paper and what types of questions you would ask him and all. I think that this goes right to the red herring email.

THE COURT: I’m sorry, the what email?

MR. ALGOR: The red herring email, which you’ve previously excluded. It was Government Exhibit 124, when you would go through what type of questions. Now that Mr. Berkowitz has asked these, I would ask: What would you have asked having to provide data related to it? You know, Were there drafts of the white paper? Would Agent Heide ask who else he communicated with and what he believed regarding all of that data? And so I think he’s opened the door regarding that email.

Berkowitz noted that neither Sussmann nor Heide knew of the email.

MR. BERKOWITZ: Judge, this is not an email that was authored by Mr. Dagon. My cross-examination went directly to their investigation, who they spoke to, who they didn’t speak to. I asked him, he doesn’t know what Mr. Dagon said to Mr. Sussmann, if anything, and he said he didn’t. And I don’t think that opening the door to these communications where there’s no indication that it went to Mr. Sussmann is appropriate.

Cooper ruled that Algor could not introduce the email response.

That did not open the door to the excluded email about which — about what his and the other researchers’ views on the data or motivations may have been. In any case, the emails reflect — or the email reflects the views of Mr. Joffe, not Mr. Dagon, and those views came a full month and a half before the FBI was in a position to interview Mr. Dagon. They are, therefore, not relevant to Mr. Dagon’s views or motivations in any event.

So you can — you can certainly ask him, as you have in direct, what he would have done differently, what he would have questioned Mr. Dagon about, you know, to establish a materiality argument, but we’re not going to get into what the researchers’ motivations were. Okay?

Minutes later, Algor walked how Heide didn’t know any of the people on the email, and elicited from Heide the opinion that even asking the opinion might suggest people were trying to fabricate the data.

Q. Okay. And it — the “from” is Rodney Joffe. Do you see that?

A. Yes.

Q. And then the “to” is to Manos Antonakakis. Do you see that?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know who that is?

A. I do not.

Q. And David Dagon, do you see that second name?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know who David Dagon is?

A. No.

Q. You testified —

A. I’m sorry.

Q. — earlier —

A. I never met David Dagon, but I do know that he was the information that the source came forward and said he was potentially the author of the white paper.

Q. Okay. And that’s from a CHS that your team was contacted by?

A. Yes. Yes.

Q. And then, finally, April Lorenzen. Do you know who April Lorenzen is?

A. I do not.

[snip]

Q. Would you also want to know whether the authors of the white paper were trying to make it out so that it wasn’t — so that it couldn’t be understood if you weren’t a DNS expert?

A. That would be important.

Q. And if you could read that last line, please.

A. It says, “Do NOT spend more than a short while on this (if you spend more than an hour you have failed the assignment). Hopefully less.”

Q. And just going back to the line above, it says, without — it says, “NOT to be able to say this is, with out doubt, fact, but to merely be plausible,” would you want to understand that coming from the source of the white paper?

A. Yes.

The discussion of the bench conference immediately after Heide left the stand (Berkowitz generally refrained from objecting to these shenanigans in front of the jury) is entirely redacted. But as noted below, Judge Cooper ultimately excluded the entire email as hearsay introduced without proper foundation.

6. Hearsay Commentary on an Attorney

In the very same sidebar where Judge Cooper excluded the Heide testimony, he also explicitly prohibited prosecutors from tying a research request that Rodney Joffe had given a colleague, Jared Novick, to an attorney. The research request pertained to Richard Burt and Carter Page (among others) at a time both had established ties to Russia. Novick testified to Joffe’s displeasure with his work abilities and it’s quite clear the two don’t like each other.

MR. BERKOWITZ: So with respect, Judge, to that, it sounds as if outside the norm of what he normally does, that he thought it was likely for a political campaign. I’m not sure that his determination that he thought it was for an attorney is relevant. If they want to put in an attorney-client-privileged document that he saw, I think he can do that. But if he says I understood this was going to an attorney connected to the campaign, that’s hearsay. And it really doesn’t have anything to do with Mr. Sussmann, unless they can tie it up in any way.

THE COURT: Is there — is there any link to the defendant?

MR. ALGOR: Your Honor, just that he understood the tasking was related to opposition research regarding Trump; that he was told by Mr. Joffe — and his understanding was — that it was — it was someone tied to the Clinton campaign. But his understanding overall, full context and understanding, regardless of what Mr. Joffe said, was that this was going to someone tied to the campaign; and that also in receiving the document that had attorney-client privilege, that he understood it to be for an attorney.

THE COURT: How is that not hearsay if Mr. Joffe offered for the purpose of showing that, in fact, it was from —

MR. ALGOR: Because it’s a full understanding. It’s not getting into the actual specific statements that Mr. Joffe told him, but just the full context of what he was tasked to do and who the ultimate receiver was.

THE COURT: Okay.

MR. KEILTY: One second, Your Honor.

THE COURT: You can elicit his understanding that it was for a campaign, that it was unusual, that it may have had some political purpose. But I want you to stay away from any suggestion, which I don’t think has been established, that it was from Mr. Sussmann, including by suggesting it was from an attorney. Okay? [my enphasis]

Once again, minutes after Judge Cooper issued an order — this one ruling that Durham’s team could not elicit any reference to an attorney — Algor nevertheless got a former Joffe associate to do so.

Q. And, again, you — during cross-examination, Mr. Berkowitz asked you a series of questions regarding — regarding your work for Mr. Joffe on this project?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. And without getting into any specific conversations, based on the totality of your work, who was the intended audience for the project?

A. It was to go to an attorney with ties.

MR. BERKOWITZ: Objection, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Sustained.

That was the first time Berkowitz started getting really insistent about the pattern of Durham’s prosecutors completely ignoring explicit prohibitions from Cooper.

MR. BERKOWITZ: And — and just briefly, Your Honor, I don’t know when is an appropriate time to — to raise this. I want to express what — and I am not a — a hotheaded person —

THE COURT: You’re not a what?

MR. BERKOWITZ: I’m not a hotheaded person, but I have deep concern over the last line of questioning with the witness eliciting something that I think was clearly prohibited. And it’s consistent, in our view, with the line of questioning relative to Mr. Elias, [sic] relative to them reading the tweet that had been excluded. And, again, I know you don’t apportion bad faith, and I’m not asking you to do that at this point, but I just — I’m — I’m really concerned about the number of those issues that have come in and the prejudice to Mr. Sussmann. And I don’t know how best to deal with it, but I want to raise that to your attention.

Judge Cooper finally warns Durham to follow his orders

The Novick questioning finally stirred Cooper to try to do something about prosecutors flouting his orders. The first thing the next morning, he issued a both-sides warning about adhering to his rulings.

THE COURT: Okay. Good morning, everybody. All right. I just want to return briefly to the discussion we had at the end of the day yesterday.

You know, we’ve been here for two weeks. I have tried my best to let you folks try your cases as you see fit without undue intervention from the Court, as is my usual practice. But I obviously have set some evidentiary guardrails in the case that I expect both sides to follow, and I think you’ve done that for the most part.

Yesterday, however, I thought it was pretty clear — that I was pretty clear that in Mr. Novick’s testimony the government was not to suggest a link between the defendant and — on the one hand, and Mr. Joffe and the researchers’ data collection efforts on the other hand, or their views about the data. I didn’t think there was an evidentiary foundation for that.

I thought that the jury would only be able to speculate about any such connection, and I thought that any knowledge Mr. Novick had about that was necessarily hearsay from Mr. Joffe, who obviously is not here to testify. And I thought, at least, the final question in the redirect that was asked yesterday, nevertheless, attempted to establish such a link.

You know, I know that questions get asked rhetorically or argumentatively that are likely to draw an objection, and I will give lawyers some slack on that, but I expect both sides to comply with my evidentiary rulings.

There’s a lot of evidence in this case. There’s a lot for the jury to digest. They will have plenty of validly admitted evidence to pore over, and from here on out, including in arguments, I expect both sides to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the Court’s evidentiary rulings. So let’s keep it clean from here, okay?

MR. KEILTY: Yes, Your Honor.

Berkowitz used that exchange to request that Cooper exclude the entirety of the email that Algor used to invite Heide to suggest the data had been fabricated as the only way to limit the damage from prosecutors breaking Cooper’s rules.

MR. BERKOWITZ: Thank you very much for that, Your Honor. I have one other request related to it. And I don’t mean to go to the well, but there was an additional line of questioning yesterday related to Government Exhibit 132 with Agent Heide. I’m happy to provide a copy of it, if you would like.

THE COURT: Just remind me what it is.

MR. BERKOWITZ: It’s the document they sought to admit between Rodney Joffe, David Dagon, and Manos Antonakakis, “Is this a plausible explanation?”

THE COURT: Yes, I know that one. Actually, pass it up.

MR. BERKOWITZ: Your Honor, I went back and read the basis for your admitting the document, which was that it was not hearsay because there was a statement, “can you review,” and a question, “is this a plausible explanation?” I think we all contemplated at the time that both Mr. Dagon and Mr. Antonakakis were on the witness list and might testify.

You did allow it in. We didn’t object on the basis that you had previously ruled on it.

The manner in which it was used with the witness, I think, didn’t comply with the spirit of the Court’s ruling. There were questions asked related to “if you had spoken with Mr. Dagon, and you were aware of this communication” words to the effect of “would that have been concerning?”

And the witness — and I’m not suggesting that it was elicited intentionally, but the witness said “it would concern me because it appears as if it’s fabricated.”

Berkowitz noted that (like the Clinton tweet before it, though Berkowitz didn’t make the connection) that exchange got reported in the press.

That’s been reported in the press, even though you struck it from the record at our request.

Our remedy request, Your Honor, in light of that, and in light of the lack of probative value of that document with no connection to Mr. Sussmann, would be to strike the question and answering related to that document, to strike that document from the record, and not allow the prosecution team to use it with any defense witnesses, as well as not to use it in argument because it would have been stricken from the record.

We think the probative value of that document at this stage is minimal, and I expect that if it is published to the jury and used in any way, the jurors will associate it with the fabrication comment. And you worked real hard — and we have all worked really hard — to keep out the accuracy of the data. And the prejudicial nature of the document and the testimony associated with it is something that we think, while it can’t be remedied, and the bell can never be unrung, they should not be reminded and put before them. [my emphasis]

After having just been scolded, DeFilippis nevertheless made a bid to keep the document that might trigger the improperly elicited comment in as evidence.

Michael Keilty — the closest thing to a grown-up on this team — then tried to explain away Algor’s flouting of the rules with Novick.

MR. KEILTY: One last thing, Your Honor, just with respect to the final question to Mr. Novick yesterday. I think Your Honor’s aware that the government obviously did not intend for that — to elicit that answer. Instead, it intended to elicit an answer regarding Mr. Novick’s thoughts about whether this was involved with a political entity or political campaign. We didn’t have the opportunity or the benefit of conferring with Mr. Novick prior to Your Honor’s ruling. So we apologize for that, but we just wanted to put on the record some of the reasons why.

THE COURT: Well, you could have asked, “Without telling me who it came from, what was your understanding of the general nature of the source?” Right?

7. Hearsay on Top of Hearsay about Joffe’s Joke about a Job

But the Durham team’s defiance of Cooper didn’t stop there. While Cooper had permitted (with the proper foundation) a Joffe email that elicited feedback, Cooper had excluded an email — sent to someone never identified as a witness in this case — in which Joffe had joked about working in cybersecurity under a Clinton Administration. Nevertheless, as part of a long exchange with retired FBI Agent Tom Grasso in which DeFilippis asked Grasso materiality questions about stuff he heard about but had no firsthand knowledge of — each time presented as fact rather than as a conspiracy that Durham had explicitly been prohibited from presenting because they hadn’t charged it — Durham’s lead prosecutor raised the allegation he had been prohibited from raising.

Q. So when he came to you or at any time after that, did Mr. Joffe disclose to you whether he was working on this with representatives of the — of a political campaign?

A. He did not, no.

Q. And do you think you’d remember if he had told you at the time, you know, “I’m doing this, working with some folks who are working with the political campaign”?

A. I would think I would remember that, yes.

Q. So Mr. Joffe didn’t tell you — have you heard of a firm called Fusion GPS?

A. I have heard of Fusion GPS, yes, sir.

Q. Okay. And are you generally aware that they had — without getting into any specific work you did, are you generally aware that they had done some work for the Clinton Campaign at the time?

A. Yes, I —

Q. Okay.

A. Yes, I am aware of that, yes.

Q. So Mr. Joffe didn’t say he was working with Fusion GPS on this project?

A. Not that I recall, no.

Q. And Mr. Joffe never told you that, you know, this project had arisen in the context of opposition research that the Clinton Campaign was working on?

A. I do not recall that coming up, no.

Q. If Mr. Joffe had come to you and said, “I’m working with some investigators and some lawyers who are working for the Clinton Campaign, and, you know, that’s part of what I’m doing here with this information, can you please keep my name out of this,” would you have viewed that differently than you viewed the information as you got it?

[snip]

Q. Okay. And in the 2016 election period, you and Mr. Joffe, I imagine, never discussed politics or anything like that?

A. I don’t recall political discussions with him, no.

Q. Okay. And did you — so you certainly didn’t know that he was working with folks affiliated with a particular political party or campaign on what he brought to you, right?

A. I have no recollection of that.

Q. And any recollection of hearing or learning that he was expecting any kind of position in a future political administration?

A. I do not have a recollection of that other than — let me rephrase that. I have a recollection of that being reported in the media, but I don’t have a —

MR. BERKOWITZ: Objection, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Sustained. [my emphasis]

When Berkowitz raised this exchange at the end of the day, Judge Cooper noted that the several meetings they had with Grasso were ample basis for DeFilippis to understand that Grasso had no knowledge of those matters (or, for that matter, the topics covered by that entire line of questioning).

MR. BERKOWITZ: Judge, I regret that I’m going back to this same issue that we started the day with where  you admonished counsel to be careful of the guardrails related to evidentiary rulings. We had another situation n today that I think ran afoul of your comments. There was an email that was the subject of a motion related to Mr. Joffe communicating about a potential job. And in the cross-examination of Agent Grasso there was a question about, “He certainly didn’t know he was working with folks affiliated with a particular political party or campaign when he brought that to you. Right?”

Answer: “I have no recollection of that.” I didn’t object.

And then he followed up with: “And any recollection of hearing or learning that he was expecting any kind of position in a future political administration, knowing that there was nothing in the 3500 materials related to that and knowing an objection that was sustained could elicit a belief that he would do that?”

The witness answered, “I do not have a recollection of that other than — let me rephrase that. I have a recollection of that being reported in the media.”

I objected. Your Honor, they had met with this witness four times. They had pretried him twice. There was nothing in the 3500 material to suggest that he had any belief of that or any recollection or any connection.

And it’s another instance in a litany of instances that’s suggesting to the jury topics and issues that were the subject of your ruling. And I, you know, particularly  with the potential testimony of Mr. Sussmann coming up, I don’t know what else to say or to do, and we’ll consider filing a motion. But I wanted to raise the issue, and I take no joy in continuing to do this. But I cannot stand by while it continues to go on.

DeFilippis at first tried to excuse blowing off Cooper’s ruling by saying that the rules for cross-examination are different. But not if the witness was originally a witness for the prosecution.

THE COURT: Counsel?

MR. DeFILIPPIS: Yes, Your Honor. I guess we’re glad that Mr. Berkowitz raised it in the sense that, you know, typically the rules for cross-examination are different from evidence presented in a case in chief. And if there is a good-faith basis to ask — inquire as to knowledge of a matter, Your Honor, the government didn’t phrase the question tethered to any email or refer to any hearsay.

It was just inquiring as to knowledge and then inquiring as to whether that fact would be relevant to what  it is that Mr. Grasso’s interactions with Mr. Joffe were.

So if, again if the Court wants —-

THE COURT: Counsel, I don’t disagree with that, but you got to have a good faith basis for asking the question. Right? And if you prepped this guy and he’s never said anything about it, then there’s no good-faith basis. Okay? Him reading it in The New York Times or whatever is not a good-faith basis.

Then DeFilippis claimed that the question — which came after two earlier ones in which he asked Grasso questions about things he had “heard of” — was not deliberately intended to elicit such a response.

MR. DeFILIPPIS: Yeah, and to be clear, Your Honor, the portion where he said he read in the — we didn’t know that, and we wouldn’t have intentionally elicited something from a press account. So we will certainly be careful.

THE COURT: He was the defense’s witness here, but he was on your witness list. You should have known. If there was a basis to ask that question, you should have known what it was.

MR. DeFILIPPIS: Yeah. Understood, Your Honor.

Only after this exchange on prosecutors using someone who had originally been a government witness to invite speculation did Cooper exclude the entire email discussion involving Heide.

THE COURT: In that vein, let’s go back to GX-132 the admission of the email did not sit well with me yesterday, and it still does not sit well with me.

The Court ruled that the document was [sic] hearsay originally because it contained a question and a request, as opposed to an assertion. But the Court made clear in its order that, in order to be admitted, it would still need a proper foundation. The witness through which the document ultimately was admitted, albeit not without an objection from the defense, was Mr. Heide, who, as far as I could tell, had no personal knowledge whatsoever of the email. He didn’t know Mr. Joffe. He didn’t know the researchers who received it. He obviously was not a party to the email. So frankly, I don’t see how he could testify to that email in his personal knowledge as required by Rule 602.

So for that reason, I don’t think it was properly admitted through that witness. As I said yesterday, we had expected at least two of the researchers to testify based on who was on the government’s list. And I think it would have been properly admissible through those people to explain how the data came into being  as the Court ruled prior to trial. So I am going to exclude that email as well as any testimony by Mr. Heide describing his interpretation or views or thoughts on the email. Okay?

Conspiracy theory

This repeated defiance of Judge Cooper was treated as one after another evidentiary issue, usually prosecutors sneaking in hearsay with no basis. Ultimately, however, it was about a more basic ruling Judge Cooper had made, that this trial would not be about a conspiracy theory that Durham wanted to criminalize without charging.

As Berkowitz observed in his close,

This case is not about a giant political conspiracy theory. It’s about a short meeting.

[snip]

So the people who were part of this large political conspiracy theory are the people at HFA, Rodney Joffe, and Fusion GPS. They’re the people that are supposedly involved in this conspiracy.

There will be a lot said about this trial, no matter the verdict. But the serial defiance of the Durham prosecutors was a successful attempt to do something else that Judge Cooper had prohibited: to criminalize, under a conspiracy theory, perfectly legal behavior.

OTHER SUSSMANN TRIAL COVERAGE

Scene-Setter for the Sussmann Trial, Part One: The Elements of the Offense

Scene-Setter for the Sussmann Trial, Part Two: The Witnesses

The Founding Fantasy of Durham’s Prosecution of Michael Sussmann: Hillary’s Successful October Surprise

With a Much-Anticipated Fusion GPS Witness, Andrew DeFilippis Bangs the Table

John Durham’s Lies with Metadata

emptywheel’s Continuing Obsession with Sticky Notes, Michael Sussmann Trial Edition

Brittain Shaw’s Privileged Attempt to Misrepresent Eric Lichtblau’s Privilege

The Methodology of Andrew DeFilippis’ Elaborate Plot to Break Judge Cooper’s Rules

Jim Baker’s Tweet and the Recidivist Foreign Influence Cheater

That Clinton Tweet Could Lead To a Mistrial (or Reversal on Appeal)

John Durham Is Prosecuting Michael Sussmann for Sharing a Tip on Now-Sanctioned Alfa Bank

Apprehension and Dread with Bates Stamps: The Case of Jim Baker’s Missing Jencks Production

Technical Exhibits, Michael Sussmann Trial

Jim Baker’s “Doctored” Memory Forgot the Meeting He Had Immediately After His Michael Sussmann Meeting

The FBI Believed Michael Sussmann Was Working for the DNC … Until Andrew DeFilippis Coached Them to Believe Otherwise

The Visibility of FBI’s Close Hold: John Durham Will Blame Michael Sussmann that FBI Told Alfa Bank They Were Investigating

The Staples Receipt and FBI’s Description of Michael Sussmann Sharing a Tip from Hillary

“and” / “or” : How Judge Cooper Rewrote the Michael Sussmann Indictment

 

“and” / “or” : How Judge Cooper Rewrote the Michael Sussmann Indictment

Thanks to those who’ve donated to help defray the costs of trial transcripts. Your generosity has funded the expected costs. If you appreciate the kind of coverage no one else is offering, we’re still happy to accept donations for this coverage — which reflects the culmination of eight months work. 

I’ve been tracking a dispute about the jury instructions in the Michael Sussmann trial, but only got time to check the outcome last night. At issue was whether some of the extraneous language from the indictment would be included in the description of the charge.

Here’s the language the grand jury approved in the indictment.

O]n or about September 19, 2016, the defendant stated to the General Counsel of the FBI that he was not acting on behalf of any client in conveying particular allegations concerning a Presidential candidate, when in truth, and in fact, and as the defendant knew well, he was acting on behalf of specific clients, namely, Tech Executive-1 and the Clinton Campaign. [my emphasis]

Sussmann had wanted the instructions to include that language claiming Sussmann was lying to hide two clients.

Mr. Sussmann proposes modifying the last sentence as follows, as indicated by underlining: Specifically, the Indictment alleges that, on or about September 19, 2016, Mr. Sussmann, did willfully and knowingly make a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement or representation in a matter before the FBI, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2), namely, that Mr. Sussmann stated to the General Counsel of the FBI that he was not acting on behalf of any client in conveying particular allegations concerning Donald Trump, when, in fact, he was acting on behalf of specific clients, namely, Rodney Joffe and the Clinton Campaign.5 The government objects to the defense’s proposed modification since it will lead to confusion regarding charging in the conjunctive but only needing to prove in the disjunctive.

When Judge Cooper instructed the jury, however, he rewrote the indictment approved by the grand jury to reflect that maybe Sussmann was just hiding one client.

Specifically, the Indictment alleges that in a meeting on September 19, 2016, Mr. Sussmann did willfully and knowingly make a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement or representation in a matter before the FBI in violation of 18 USC 1001(a)(2); namely, that Mr. Sussmann stated to the General Counsel of the FBI that he was not acting on behalf of any client in conveying particular allegations concerning Alfa-Bank and Donald Trump, when, in fact, he was acting on behalf of specific clients, namely Rodney Joffe or the Clinton Campaign. [my emphasis]

Now, perhaps there was some discussion I missed finding that the government only had to prove Sussmann was hiding one client — the disjunctive proof business, above. And perhaps it will not matter — I think Sussmann’s team raised plenty of issues with Jim Baker’s credibility such that the jury will find the whole prosecution preposterous, but I also think Durham’s team may have thrown enough cow manure at the jury to stifle rational thought.

But this slight change — unilaterally replacing “and” with “or” — seems to intervene to help Durham recover from one of the most abusive aspects of the prosecution, his failure to take basic investigative steps before charging Sussmann.

As I’ve repeatedly shown, Durham did nothing to test Michael Sussmann’s sworn explanation for his meeting with Jim Baker — that he wanted to give the FBI an opportunity to intervene before a shitshow story happened during election season — before charging. He spent months and months after the indictment scrambling to find the documentation for the efforts the FBI made to kill the NYT story (and ultimately only found part of that documentation), evidence he should have consulted in advance.

Durham also never subpoenaed Jim Baker for related materials before charging this.

Those two facts are how it was possible that Baker only discovered the September 18, 2016 text in which Sussmann explained he was trying to help the FBI on March 4, 2022, almost six months after the indictment (though Andrew DeFilippis misrepresented this at trial).

We also know from Sussmann’s discovery requests that Durham did little to explore Rodney Joffe’s relationship with the FBI before charging. While Durham knew that Joffe had been an informant — and had forced FBI to remove him as such, allegedly as retaliation because Joffe wouldn’t cooperate with Durham’s investigation — it’s not clear whether Durham had found two instances where Joffe had offered up more information about the Alfa Bank allegations to an FBI agent (not his handler) who knew his identity and could easily have shared it with investigators.

In other words, even if you think Sussmann was attempting to hide the Hillary campaign’s role in the underlying allegations (which is different from hiding the campaign’s role in the meeting with the FBI, though Durham’s team surely hopes the jury misses the distinction), the trial actually presented a fair amount of evidence that Sussmann wasn’t hiding Joffe’s role. The FBI knew of Joffe’s role within days of Sussmann’s meeting.

For months, Durham has been spinning a wild conspiracy theory claiming Joffe had direct ties to the Hillary campaign that he simply didn’t have. That is the conspiracy theory he laid out in the indictment. That is the conspiracy theory he should be held to.

But Cooper rewrote that part of the indictment such that Durham is not being held to his own conspiracy theories when it matters.

OTHER SUSSMANN TRIAL COVERAGE

Scene-Setter for the Sussmann Trial, Part One: The Elements of the Offense

Scene-Setter for the Sussmann Trial, Part Two: The Witnesses

The Founding Fantasy of Durham’s Prosecution of Michael Sussmann: Hillary’s Successful October Surprise

With a Much-Anticipated Fusion GPS Witness, Andrew DeFilippis Bangs the Table

John Durham’s Lies with Metadata

emptywheel’s Continuing Obsession with Sticky Notes, Michael Sussmann Trial Edition

Brittain Shaw’s Privileged Attempt to Misrepresent Eric Lichtblau’s Privilege

The Methodology of Andrew DeFilippis’ Elaborate Plot to Break Judge Cooper’s Rules

Jim Baker’s Tweet and the Recidivist Foreign Influence Cheater

That Clinton Tweet Could Lead To a Mistrial (or Reversal on Appeal)

John Durham Is Prosecuting Michael Sussmann for Sharing a Tip on Now-Sanctioned Alfa Bank

Apprehension and Dread with Bates Stamps: The Case of Jim Baker’s Missing Jencks Production

Technical Exhibits, Michael Sussmann Trial

Jim Baker’s “Doctored” Memory Forgot the Meeting He Had Immediately After His Michael Sussmann Meeting

The FBI Believed Michael Sussmann Was Working for the DNC … Until Andrew DeFilippis Coached Them to Believe Otherwise

The Visibility of FBI’s Close Hold: John Durham Will Blame Michael Sussmann that FBI Told Alfa Bank They Were Investigating

The Staples Receipt and FBI’s Description of Michael Sussmann Sharing a Tip from Hillary

 

The Staples Receipt and FBI’s Description of Michael Sussmann Sharing a Tip from Hillary

Thanks to those who’ve donated to help defray the costs of trial transcripts. Your generosity has funded the expected costs. If you appreciate the kind of coverage no one else is offering, we’re still happy to accept donations for this coverage — which reflects the culmination of eight months work. 

Both sides in the Michael Sussmann case will give their closing arguments today. I’ll try to watch the live tweets, but will be driving around Achill Island so likely will have little Internet access.

I have yet to see the jury instructions, which will dictate a few details of the closing arguments. Most important — as I have noted before — is whether Durham will have to prove the actual allegations in his indictment.

Mr. Sussmann proposes modifying the last sentence as follows, as indicated by underlining: Specifically, the Indictment alleges that, on or about September 19, 2016, Mr. Sussmann, did willfully and knowingly make a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement or representation in a matter before the FBI, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2), namely, that Mr. Sussmann stated to the General Counsel of the FBI that he was not acting on behalf of any client in conveying particular allegations concerning Donald Trump, when, in fact, he was acting on behalf of specific clients, namely, Rodney Joffe and the Clinton Campaign.5 The government objects to the defense’s proposed modification since it will lead to confusion regarding charging in the conjunctive but only needing to prove in the disjunctive.

4 Authority: Indictment.

5 Authority: Indictment.

Durham’s single witness is the only one who claims to have remembered this meeting, but he has had about six different memories of the meeting, and Sussmann made a really good case that Baker’s evolving testimony (as well as that of several other witnesses) is an attempt to avoid legal jeopardy himself. Sussmann has shown a receipt that did not bill his $28.00  taxi to Hillary, and I believe he affirmatively took the meeting time off his bill to Hillary before the election (though I need to check the records).

That leaves Durham with a September 13, 2016 $12.99 receipt for two thumb drives and a Google map from his office to Staples to buy it.

BY MR. KEILTY: Q. Ms. Arsenault, what, generally, is this document?

A. This is an expense report we received from Perkins Coie.

Q. And can you walk the jury through the information in this document.

A. Sure. In the top left corner, the report name is “Purchase of flash drives” on September 13, 2016. The expense owner is Michael Sussmann. The submission date is September 22nd in 2016. If you go all the way down to the allocation summary, the allocations charged is 116514.0001, confidential, for $58.56.

Q. Ms. Arsenault, in your review of records, have you seen that number under the allocations charged, the 116514.0001 number before?

A. I have. Q. Is that related to a certain client?

A. Yes.

Q. What client is that?

A. It’s Hillary For America.

MR. KEILTY: Okay. Mr. Algor, can we next look at Government Exhibit 553.19 — I’m sorry, can you leave it there. (Pause) Can you go down to the next document in 380.

(Pause) Okay. And could you go down to the next document, please, in the same exhibit. Could you blow this up, please.

Q. Ms. Arsenault, what is this particular document?

A. This is the receipt for the expenses reflected in the previous two pages of the expense report.

Q. And was this receipt contained in the records the government obtained from Perkins Coie?

A. It was.

MR. KEILTY: And if you go about halfway down the document, Mr. — sorry, the receipt. Could you blow up the section where it says “PNY 2 Pack,” Mr. Algor. Thank you.

Q. Ms. Arsenault, I think you might have said this, but where is this receipt from? A. Staples.

Q. And what does the blown-out part say?

A. “PNY 2 pack 16GB,” as in gigabyte. And then there’s a UPC code. And the cost was $12.99.

MR. KEILTY: Okay. And moving out of that, can you just blow up the address of the Staples.

Q. Okay. And what’s the address?

A. 1250 H Street N.W., Suite 100, Washington, D.C., 20005.

MR. KEILTY: Okay. And can we please pull up Government Exhibit 553.19 in evidence.

Q. Ms. Arsenault, what are we looking at in Government Exhibit 553.19?

A. This is a disbursement report from the billing records from Perkins Coie.

Q. Okay. And can you walk the jury through this — the blown-out part of this report.

A. The client assigned for this disbursement is Hillary For America. The matter is General Political Advice under 116514.0001. And the description is “Sussmann, Michael A. – M. Sussmann, purchase of new, single use flash drives for secure sharing of files, 9/13/2016.”

Q. Okay. And finally, Ms. Arsenault, I’m going to show you what’s been marked for identification as Government Exhibit 63, which will show up on your screen. Ms. Arsenault, what is Government’s Exhibit 63?

A. It’s a Google map displaying the directions between the office for Perkins Coie to the address listed on the Staples receipt.

Q. And did you create Government Exhibit 63?

A. I did.

Q. And how did you create Government Exhibit 63?

A. I went on Google and I typed in both addresses, and I printed the result.

MR. KEILTY: Your Honor, the government would move Exhibit 63 into evidence.

MR. BOSWORTH: No objection.

THE COURT: So moved.

MR. KEILTY: Mr. Algor, can you blow that up.

Q. Okay. And, Ms. Arsenault, on this map Perkins Coie is listed, is that correct, with the red dot?

A. Yes.

Q. And then there’s a series of blue dots, which apparently lead to a blue bubble; is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And what is that blue bubble? What address is that?

A. The blue bubble represents the address listed on the Staples receipt, which is 1250 H Street N.W., Washington, D.C., 20005. [my emphasis]

I expect Durham introduced the map to show that Sussmann went to buy these thumb drives immediately after some phone call or meeting.

As described, there are so many ways to explain these thumb drives. Remember: Sussmann admits he shared the story with the press and wanted it to come out. What he denies is that his intent in going to the FBI was in getting them to investigate to serve the story.

Durham will also claim, probably falsely, that Fusion or Sussmann had to have told Mark Hosenball about the investigation; I know of no evidence that’s the case, Durham’s repeated efforts to misrepresent the timeline on Fusion emails suggests he doesn’t have that evidence, and plenty of reason to believe there are other ways he could have learned about this.

Perhaps Durham has more somewhere.

But, particularly depending on the outcome of that jury instruction, even that receipt may not be enough. That’s because Sussmann has presented this piece of proof about how the FBI understood his tip.

One of the first people to respond to this tip (this text is likely in UTC, not ET, so this is likely at 4:31 on September 19, four hours after the meeting) understood it to be:

  • A tip about a Trump company, not Trump himself
  • From the DNC and Clinton
  • Bringing information a private cyber group had identified

That is, whatever Sussmann said in the meeting with Jim Baker, the best representation of what the FBI understood showed him identifying both his possible clients. And identifying a tip not about Trump himself, but his corporate person and a Russian bank that the FBI understood to have ties to Russian intelligence.

It’s hard to claim this alleged lie was material if the FBI responded to it as if he had fully disclosed both Hillary and private researchers like Rodney Joffe’s role in it.

Update: Corrected two errors (the UTC conversation and a spelling error). To make up for not covering the trial live, here’s my excuse

Update: Here’s Sussmann’s Rule 29 motion for a judgment of acquittal. This is a routine motion defendants always file. Because of the political nature of the case, Judge Cooper would never grant it. And there’s nothing terribly exciting in it.

OTHER SUSSMANN TRIAL COVERAGE

Scene-Setter for the Sussmann Trial, Part One: The Elements of the Offense

Scene-Setter for the Sussmann Trial, Part Two: The Witnesses

The Founding Fantasy of Durham’s Prosecution of Michael Sussmann: Hillary’s Successful October Surprise

With a Much-Anticipated Fusion GPS Witness, Andrew DeFilippis Bangs the Table

John Durham’s Lies with Metadata

emptywheel’s Continuing Obsession with Sticky Notes, Michael Sussmann Trial Edition

Brittain Shaw’s Privileged Attempt to Misrepresent Eric Lichtblau’s Privilege

The Methodology of Andrew DeFilippis’ Elaborate Plot to Break Judge Cooper’s Rules

Jim Baker’s Tweet and the Recidivist Foreign Influence Cheater

That Clinton Tweet Could Lead To a Mistrial (or Reversal on Appeal)

John Durham Is Prosecuting Michael Sussmann for Sharing a Tip on Now-Sanctioned Alfa Bank

Apprehension and Dread with Bates Stamps: The Case of Jim Baker’s Missing Jencks Production

Technical Exhibits, Michael Sussmann Trial

Jim Baker’s “Doctored” Memory Forgot the Meeting He Had Immediately After His Michael Sussmann Meeting

The FBI Believed Michael Sussmann Was Working for the DNC … Until Andrew DeFilippis Coached Them to Believe Otherwise

The Visibility of FBI’s Close Hold: John Durham Will Blame Michael Sussmann that FBI Told Alfa Bank They Were Investigating