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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).

To 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.

Durham Admits He Has No Real Evidence on Four Millian Counts against Igor Danchenko

In the middle of a motion in limine arguing, in part, that the Durham prosecutors should be able to introduce two sets of emails from Sergei Millian to one of the journalists who gave Igor Danchenko Millian’s contact information, John Durham admits that those emails are the most probative evidence he’s got that Millian never met or spoke with Danchenko.

Fourth, whether the statements are the most probative evidence on the point. Millian’s emails written contemporaneous to the events at issue are undoubtedly the most probative evidence to support the fact that Millian had never met or spoken with the defendant.

Mind you, whether Millian ever spoke to Danchenko or not is irrelevant to whether Danchenko believed that he had.

But Durham appears not to understand that.

If you don’t mind, I think I’ll punctuate this post with stupid Millian Tweets — like some Greek chorus — while I take breaks to wrap my brain around how Durham got his ass so badly handed to him by Sergei Millian.

Durham appears not to understand that if Danchenko got a phone call from someone else in July 2016, but believed at the time that the call was from Millian, then his four charged statements that he believed the call was from Millian would still be entirely true — an argument I made last year and one Danchenko made in his Motion to Dismiss (Danchenko’s MTD was filed after the government motion, but submitted unsealed from the start).

[T]he 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.

But Durham believes his job is to prove that Millian never spoke with Danchenko, and so spent a third of his filing making humiliating admissions about how weak his case is.

One of the dire problems Durham has with his Millian case is that … as I predicted … he has no witness.

As I noted last year, when he originally charged Danchenko, he relied on Millian’s Twitter feed, not an interview with Millian, to substantiate Millian’s claim that he never spoke with Danchenko. Here’s how Sergei responded last year when I pointed out that his testimony, under oath, would be necessary to convict Danchenko.

 

 

Turns out I wasn’t nuts. All of the sources against Danchenko were willing to testify under oath, it appears, but Millian. Well, and Christopher Steele, too, but that’s for another post.

To Durham’s … um … credit, he did at some point (he tellingly hides the date) get Millian to participate in a “virtual interview” (which may or may not be the same as a “video interview”?). In that interview, Millian claimed that rather than fleeing the US because of the criminal investigation into him and Mueller’s interest in interviewing him, he fled the country because of the Steele dossier.

The Government has conducted a virtual interview of Millian. Based on representations from counsel, the Government believes that Millian was located in Dubai at the time of the interview. During the interview, Millian stated, in sum and substance, that he has never met with or spoken with the defendant, Millian informed investigators that he left the United States in March 2017 and he has not returned. Millian stated, in sum, that he left the United States due to threats on his and his family’s personal safety because of his alleged role in the Steele Reports. On multiple occasions, the Government has inquired about Millian’s availability to testify at the defendant’s trial. Millian has repeatedly informed the Government that he has concerns for his and his family’s safety (who reside abroad) should he testify. Millian also informed the Government that he does not trust the FBI and fears being arrested if he returns to the United States. The Government has repeatedly informed Millian that it will work to ensure his security during his time in the United States, as it does with all witnesses. The Government has also been in contact with Millian’s counsel about the possibility of his testimony at trial. Nonetheless, despite its best efforts, the Government’s attempts to secure Millian’s voluntary testimony have been unsuccessful. Moreover, counsel for Millian would not accept service of a trial subpoena and advised that he does not know Millian’s address in order to effect service abroad.

Durham was unable to subpoena Millian to require him to testify under oath to his claim that he never spoke with Danchenko, because Sergei’s lawyer doesn’t know where he lives, not even to bill him. I guess he bills him “virtually,” just like the interviews.

But don’t worry. Durham promises he has other evidence that Sergei could not have called Danchenko in July 2016.

That evidence is that Millian was traveling in Asia during the period between July 21 and July 26, 2016, when such a call to Danchenko would have taken place.

Millian was traveling in Asia at the time the defendant sent this email and did not return to New York until late on the night of July 27, 2016. Notably, Millian had suspended his cellular phone service effective July 14, 2016 (prior to his travel) and his service was reconnected effective August 8, 2016. The defendant did travel to New York from July 26, 2016 through July 28, 2016 with his young daughter and spent much of his time sight-seeing, including a trip to the Bronx Zoo on July 28, 2016. The defendant would later claim to the FBI that it was during this trip to New York that the defendant attempted to meet Sergei Millian (after having received the alleged anonymous phone call from a person he purportedly believed to be Millian). [my emphasis]

The implication, says the Special Counsel who flew to Italy to get the multiple phones of Joseph Mifsud but who never walked across DOJ to get the multiple phones of his key witness Jim Baker, is that Millian could not have called Danchenko because the only possible SIM card he would have used while traveling in Asia, which generally used the GSM standard, would be the phone he used in the US, where CDMA was still widely used.

Millian couldn’t have called Danchenko during the period, Durham says, because his US-based phone was shut down while he was traveling in Asia.

That would be a shocking claim to make about any fairly sophisticated traveler in 2016, much less one who made the effort to shut off his location tracker cell coverage while he traveled overseas and for twelve days after he returned.

It’s an especially remarkable claim to make about someone that — DOJ has proof! — was arranging in-person meetings in NYC in precisely the same period, via text messages sent during the period when Millian’s US phone service was shut down.

Papadopoulos first connected with Millian via Linkedln on July 15, 2016, shortly after Papadopoulos had attended the TAG Summit with Clovis.500 Millian, an American citizen who is a native of Belarus, introduced himself “as president of [the] New York-based Russian American Chamber of Commerce,” and claimed that through that position he had ” insider knowledge and direct access to the top hierarchy in Russian politics.”501 Papadopoulos asked Timofeev whether he had heard of Millian.502 Although Timofeev said no,503 Papadopoulos met Millian in New York City.504 The meetings took place on July 30 and August 1, 2016.505 Afterwards, Millian invited Papadopoulos to attend-and potentially speak at-two international energy conferences, including one that was to be held in Moscow in September 2016.506 Papadopoulos ultimately did not attend either conference.

500 7/15/16 Linkedln Message, Millian to Papadopoulos.

501 7 /15/16 Linkedln Message, Millian to Papadopoulos.

502 7/22/16 Facebook Message, Papadopoulos to Timofeev (7:40:23 p.m.); 7/26/16 Facebook Message, Papadopoulos to Timofeev (3:08:57 p.m.).

503 7/23/16 Facebook Message, Timofeev to Papadopoulos (4:31:37 a.m.); 7/26/16 Facebook Message, Timofeev to Papadopoulos (3:37: 16 p.m.).

504 7/16/16 Text Messages, Papadopoulos & Millian (7:55:43 p.m.).

505 7/30/16 Text Messages, Papadopoulos & Millian (5:38 & 6:05 p.m.); 7/31/16 Text Messages, Millian & Papadopoulos (3:48 & 4:18 p.m.); 8/ 1/16 Text Message, Millian to Papadopoulos (8:19 p.m.).

506 8/2/16 Text Messages, Millian & Papadopoulos (3 :04 & 3 :05 p.m.); 8/3/16 Facebook Messages, Papadopoulos & Millian (4:07:37 a.m. & 1:11:58 p.m.).

Anyway, that’s the background to why, Durham says, the best evidence he’s got that Millian never called Danchenko are some emails.

One of those emails is inconsistent with Durham’s story, which says that Millian returned late on July 27, which was a Wednesday. On July 26, Millian sent this to one of the RIA Novosti journalists, Dimitry Zlodorev:

Dimitry, on Friday I’m returning from Asia. An email came from Igor. Who is that? What sort of person?

Durham says one of his best pieces of evidence that Millian didn’t call Danchenko is an email that had him returning two days later than he actually returned. Something led Millian to come back early, at least according to Durham’s record.

Early enough to be in NYC when Danchenko was there.

Durham also wants to introduce some emails Millian sent Zlodorev in 2020, three years after Danchenko’s alleged lie and four years into a manufactured outrage over the Steele dossier. One of those emails suggests that Millian believed Steele blamed Danchenko for problems with the dossier, which is probably true, but Durham thinks it helps him anyway.

I’ve been informed that Bogdanovsky travelled to New York with Danchenko at the end of July 2016; Danchenko, supposedly to meet with me (but the meeting didn’t take place). Can you inquire with Bogdanovsky whether he remembers something from that trip and whether they touched upon my name in conversation, as well as for what reason Danchenko was travelling to NY? Steele, it seems, made Danchenko the fall guy, but Danchenko himself made several statements that were difficult to understand, for example, about the call with me. Did he tell Bogdanovsky that he communicated with me by phone and on what topic? Thank you! This will clarify a lot for me personally. It’s a convoluted story! [my emphasis]

That’s how desperate he is for evidence to prove his four Millian charges.

Now, as Durham did when he tried to introduce totally unrelated emails in the Michael Sussmann case, Durham says he’s not introducing these (as what he calls “the most probative evidence” that Millian didn’t call Danchenko) for the truth.

He’s just asking questions — but not, apparently, why Millian said he was coming back Friday when he ended up coming back on Wednesday instead, early enough to be in NY when Danchenko was there.

As an initial matter, all three emails to Zlodorev are admissible non-hearsay because each email consists of a series of questions, i.e., (1) “Who is that? What sort of person?” (July 26, 2016), (2) “Do you remember such a person? Igor Danchenko?” (July 19, 2020), and (3) (a) “Can you inquire with Bogdanovsky whether he remembers something from that trip and whether they touched upon my name in conversation, as well as for what reason Danchenko was travelling to NY? (b) “Did he tell Bogdanovsky that he communicated with me by phone and on what topic?” (July 20, 2020). See Sinclair, F. App’x at 253. To the extent the remaining sentences in those emails are statements, they are not being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Indeed, with respect to the July 26, 2016 email, the Government is not seeking to prove that (1) Millian was returning from Asia on Friday or (2) that an email came from the defendant.

And if his just asking questions ploy doesn’t work, then he’ll raise the point that he charged this indictment without ever talking to Sergei Millian first!!!

First, the unavailability of the declarant. A declarant is “unavailable” at a hearing or trial when he “is absent from the hearing and the proponent of a statement has not been able, by process or other reasonable means, to procure the declarant’s attendance or testimony. Fed. R. Evid. 804(a)(5)(B). “Courts have consistently held that hearsay exceptions premised on the unavailability of a witness require the proponent of a statement to show a good faith, genuine, and bona fide effort to procure a witness’s attendance.” United States v. Wrenn, 170 F. Supp. 2d 604, 607 (E.D. Va. 2001) (citing Barber v. Page., 390 U.S. 719,724 (1968)). Courts considering whether a prosecutor, as the proponent of a statement, “has made such a good faith effort have focused on the reasonableness of the prosecutor’s efforts.” Id. \ Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56, 74 (1980) (“The lengths to which the prosecutor must go to produce a witness … is a question of reasonableness. The ultimate question is whether the witness is unavailable despite good-faith efforts undertaken prior to trial to locate and present the witness.”). In the case of a U.S. national residing in a foreign country, 28 U.S.C. § 1783 allows for the service of a subpoena on a U.S. national residing abroad. Here, the Government has made substantial and repeated efforts to secure Millian’s voluntary testimony. When those efforts failed, the Government attempted to serve a subpoena on Millian’s counsel who advised that he was not authorized to accept service on behalf of Mr. Millian. The Government, not being aware of Millian’s exact location or address, asked counsel to provide Millian’s address so that service of a subpoena could be effectuated pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1783. Counsel stated that he does not know Millian’s address. In any event, even if the Government had been able to locate Millian, it appears unlikely that Millian would comply with the subpoena and travel to the United States to testify. Indeed, as discussed above, Millian has shown a reluctance to travel to the United States for fear of his personal safety and his family’s safety. Accordingly, the Government has demonstrated good faith efforts to secure Millian’s appearance at trial.

What’s interesting is that Durham not only claims that Millian had no motive to lie to Zlodorev in 2016, but he asserts that “the existence of the Steele Reports were not public.”

The Government is not aware of any evidence that Millian was aware of who the defendant was in July of 2016. Millian also had no motive to lie about his knowledge of the defendant in July 2016. Indeed, at that time of the July 2016 email the existence of the Steele Reports were not public. Further, Millian had no apparent motive to lie to Zlodorev, an individual he appears to consider a friend.

They were to this guy.

According to the IG Report that Durham had never read before charging Sussmann, an Oleg Deripaska associate likely knew of the dossier by early July 2016, weeks after Millian met with one of the key architects of the 2016 operation in St. Petersburg and weeks before Danchenko emailed Millian and then Millian grilled Zlodorev about who Danchenko was.

Oleg Deripaska had a motive to lie about the dossier — and he appears to have been lying, to both sides.

Similarly, Durham claims that Millian had no motive to lie in 2020 when he grilled Zlodorev again about the circumstances of his meeting with Danchenko.

The July 2020 emails between Millian and Zlodorev also bear circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness. Again, in July 2020, Millian had no motive to lie to Zlodorev.

Which is really nutty, because the Twitter account that Durham relied on to charge this thing claimed that — years earlier and therefore presumably well before 2020 — he had personally called the White House and told them the identities of the people behind the dossier.

He would have called from Asia or some other undisclosed location, though, so in Durham’s mind such a call would not exist.

And that’s how it came about that we’re a month away from trial, and John Durham is begging Anthony Trenga to admit emails from 2020 as his best evidence in four charges against Danchenko because he decided to rely on a Twitter account rather than securing witnesses in his case first.

 

For months and years, John Durham has treated Sergei Millian — a man who fled the country to avoid a counterintelligence investigation and questions from Mueller, but whom Durham claims fled the country because of the dossier — as an aggrieved victim. And in the same filing admitting that he has no solid evidence to prove that he is a victim, Durham also talked about how important it is to consider whether you’re getting played by Russian disinformation.

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.

“SCO Durham, think of your legacy please❗❗”

Update: Replaced “in real time” based on Just Some Guy’s observations.

Earlier emptywheel coverage of the Danchenko case

The Igor Danchenko Indictment: Structure

John Durham May Have Made Igor Danchenko “Aggrieved” Under FISA

“Yes and No:” John Durham Confuses Networking with Intelligence Collection

Daisy-Chain: The FBI Appears to Have Asked Danchenko Whether Dolan Was a Source for Steele, Not Danchenko

Source 6A: John Durham’s Twitter Charges

John Durham: Destroying the Purported Victims to Save Them

John Durham’s Cut-and-Paste Failures — and Other Indices of Unreliability

Aleksej Gubarev Drops Lawsuit after DOJ Confirms Steele Dossier Report Naming Gubarev’s Company Came from His Employee

In Story Purporting to “Reckon” with Steele’s Baseless Insinuations, CNN Spreads Durham’s Unsubstantiated Insinuations

On CIPA and Sequestration: Durham’s Discovery Deadends

The Disinformation that Got Told: Michael Cohen Was, in Fact, Hiding Secret Communications with the Kremlin

John Durham’s Igor Danchenko Case May Be More Problematic than His Michael Sussmann Case

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

Junkets In Lieu of Investigation: John Durham Charged Ivan Danchenko without Ever Interviewing George Papdopoulos about Sergei Millian

Recently, Roger Stone invited George Papadopoulos onto his show to talk about how, even though Michael Sussmann was acquitted, it’s still proof of a grand conspiracy involving Hillary Clinton.

Stone invited Papadopulos to talk about how Durham and Billy Barr chased Papadopoulos’ conspiracy theories to Italy, which both the Rat-Fucker and the Coffee Boy seemed to take as proof that those conspiracies were true, even though Barr has publicly stated there was no there there.

The biggest news from Mr. Durham’s probe is what he has ruled out. Mr. Barr was initially suspicious that agents had been spying on the Trump campaign before the official July 2016 start date of Crossfire Hurricane, and that the Central Intelligence Agency or foreign intelligence had played a role. But even prior to naming Mr. Durham special counsel, Mr. Barr had come to the conclusion that he didn’t “see any sign of improper CIA activity” or “foreign government activity before July 2016,” he says. “The CIA stayed in its lane.”

Seemingly in hopes of finding details that Durham was ignoring, Stone asked Papadopoulos whether Durham had ever spoken to the Coffee Boy. Papadopoulos babbled for some time about his House testimony, then Stone followed up to get him to state that, no, Durham had never spoken to him.

Never.

Stone: You make a very good point. The fact that the Attorney General was on the trip means that he knows the origins of the Russian collusion fraud far earlier than other people realize. George, have you specifically met with either John Durham or representatives of his office to tell them what you know?

Papadopoulos: So, that’s a good question. In 2018, I was one of five witnesses who was invited by–under oath, behind closed doors–in front of the House Oversight Committee. And the other four witnesses, besides myself, were Rod Rosenstein, Sally Yates, uh, Jim Comey, and Loretta Lynch. Now, back in 2018, and there’s a Washington Post article, I think it’s called “Papadopoulos and Rosenstein about to testify behind closed doors,” back in 2018, people were scratching their heads, why on earth is George Papadopoulos one of four, one of five witnesses who is going to testify to both John Ratcliffe and Mark Meadows. Back then, obviously, before Mark Meadows was Chief of Staff at the White House and Ratcliffe was the head of DNI, they were Congressmen. They were in charge of the House Oversight Committee. During that testimony back then, both of those individuals who later served in senior White House, uh, Administrative capacities were asking me questions about wiretaps. They were asking me if I was being monitored while I was in Europe. They were asking me whether my lawyers were ever given so-called exculpatory information about any of, about Joseph Mifsud, any of these other type of operatives, both domestic and foreign. And I basically let them know, under oath, that I’m telling you. How I met him, what my background was, why I believe there was this target on my back, why I think it followed me all the way from the beginning, all the way until the summer of 2017, where they were, the FBI was trying to set me up while I was in Israel with this other bizarre exchange that I had, that I talk about in my book. So that testimony, I believe, was used with the Durham team, to help get this entire thing started, that’s how Durham and Barr flew to both to Rome, to talk to Italian intelligence services — not the FBI — to learn about Mifsud, and I believe — that’s why NBC has also been quoted as saying that Western intelligence officials have gone on the record and stated that it’s Papadopoulos’ breadcrumbs, if you want to call it that, that have led to Durham’s real conspiracy case that he’s trying to uh–

Stone: So, but to go to my direct question, have you had any direct contact with Durham or his office, or your attorneys?

Papadopoulos: No, I haven’t. No no no, no I haven’t. But my understanding is that that testimony, 2018, was used by the Durham, that’s my understanding.

This is fairly shocking — and damning news.

Papadopoulos’ testimony was not only not under oath (though committee staffers admonished the sworn liar not to do it to them), but it was a shitshow.

I’ve cataloged all the ways it was a shitshow below. But the fact that Billy Barr and Johnny D jumped on a plane together for their junket to Rome based off such a shitshow matters for two reasons.

First, it shows that they did no vetting of the conspiracy theories the Coffee Boy repeated in the hearing — which as I show below were really just rewarmed conspiracy theories parroted by John Solomon and Chuck Ross — before hopping on a plane for their junket. Importantly, one of those conspiracy theories was spread by Joseph Mifsud attorney Stephen Roh, who himself is suspected of sketchy ties to Russia.

The other reason it matters is because Durham’s Igor Danchenko prosecution treats Danchenko, whom the FBI found credible in 2017 and afterwards, as less credible than Sergei Millian. But George Papadopoulos, whose testimony Durham considered sufficiently credible to hop on a flight to Rome for, described Millian — in the context of details about his offer to hire him so long as he also worked in the Administration — as “a very shady kind of person.”

Q I guess there’s just one follow-up, because you said some kind of consultancy work for some — someone that Sergei Millian knew in Russia. What would have been the nature of that work? Like, what topic would the work have been on?

A My current understanding — and this is what I think it is, because this is a very shady kind of person — was that it was a former minister of some sort who had money and wanted to do PR work. But then, of course, we met in Chicago, and I felt that, you know, he was — I don’t know. I just felt that when he proposed this deal to me face-to-face that he might have been wearing some sort of wire. And he was acting very bizarre. And I don’t know what that was. Maybe I’m a paranoid person. But there were certain other events regarding Sergei Millian that made — that make me believe that he might have actually been working with the FBI.

Durham shouldn’t be able to have it both ways. If Papadopoulos’ testimony was deemed sufficiently credible, without any more vetting, to justify a taxpayer-paid trip to Rome, then his judgment that Millian is a “very shady person” the likes of whom might lie about a call with Igor Danchenko, then Durham should not rely on Millian’s unsworn Twitter ramblings for four charges against Danchenko.

In short, the fact that Durham hasn’t interviewed Papadopoulos at all, either before or after the junket, is yet more proof that Durham is hesitant to test any of his conspiracy theories with actual investigative work.


Catalog of Coffee Boy Testimony Shitshowery

One key piece of proof that Papadopoulos’ testimony before the Oversight Committee was a shitshow designed to elicit conspiracy theories about Mueller’s investigation rather than useful information is that the committee didn’t ask him for any emails or other records in advance — emails that Papadopoulos had earlier withheld from SSCI, with which request he only partly complied in 2019. Papadopoulos told the committee on at least 18 occasions he had emails or other records that would allow him to answer their questions — about when he joined the campaign, his communications with Olga Polanskaya, Joseph Mifsud, and Ivan Timofeev, his communications with Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Mike Flynn, KT McFarland, and Walid Phares, his communications with Sergei Millian, his meetings with Stefan Halper, his interactions with suspect Israelis — accurately, but that he couldn’t without those records. [Note the last several of these are out of order because I just kept finding more examples.]

1. Mr. Breitenbach. Is there any paperwork that you might have indicating when you actually began on the Trump campaign?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I believe we might have, we might have those emails.

Ms. Polisi. We have emails. We don’t have any official documentation.

Mr. Papadopoulos. I mean, if the emails would suffice, I think we have emails suggesting that I would be joining the campaign on this day, or Sam Clovis was telling me you’re on board, good job, or something like that.

[snip]

2. And I remember I even — where I’m going at is I don’t think I was talking to the same person [Olga Polanskaya]. That’s what I’m trying to say.

Q When you say talking?

A I mean writing back and forth.

Q By email? By text?

A Email. Email. And I remember there was even a point I messaged this person on Skype. And I said, are you the same person that I met a couple months ago or so? You know, it was just very odd. I think I, you know, I wrote that to her on Skype. Nevertheless, I think we could provide these emails of my interactions with this individual and Joseph Mifsud. What it seems was going on was that Mifsud was using her as some sort of Russian face or person.

[snip]

3. I could get into the details about what was going on with [Ivan Timofeev] or however —

Q Sure. A So I saw him as potentially the person that could, you know, introduce not only me, but the campaign to the people in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then act as the key point man for this potential Trump-Putin submit. We exchanged emails. We could provide those emails to you.

[snip]

4. Q Did you arrange for anyone else to travel to Russia? Let’s just keep it specifically —

A Yeah.

Q — based on your contacts with Mifsud at this point.

A Yes. I reached out directly to Paul Manafort, you know, and Corey Lewandowski and the top — the heads of the campaign, and openly told them I’m trying to arrange this. I mean, they were fully aware of what I was doing. This is all in emails. I’m not sure if you have those emails. I’m happy to provide them to you. That I’m trying to set up this meeting. Are we interested or are we not interested.

[snip]

5. Mr. Meadows. Are you indicating that there are some things that were reported that are not accurate?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s a kind way to say it. Okay. Let’s go back to April. I can’t remember exact dates in April, but April, and maybe we can send emails and when could corroborate certain things. I’m in talks with an Israeli diplomat named Christian Cantor, who was introduced to me through, I guess a friend at the Israeli embassy in D.C. named Dore Shapiro, who was an economic counselor. And you have to remember I was very connected to Israel and what was going on. So that was my network.

[snip]

6. Q So how often was that, would you say? Like how often would you be sending an email? I mean, I know it’s a rough estimate, but —

A It depends on the timing. I mean, there was a point where it was very frequent, and then I took a pause, then started up again. I can’t give a number. I really can’t. But there’s a lot of emails, and those are all documented.

Q Okay. So when the transition started, you said that you became introduced to Michael Flynn and K.T. McFarland.

A Over email.

Q Over email.

[snip]

7. Q And what was that project that you were discussing with Sergei Millian?

A Well, this — I never properly understood exactly what we were talking about. I believe I was asking him for a contract. And I have to go back, and I could share notes later on, but I — just giving off my current memory, that he wanted to do some sort of PR or consultancy for a friend of his or somebody that he knew in Russia. And I believe the terms of the agreement would have been $30,000 a month and some sort of office space and in New York. But then I felt that he wasn’t who he seemed to be and that he was working on behalf of somebody else when he was proposing this to me. And — I mean, we could get into that.

[snip]

8. Q With regard to Olga, you mentioned that she discussed sanctions with you in your correspondence. Does that ring a bell?

A I believe she did over email.

Q And what was the position on sanctions that she expressed over email?

A I can’t remember exactly, but we are happy to share them with — we have those emails in case you don’t. And are more than happy to share them with you.

[snip]

9. Q Did [Timofeev] correspond with you about any geopolitical issues in email?

A We certainly exchanged some emails. I can’t remember exactly what’s in those emails, but I’m more than happy to provide them to the committee.

[snip]

10 and 11. Q I’d also like to ask you about some of the communications that you referenced earlier with Trump campaign officials. You said earlier that you provided notes on President Trump’s — then candidate Trump’s big foreign policy speech to Stephen Miller?

A Yes.

Q What was the substance of those comments?

A I can’t remember but I’m more than happy to share them, because it is all in an email form.

Q And you said that you communicated with Steve Bannon by email as well. Is that right?

A Yes.

Q Would you be —

A Email and a couple of phone calls. What was that?

Q Would you be willing to share those emails with Steve Bannon with us as well?

A I’m more than happy to share whatever emails I have with the campaign with the committee.

[snip]

12. Q You mentioned a number of emails where both of you would have been copied. Did you and Mr. Phares have any direct communication just the two of you?

A We met face to face at the TAG Summit. And then we obviously met at the March 31st meeting. And I can’t remember if we met another time in person or not. But we certainly were in correspondence for months over email.

Q Did you discuss your efforts to set up the Putin-Trump meeting with Mr. Phares?

A I’m not sure he was copied on those particular emails, but I could send whatever emails I have with him to the committee. It’s fine with me.

[snip]

13. Q Did you reach out to anyone on the Trump campaign that day?

A That particular day? Like, I think, Steve Bannon, you know, just to say we did it or something like that. I can’t — like I said, I could provide all these emails, I just don’t know. I really can’t remember exactly what I did on that specific day.

[snip]

14. A Sergei Millian reached out to me out of the blue on LinkedIn around sometime in late July 2016. I can’t remember exactly how he presented himself, but he basically stated that he’s an American of Belarusian origin who worked for Trump or his organization, and he could be helpful in understanding the U.S.-Russia relationship, and he might be a good person to get to know. So I thought this was probably one of Trump’s people and he’s reaching out to me. That’s a good sign. I have the message somewhere. I could always present it to the committee here. And then we met shortly after that in New York.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. Do you know when in July of 2016, what the date was?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think it was around July 22nd. Mr. Meadows. And do you recall the date that you actually met with him?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I’m not even 100 percent sure of exactly the day in July. I could always go back in my records and provide that.

Mr. Meadows. That would be helpful. Those dates would be helpful, but when did you meet with him, in July or in August?

[snip]

15. You explained previously that Mr. — that Professor Mifsud had a connection to and introduced you to Ivan Timofeev. Is that right? A Via email, yes.

Q And did he explain at the time what the purpose of that introduction was?

A I assume he did. I just can’t remember exactly the language, the specific language of the introduction. But I have those emails and am more than happy to share that — those interactions with the committee.

[snip]

16. A I — as I’ve stated, I never met Timofeev in my life face-to-face, so I’m just trying to go back in my memory to see if he actually copied any Russian nationals on an email. I don’t recall that. But as I stated, I’m more than happy to share all communication I have with this person.

Q Great. Thank you.

A Yes.

Q Do you recall him introducing you to any other people in the emails or when you spoke to him by phone?

A I — I don’t recall. But they — but the emails should be in our possession, and we’re more than happy to provide them.

[snip]

17. Q Real quick, just following up on Congressman Ratcliffe’s questions in terms of timing with your conversation with Mr. Halper. You had mentioned it was sometime between September 13th through the 15th. But then you said that you had left London by flight, I suppose. So you might have a record on the day that you left?

A Yes.

Q And you think you met with him the day before you left.

A Yes.

Q Is that something you could provide to us?

A I believe so, yes. It shouldn’t be too hard.

[snip]

18. Mr. Meadows. So I want to follow up on one item from the previous hour, where you had talked about Mr. Tawil. I guess you had not heard from him about the $10,000. And then all of a sudden, you get an email, I assume an email out of the blue saying he wants his $10,000 back. Is that correct?

Mr. Papadopoulos. My memory of the past year, and any interactions I had with this individual — I’m more than happy to share his emails with the committee — was that he would reach out to me indirectly through contacts of mine, and ask how was George doing, what’s his news, even though I was all over the global media at that time. And I don’t remember him ever asking for his money back, even though I had offered to give him his money back, shortly after I left him in — wherever I left him. And going back into my records, I just looked at my email, and we can provide this to you, I think 2 days after I was sentenced, I think — so, September 9th of last month, he sends me an email and he says, not only am I thinking about suing you, but I want my money, and let’s act like we never met. Something along those lines.

Without these emails, the testimony was guaranteed to be useless with respect to 2016, but it gave Papadopoulos the opportunity to engage in wild conspiracy theorizing. The Coffee Boy didn’t much remember the events of 2016, but he did remember what he read in the Daily Caller, the Hill, and the NYT in the weeks before his testimony, which is what he spent much of his testimony telling Congress about.

A You know, I don’t want to espouse conspiracy theories because, you know, it’s horrifying to really think that they might be true, but just yesterday, there was a report in the Daily Caller from [Joseph Mifsud’s] own lawyer that he was working with the FBI when he approached me. And when he was working me, I guess — I don’t know if that’s a fact, and I’m not saying it’s a fact — I’m just relaying what the Daily Caller reported yesterday, with Chuck Ross, and it stated in a categorical fashion that Stephan Roh, who is Joseph Mifsud’s, I believe his President’s counsel, or PR person, said that Mifsud was never a Russian agent.

In fact, he’s a tremendous friend of western intelligence, which makes sense considering I met him at a western spying school in Rome. And all his interactions — this is just me trying to repeat the report, these are not my words — and when he met with me, he was working as some sort of asset of the FBI. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m just reporting what my current understanding is of this individual based on reports from journalists.

[snip]

But I guess the overwhelming evidence, from what I’ve read, just in reports, nothing classified, of course, because I’m not privy to anything like that, and considering his own lawyer is saying it, Stephan Roh, that Mifsud is a western intelligence source. And, I guess, according to reports yesterday, he was working with the FBI. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m just here to, you know, maybe, you know, let you — direct you in certain directions of what I’ve read and maybe, in case you haven’t read it.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. Are you aware of any potential exculpatory evidence that would exist that you just have not seen or your counsel have not seen?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I read John Solomon’s report, like I think probably everyone in this room did from The Hill a couple days ago, about Stefan Halper, which is another person. But in regarding Downer, no, I haven’t seen anything like that.

[snip]

Q Were you — are you aware of any other transcripts or recordings or exculpatory materials as Mr. Meadows referenced?

A This is what I currently understand. I read the John Solomon report about the Stefan Halper, I guess, tapes or recordings of some nature. And so — my old lawyer or — all I — my understanding is that they had a — that they gave me, my old lawyers, a passing reference to something about — I said about treason, and I am — no, about the exculpatory.

[snip]

A My current memory makes me believe that he was stating it as a fact, and I took it as well.

Q And did you believe him at the time?

A At the time, yeah.

Q And so —

A But at the time, also, I thought he was validating rumors. So that was really my impression of him. I mean, you have to understand this is a person who sold himself as the key to Moscow but then really couldn’t deliver on any one of real substance except Putin’s fake niece and the think tank analyst, and then now he’s drooping this information on me. It was very confusing. You can understand how confusing this process was over the month.

Q Do you not believe him now, given what you’ve learned, or do you — you know, do you continue to believe that he was given information that the Russians had Hillary Clinton’s emails?

A I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Everything I’ve ever tweeted or — probably, if that’s what you’re referring to, it’s just backed by things I’ve read in the media. And it’s not my job to dig into this person, because I really don’t care about this person. And legally, I’m not even allowed to talk to him directly or indirectly. So all I can do is read reports, read what his lawyer is saying, and take it with a grain of salt and just share that information with you that his lawyer, yesterday, said that he was working with the FBI. Was he? Is his lawyer a crazy person who’s slandering his client, or was he really working with the FBI and this was some sort of operation? I don’t have the answer to that, and I’m not sitting here telling you I do have the answer to that.

[snip]

Mr. Papadopoulos. Just who I am, my background in the energy business, because everyone was curious about my background in the energy business in Israel. And that’s another thing we’ll get to about what I think why I had a FISA on me, but I don’t know. She then apparently — I don’t remember it, I’m just reading The New York Times. She starts asking me about hacking. I don’t remember her actually asking me that, I just read it in The New York Times. Nevertheless, she introduces me the next time to Stefan Halper.

Mr. Meadows. She asked you about hacking?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember it. I just — I think I read that particular —

Mr. Meadows. You’ve read that?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Yes, that’s what I — I think I read it in The New York Times.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. You say a transcript exists. A transcript exists of that conversation?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s I guess what John Solomon reported a couple days ago.

Mr. Meadows. So are you aware of a transcript existing? I mean — Mr. Papadopoulos. I wasn’t aware of a transcript existing personally.

Mr. Meadows. So you have no personal knowledge of it?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I had no personal knowledge, no.

Mr. Meadows. But you think that he could have been recording you is what you’re suggesting?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Yes.

Having used the stories of Stephen Roh and John Solomon — key players in Russian influence operations — to float conspiracy theories about the Coffee Boy being set up, both Mark Meadows and John Ratcliffe then cued Papadopoulos to attack the Mueller investigation.

For example, Meadows suggested that the FBI had not read Papadopoulos his Miranda rights and had improperly searched his bags.

Mr. Meadows. They told you — I guess, they gave your Miranda rights?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember that. I don’t remember that. I’m sure there might be the video or a transcript of what was going on. You have to understand, I had just come off a trans-Atlantic flight.

In fact, when Papadopoulos told agents he was still represented by an attorney, they told him they would ask no further questions, read his rights and marked the Miranda form as waived. But even after being warned not to say anything without his lawyer present, he kept offering unsolicited comments. And in spite of Meadows’ insinuations, while in FBI custody Papadopoulos thanked the FBI agents for treating him well.

Meadows also found it deeply suspicious that the FBI would ask Papadopoulos to wear a wire to record Joseph Mifsud.

Mr. Meadows. Now, this is the same agent that said that he knew that you had said something. Is that the same person?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Same guy.

Mr. Meadows. And so, he was the one that said you had definitely — I want to make sure that we’re accurate with this. If you’ll — because the name keeps coming back. When you said you didn’t know what you had said to Mr. Downer, it’s the same agent that said, Oh, yes, you said it. Is that correct?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s how I remember it, yes.

Mr. Meadows. Okay. So go ahead.

Mr. Papadopoulos. So I told him, I’m not interested in wearing a wire.

Mr. Meadows. So on your second meeting with the FBI, they asked you to wear a wire?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Against Mifsud.

Mr. Meadows. Against Mifsud, who they believed at that time was doing what?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Well, I guess —

Mr. Meadows. Why did they want you to wear a wire for Mifsud?

The reason Meadows is so bothered that the FBI tried to investigate a suspected Russian agent is that he wanted proof that that Papadopoulos himself was taped. He was looking for something specific: transcripts.

Mr. Meadows. So as we look at this, I think getting our head around all of this is just — it’s hard to believe that it happened in the United States of America. And I think that that’s the trouble that I have with it. And I’ve seen nothing in the classified setting. I want to — for the record, I purposely have not gone into a classified setting to see things so that I can try to put this piece of the puzzle together. It is my belief that you were taped at some point or another by one of these officials, whether it be Mifsud or whether it be Downer or whether it be Halper. I don’t know which one of them did it, but I believe that certainly it is my strong belief that you were taped. Has anyone in the Department of Justice indicated to you that they may have a tape of a private conversation that you had with anyone of those three individuals?

The goal of Meadows and John Ratcliffe — probably the entire point of the hearing, which took place in the wake of a John Solomon article reporting on the topic — was to suggest that George Papadopoulos was deprived of exculpatory evidence, transcripts from his interactions with Halper, before he pled guilty and that he wouldn’t have pled guilty had he received it. Coached by Meadows and influenced by things he read at the Daily Beast, Papadopoulos says maybe the whole thing was a set-up.

Mr. Meadows. I guess if they had that, wouldn’t, before you pleaded guilty, wouldn’t that be something that they should have provided to you or let you know that there was exculpatory evidence out there?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Absolutely. And that would have changed my calculus 100 percent.

Mr. Meadows. Okay. So you, perhaps, would not have pleaded guilty if you knew that there was this tape of a private conversation with one of the three individuals that I just mentioned?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s correct. I guess, my thought process at the time —

Mr. Meadows. Because it could potentially have been a setup.

Mr. Papadopoulos. Absolutely could have been. And just going back in my memory, I guess the logic behind my guilty plea was that I thought I was really in the middle of a real Russia conspiracy, that this was all real, and that I had to plead out or face life in prison, the way they were making it seem. And after this conversation and after much information that’s come out, it’s clear that my — I was completely off on my calculus?

Here’s how former US Attorney Ratcliffe quizzes Papadopoulos about whether he was asked about his conversations with a confidential informant.

Mr. Ratcliffe. Again, to be real clear, the special counsel investigating collusion, potential collusion, or links between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government never asked you, the person around which this investigation was opened and centered, about any communications you had with an individual where you expressed that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s what I remember, yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. The reason I’m asking these questions, Mr. Papadopoulos, is your credibility is at issue, and will be at issue, because you have pled guilty to an 18 U.S.C. 1001 charge of lying to the FBI. And so there will be those that will call into question the truthfulness of your testimony. If you’ve lied to the FBI before, how do we know that you’re telling us the truth? But if there is a transcript of a conversation that you had where you expressed that you had no knowledge about collusion, that might corroborate your testimony. It might also raise obligations, obligations to you as a defendant, to your lawyers as defense counsel, and to various judges as arbiters of material facts.

Here’s how Meadows asked the same question.

Mr. Meadows. Both. I mean, obviously if the special prosecutor is trying to get to the truth and you’re having substantial conversations with Stefan Halper and they don’t ask any questions about it, I find that curious. Do you find that curious?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Now I do.

There are a few problems with Meadows and Ratcliffe’s story. First, Papadopoulos made clear that his lawyers did get the substance of the transcript in question, where Papadopoulos likened what Roger Stone did to treason.

Mr. Meadows. About recordings or transcripts of Mr. Halper?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I never saw anything, but my lawyers, to be clear, they had made a passing remark about something that I said about treason —

Worse still, when Meadows asked Papdopoulos about his conversation with Halper, the Coffee Boy tried to claim his purported disavowal of “collusion” was made to someone he never imagined could be investigating him.

Mr. Meadows. So when you pushed back with Stefan Halpern [sic], and you said, Listen, this is, you know, I’m not going to do that and colluding with the Russians would not be something that I would do. It would be against the law — I don’t want to put words in your mouth — you had no knowledge of being under an investigation at that particular time, is that correct?

Mr. Papadopoulos. So, that’s absolutely correct, and if I had even a scintilla of proof or belief that Stefan Halper was an FBI agent, there’s no way I would have be going and talking to him — I just wouldn’t, I don’t think I would. I don’t think anybody would be running into some sort of operation against themselves.

That’s false. According to the DOJ IG Report, he told another informant he thought Halper would tell the CIA what he said.

Papadopoulos said he believed Source 2 was going to go

and tell the CIA or something if I’d have told him something else. I assume that’s why he was asking. And I told him, absolutely not …. it’s illegal, you know, to do that.. .. [my emphasis]

That is, Papadopoulos admitted to a second FBI informant that he said what he had to Halper precisely because he believed Halper might share what he said with the IC.

Which is among the reasons the FBI believed his answer was a rehearsed cover story in real time.

Now, Papadopoulos’ claim that he never imagined Halper might tell the FBI what he said when in fact he said the nearly the opposite in real time is not the only false claim he made to Congress before Billy Barr and Johnny D went on their junket chasing his conspiracy theories.

This answer, for example, is mostly word salad. But it hides that Papadopoulos continued to pursue a meeting with Russia until September 2016, months after he reached out to Paul Manafort. The word salad obscures a topic — his later effort to set up a meeting with Russian — that Papaodpoulos refused to explain to Mueller.

And to the best of my understanding, that’s when, you know, I really stopped engaging about this Trump-Putin potential meeting.

[snip]

Q Were there other interactions with Mifsud about, I think I read about possibly setting up a trip to Russia about campaign officials? Is there other things you worked on with him aside from the Putin summit? A Yeah, I think what we were trying to do is bring — I was trying to bring the campaign, I think Sam Clovis and Walid Phares and I, we were talking about potentially going to Europe and meeting officials together. And I was trying to see who Mifsud potentially knew in the U.K., or in other parts of Europe that could facilitate that meeting. Of course, we never did it. I think Sam Clovis ended up telling me I can’t make it, I’m too busy, but if you and Walid want to go to this, whatever you’re trying to put together, go ahead. That’s what I remember.

Q And did that trip ever happen?

A I never traveled with Walid Phares, no.

Q Did you arrange for anyone else?

A What was that?

Q Did you arrange for anyone else to travel to Russia? Let’s just keep it specifically —

A Yeah.

Q — based on your contacts with Mifsud at this point.

A Yes. I reached out directly to Paul Manafort, you know, and Corey Lewandowski and the top — the heads of the campaign, and openly told them I’m trying to arrange this. I mean, they were fully aware of what I was doing. This is all in emails. I’m not sure if you have those emails. I’m happy to provide them to you. That I’m trying to set up this meeting. Are we interested or are we not interested. So Corey Lewandowski was informed, Paul Manafort was informed, Sam Clovis was informed about what I was doing and what my progress, I guess, if you want to call it that, was.

“It is a lot of risk,” the notes that Papadopoulos refused to explain appear to have said about a September meeting with Russia, originally scheduled for the same dates as he met Halper.

And when Democratic staffers tried to get back to the gist of the issue — away from the transcripts capturing coached answers Papadopoulos told because he thought the answer might get back to the CIA and to the charged conduct — Papadopoulos’ lawyer refused to let him answer.

Q Is it your position here today that you did not lie to the FBI during your first interview?

Ms. Polisi. I’m just going to advise my client not to answer that.

In several such interactions, the Democratic staffers identified material discrepancies between what Papadopoulos said to a Committee of Congress and what he had sworn to in his guilty plea.

So Mr. Papadopoulos, why did you lie to the FBI and claim that your interactions with Professor Misfud occurred before you became a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign?

Ms. Polisi. I’m going to object to this line of questioning.

Ms. Shen. What’s the objection based upon?

Ms. Polisi. We are here on a voluntary basis. We have answered all of your questions thus far. It is my advice to him that he not talk specifically about the offense conduct.

[snip]

Q Can you please turn to page 4. Mr. Papadopoulos, I believe earlier in this round, we were asking about your interviews with the FBI, and I believe that you said that you had brought up to the FBI the — the professor and your conversation with him. Is that correct?

A That is what I remember.

Q So if you could take a look at footnote 2 on this page, page 4, in the second paragraph, it reads, “To the contrary, the defendant identified the professor only after being prompted by a series of specific questions about when the defendant first learned about Russia’s disclosure of information related to the campaign, and whether defendant had ever, quote, ‘received any information or anything like that from a Russian government official’ unquote. In response, while denying he received any information from a Russian Government official that further identified the professor by name, while also falsely claiming he interacted with the professor ‘before I was with Trump though.'” Mr. Papadopoulos, what you just said earlier today during this interview doesn’t seem to jive with the information in this footnote. Can you explain the discrepancy?

Ms. Polisi. I’m still going to object to this line of questioning. I disagree with your characterization of his previous testimony. What’s written is written, you read it into the record.

Ms. Shen. Well, he just agreed with my characterization.

Ms. Polisi. No, he did not. He did not. He did not agree with your characterization.

Ms. Shen. I asked him if what we talked about earlier was correct — on the record.

Ms. Polisi. That is correct.

Ms. Shen. And then I read the paragraph from his sentencing memorandum, and you are not allowing him to respond to that.

Ms. Polisi. Correct, I’m not allowing him to respond to that.

I guess it makes sense that Durham would not interview Papadopoulos after this performance. It’s not actually clear whether he could tell the truth, and if he did, the truth — that the Coffee Boy was still pursuing a risky back channel to Russia even after the investigation into him was opened — would utterly destroy the objective of the Durham investigation.

So in the same way that Durham never subpoenaed Jim Baker before basing an entire indictment on his testimony, Durham never spoke to Papadopoulos, who would testify that in the same weeks when — Durham claims — Danchenko believed he had a sketchy call with Millian, Papadopoulos started having similar calls with the “very shady person” that Durham has made the centerpiece of his case against Danchenko.

John Durham’s Igor Danchenko Case May Be More Problematic than His Michael Sussmann Case

Legal commentators who ignored the run-up to the Michael Sussmann trial and still have not reported on the evidence of abuse and incompetence are writing posts claiming it was always clear that the jury in that case would return an acquittal. The same people, however, are suggesting there might be more to the Igor Danchenko charges.

I wrote a whole series of posts laying out why that’s wrong — the last one, with links to the others, is here. In addition, I’ve been tracking Durham’s difficulties obtaining classified discovery from other parts of DOJ here. This post pulls together the problems Durham faces in his second trial, which is currently scheduled to start on October 11.

As a reminder, the Danchenko indictment charges the former Christopher Steele source with telling five lies to the FBI in interviews in which they tried to vet the Steele dossier:

  • One alleged lie on June 15, 2017  about whether he had spoken with Chuck Dolan “about any material contained in the” dossier.
  • Four alleged lies, told in interviews on March 16, May 18, October 24, and November 16, 2017, that he spoke to Sergei Millian in late July 2016 when Danchenko knew (variably in 2016 or in the interviews in 2017) that he had never spoken with him; one charged lie accuses Danchenko of wittingly lying about speaking to Millian more than once.

Durham will have to prove that these five statements were intentional lies and that they were material to the FBI’s operations.

Danchenko could get his former lawyer to testify

Before looking at the problems with each of those claimed lies and their materiality, consider that shortly after being charged, Danchenko replaced Mark Schamel, who represented Danchenko in his 2017 interviews with the FBI, with a team led by Lowenstein Sandler’s Stuart Sears. This makes it possible for Danchenko to do something risky but in this case potentially warranted: have his former attorney testify.

The interview report from his initial series of interviews in January 2017 shows that Danchenko was uncertain about the answer to some questions, but over the course of three days, checked his own records and corrected himself when he realized he had made an error in answering an affirmative question from the FBI. In at least one case, Danchenko also provided proof to back one of his claims. Schamel could explain how diligently he and Danchenko prepared for these interviews, how Danchenko corrected himself when he realized he was wrong, and the perceived focus — by all appearances, on Danchenko’s Russian sources — of the FBI interviews.

In short, Schamel’s testimony could go a long way to demonstrating that where Danchenko made an error, it was not willful.

The FBI didn’t ask the question about Chuck Dolan that Durham claims they did

Then there are the charges themselves. There are two potentially fatal problems with the single charge built around Chuck Dolan, which Durham has used to insinuate, with no evidence, that the minor Hillary supporter was the source of the pee tape allegation. The alleged lie Durham has accused Danchenko of, though, pertains to a more general question: whether Danchenko had “denied … that he had spoken to [Dolan] about any material” in the dossier.

Except, as happened repeatedly in his indictment of Danchenko, that’s neither what Danchenko was asked nor what he answered.

As I laid out in this post, it appears that Danchenko was asked whether Dolan was a source for Steele, not whether he was a source for Danchenko.

FBI AGENT-1: Um, because obviously I don’t think you’re the only …

DANCHENKO: Mm-hmm.

FBI AGENT-1: Person that has been contributing. You may have said one – and this is the other thing we are trying to figure out.

[ … ]

FBI AGENT-1: Do you know a [PR Executive-1]?

DANCHENKO: Do I know [PR Executive-1]? Yeah.

FBI AGENT-1: How long have you known him? [laughing] [pause]

DANCHENKO: I’ve known [PR-Executive-1] for [pause] I don’t know, a couple years maybe.

FBI AGENT-1: Couple years?

DANCHENKO: But but but but but but but I’ve known of him for like 12 years.

[ … ]

DANCHENKO: Yeah. Yeah he likes Russia. I don’t think he is, uh, – would be any way be involved. But-but-uh-b-but he’s uh [UI] what I would think would be easily played. Maybe. Uh, he’s a bit naive in his, um liking of Russia. [emphasis Durham’s]

The question was premised on Steele having other primary subsources other than Danchenko and his response was a denial of the possibility that Dolan was one of them. All of Danchenko’s responses could be framed with that understanding of the question.

Durham’s alleged false statement appears to stem from a follow-up question. But there, Durham has completely misrepresented Danchenko’s answer.

FBI AGENT-1: Okay, so you’ve had … was there any … but you had never talked to [PR Executive-1] about anything that showed up in the dossier [Company Reports] right?

DANCHENKO: No.

FBI AGENT-1: You don’t think so?

DANCHENKO: No. We talked about, you know, related issues perhaps but no, no, no, nothing specific. [emphasis Durham’s]

Danchenko explicitly told the FBI that he talked to Dolan about “related issues.” Particularly as regards the pee tape, Danchenko might consider using information from Dolan for further investigation a “related issue” but not the core issue that the FBI was interested in.

As to the report for which Durham presents compelling evidence that Dolan was the source, Durham presents no evidence of specific questioning about it, and there’s abundant evidence that Danchenko was never sure which reports came from him and which (he assumed) came from others.

Durham did not present any evidence that Danchenko denied, in response to specific questions about whether Dolan was involved in identified reports, that Dolan played a role in the dossier. He has evidence that Danchenko answered a question about something else, and then, in a follow-up, gave a much more equivocal response than Durham claims he gave.

Another Durham materiality claim fizzles after he actually investigates

Plus, it is virtually certain that Danchenko will be able to prove that his equivocal response could not have been material.

That’s because — as a declassified footnote of the DOJ IG Report makes clear — the reason the FBI asked these questions about Dolan on June 15, 2017 was because FBI had recently obtained Section 702 material showing conversations between Danchenko’s source, Olga Galkina, and Dolan.

The FBI [received information in early June 2017 which revealed that, among other things, there were [redacted]] personal and business ties between the sub-source and Steele’s Primary Sub-source; contacts between the sub-source and an individual in the Russian Presidential Administration in June/July 2016; [redacted] and the sub‐source voicing strong support for candidate Clinton in the 2016 U.S. elections. The Supervisory Intel Analyst told us that the FBI did not have Section 702 coverage on any other Steele sub‐source. [my emphasis]

That is, the reason the FBI was asking these questions in the first place is because they were trying to understand the communications they had just discovered between Dolan and Danchenko.

As the indictment lays out, Danchenko didn’t hide the key details about Dolan — that he was doing business in Russia, had ties with Dmitry Peskov, and had developed a business relationship with Galkina.

In a later part of the conversation, DANCHENKO stated, in substance and in part, that PR Executive-1 had traveled on the October “delegation” to Moscow; that PR Executive-1 conducted business with Business-1 and Russian Sub-source-1; and that PR Executive-1 had a professional relationship with Russian Press Secretary-1.

Durham claimed that Danchenko’s imagined lie was material because it deprived the FBI from obtaining information on Dolan.

DANCHENKO’s lies denying PR Executive-1 ‘s role in specific information referenced in the Company Reports were material to the FBI because, among other reasons, they deprived FBI agents and analysts of probative information concerning PR Executive-1 that would have, among other things, assisted them in evaluating the credibility, reliability, and veracity of the Company Reports, including DANCHENKO’s sub-sources.

We now know that, at the time Durham made this claim, he had barely begun the process of obtaining relevant evidence from DOJ IG. Even in the Michael Sussmann case, Durham first made a formal discovery request of Michael Horowitz’s office on October 13, 2021, almost a month after charging Sussmann (and just three weeks before indicting Danchenko). Durham didn’t receive materials that completely undermined his case against Sussmann until March.

From that, it’s fairly safe to assume that Durham (again) didn’t bother to test whether there was any basis for his materiality claims before building a long speaking indictment around them.

The FBI didn’t need Danchenko to tell them about Dolan’s Russian ties. They had discovered that already from 702 collection targeting Galkina. That’s precisely why they asked Danchenko whether Dolan could be another Steele source. And when asked for more details, Dahchenko offered up the details that FBI would have been looking for.

Durham’s due diligence problems on the Sergei Millian charges

There are several kinds of problems with the remaining four counts. As noted, four of the charges against Danchenko accuse him of hiding what Durham claims is affirmative knowledge (arguably in real time) that Sergei Millian never called him in late July 2016.

As a threshold matter, there’s no language in the Danchenko indictment suggesting Durham has affirmative proof that such a call didn’t happen — whether from Millian or anyone else. In his FBI interview, Danchenko suggested the call may have happened on a secure app and he said he had replaced the phone he used at the time. So it’s not clear that Durham can rule out a call on Signal or similar encrypted app. When Durham first rolled out this indictment, I thought such a claim would be reckless, but we now know Durham built his entire Sussmann indictment around billing records even though Durham had affirmative proof (in his taxi reimbursement) that Sussmann did not bill Hillary for his meeting with the FBI.

Worse still, even in the transcripts that Durham miscites in the indictment, Danchenko included a bunch of caveats that Durham does not include in his charging language: “I don’t know,” “at the time I was under the impression it was him,” “at least someone I thought was him.”

That creates a temporal problem with the way Durham has charged this. Even if Danchenko came to believe later in 2016 or in 2017 that he never spoke with Millian, in his interviews, Danchenko was answering about what he believed to be the case in July 2016, when he shared this report with Christopher Steele. All Danchenko was claiming was that he talked to some journalists at a Russian outlet, someone called Danchenko shortly thereafter (at a time, it should be said, when Oleg Deripaska likely already knew of the dossier project), and Danchenko assumed it was Millian because it was the most logical explanation. From the start, Danchenko always admitted his uncertainty about that call.

Durham is relying on a Twitter feed he has already said makes false claims about the Durham investigation

Then there’s the fact that Durham is relying on Sergei Millian as a witness against Danchenko.

As I noted last year, in his indictment, Durham claimed to prove that such a call had not happened based on Millian’s say-so. But not actual testimony. Rather, at that point, Durham was relying on Sergei Millian’s Twitter feed.

Chamber President-1 has claimed in public statements and on social media that he never responded to DANCHEKNO’s [sic] emails, and that he and DANCHENKO never met or communicated.

That was batshit insane then, not least because over the years journalists and others have raised real questions about the authenticity of Millian’s Twitter account. And since charging Danchenko, Millian has repeatedly made claims on Twitter that utterly demolishes the credibility of Millian’s Twitter feed.

Millian has played a key role in the “sleuths corner” that has ginned up all sorts of false claims about Durham’s investigation.

This explicit affiliation will entitle Danchenko to subpoena the activity of the group, and even if Millian were entirely credible, there are a number of people associated with the corner who are not.

Then, as part of his role in generating froth about the Durham investigation, Millian played a central role in misrepresenting a claim Durham had made in a filing in the Sussmann case, suggesting that Durham had proven that researchers had spied on the Trump White House.

This led Durham to formally state that those who made such claims were “misrepresent[ing] facts contained in the Government’s Motion.” So Durham has publicly accused his star witness — Sergei Millian’s Twitter feed — of making false claims about matters pertaining to Durham’s investigation.

Worse still, in the same time period, Millian claimed that he had called the White House and told them “who was working against them.”

That reflects the kind of knowledge that could only come from a concerted effort, in real time (seemingly in 2016), to fuck with the Fusion investigation, followed by a subsequent effort (at such time when Trump was in the White House), to exact a cost for the investigation. Effectively, with this tweet, Millian confessed to being part of the effort to undermine the Russian investigation. That makes Millian’s contact with Deripaska in 2016 all the more problematic, since Deripaska has seemingly carried out a sustained campaign to attack the Russian investigation. But it also suggests that Millian’s claims to have entirely blown off Danchenko’s quetions were false.

Millian has since claimed that Durham’s office was trying to keep him off Twitter, but that he refused because he wants to attack his enemies.

This is all just stuff that Millian has done since the indictment, and to the extent earlier Millian tweets are preserved showing professed knowledge of the 2016 Russian operation (as some are), Danchenko would be able to use those at trial as well.

Which may be why — at least according to Millian’s unreliable Twitter feed — Durham is now trying to get Millian to come testify at trial. But Millian suggests that testifying under oath to the claims he has been making on Twitter for years would amount to “using him.”

Durham’s star witness refuses to return to the US without some kind of “gentleman’s agreement” regarding his “safe return.” That’s not going to be a very credible witness on the stand, if he even shows up to testify.

The counterintelligence investigation against Millian was real in 2016 and may be realer now

Which leads us, again, to Durham’s failures to do basic investigation before charging these indictments.

We know Durham didn’t reach out to Michael Horowitz until weeks before charging Danchenko. The Sussmann case made it clear Durham had not received centrally relevant evidence in the Sussmann case until March.

That means Durham may not have been aware of the public evidence — in both the DOJ IG Report and declassified footnotes — describing the counterintelligence investigation opened on Millian in October 2016, which was opened in NY (where Millian lived at the time), not DC (where Fusion and others were also raising concerns).

In addition, we learned that [Millian] was at the time the subject of an open FBI counterintelligence investigation. 302 We also were concerned that the FISA application did not disclose to the court the FBI’s belief that this sub-source was, at the time of the application, the subject of such an investigation. We were told that the Department will usually share with the FISC the fact that a source is a subject in an open case. The OI Attorney told us he did not recall knowing this information at the time of the first application, even though NYFO opened the case after consulting with and notifying Case Agent 1 and SSA 1 prior to October 12, 2016, nine days before the FISA application was filed. Case Agent 1 said that he may have mentioned the case to the OI Attorney “in passing,” but he did not specifically recall doing so. 303

301 As discussed in Chapter Four, [Millian] [redacted]

302 According to a document circulated among Crossfire Hurricane team members and supervisors in early October 2016, [Millian] had historical contact with persons and entities suspected of being linked to RIS. The document described reporting [redacted] that [Millian] “was rumored to be a former KGB/SVR officer.” In addition, in late December 2016, Department Attorney Bruce Ohr told SSA 1 that he had met with Glenn Simpson and that Simpson had assessed that [Millian] was a RIS officer who was central in connecting Trump to Russia.

We know Durham has little familiarity with the Mueller Report, much less the underlying investigation. Which means he similarly may not have considered the evidence that Millian was cultivating George Papadopoulos during precisely the same weeks when Danchenko was contacting Millian for information on Trump.

Papadopoulos first connected with Millian via LinkedIn on July 15, 2016, shortly after Papadopoulos had attended the TAG Summit with Clovis.500 Millian, an American citizen who is a native of Belarus, introduced himself “as president of [the] New York-based Russian American Chamber of Commerce,” and claimed that through that position he had “insider knowledge and direct access to the top hierarchy in Russian politics.”501 Papadopoulos asked Timofeev whether he had heard of Millian.502 Although Timofeev said no,503 Papadopoulos met Millian in New York City.504 The meetings took place on July 30 and August 1, 2016.505 Afterwards, Millian invited Papadopoulos to attend-and potentially speak at-two international energy conferences, including one that was to be held in Moscow in September 2016.506 Papadopoulos ultimately did not attend either conference.

On July 31 , 2016, following his first in-person meeting with Millian, Papadopoulos emailed Trump Campaign official Bo Denysyk to say that he had been contacted “by some leaders of Russian-American voters here in the US about their interest in voting for Mr. Trump,” and to ask whether he should “put you in touch with their group (US-Russia chamber of commerce).”507 Denysyk thanked Papadopoulos “for taking the initiative,” but asked him to “hold off with outreach to Russian-Americans” because “too many articles” had already portrayed the Campaign, then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and candidate Trump as “being pro-Russian.”508

On August 23, 2016, Millian sent a Facebook message to Papadopoulos promising that he would ” share with you a disruptive technology that might be instrumental in your political work for the campaign.”509 Papadopoulos claimed to have no recollection of this matter.510

On November 9, 2016, shortly after the election, Papadopoulos arranged to meet Millian in Chicago to discuss business opportunities, including potential work with Russian “billionaires who are not under sanctions.”511 The meeting took place on November 14, 2016, at the Trump Hotel and Tower in Chicago.512 According to Papadopoulos, the two men discussed partnering on business deals, but Papadopoulos perceived that Millian’s attitude toward him changed when Papadopoulos stated that he was only pursuing private-sector opportunities and was not interested in a job in the Administration.5 13 The two remained in contact, however, and had extended online discussions about possible business opportunities in Russia. 514 The two also arranged to meet at a Washington, D.C. bar when both attended Trump’s inauguration in late January 2017.515

More recently, as part of charges against a different Russian-American who fled because of a counterintelligence investigation, DOJ made clear that Millian’s organization knew at least by 2013 they should have registered as agents of Russia.

a. On or about January 30, 2013, BRANSON received an email from an individual using an email address ending in “mail.ru.” Based on my review of publicly available information, I have learned that this individual was a Senior Vice President of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce in the USA. This email had the subject line “Problem.” and the text of the email included, among other things, a portion of the FARA Unit’s website with background on FARA. In response, BRANSON wrote, in part, “I am interested in the number of the law, its text in English[.]” The sender then responded with “Lena, read …” and copied into the email background on FARA and portions of the statute.

All of which to say that Durham likely cannot make any “gentleman’s agreement” on DOJ’s behalf with Millian about coming to the US to testify against Danchenko, because other parts of DOJ have equities that significantly precede Durham’s, equities that pertain more directly to harm to the United States and current national security priorities.

Plus, even if Durham did succeed in bringing his star witness against Danchenko to EDVA to testify against him, even if Millian weren’t arrested on sealed charges when he landed, the trial would end up being a circus in which the evidence against Millian and the false claims Millian has made about the Durham investigation playing a more central role than the evidence against Danchenko.

There are few things Durham could do that would make it more clear how his witch hunt has served Russia’s interests, and not those of the US.

I mean, I’m all for it. But at some point Durham may come to recognize that’s not a winning case.

There is affirmative evidence that any alleged lies Danchenko told were not material

It’s not clear whether Sussmann jurors ever got as far as considering the materiality problems in the case against Sussmann. But, even on top of the specific problem arising from the Section 702 directive targeting Galkina, described above, Durham may have bigger materiality problems with Danchenko.

That’s because — as explained in the DOJ IG Report Durham didn’t read closely — FBI repeatedly made decisions that affirmatively reflect finding claims in the dossier and Danchenko’s interviews were not material to their decision to keep surveilling Carter Page.

That’s true, first of all, because the initial FISA targeting Page obtained useful information. Notes from Tashina Gaushar that Durham belatedly discovered in the Sussmann case described the FISAs against Page this way:

So before the FBI ever spoke to Danchenko, they had independent reason (on top of the counterintelligence concerns NYFO had used in March 2016 to open an investigation on Page) to target Page.

Moreover, the FBI started identifying problems with the Millian allegations before the first FISA, but never integrated those or Danchenko’s own interviews into their FISA applications.

Regarding the information in the first bullet above, in early October 2016, the FBI learned the true name of Person 1 (described in Report 95 as “Source E”). As described in Chapter Six, the Primary Sub-source told the FBI that he/she had one 10- to 15-minute telephone call with someone he/she believed to be Person 1, but who did not identify him/herself on the call. We found that, during his/her interview with the FBI, the Primary Sub-source did not describe a “conspiracy” between Russia and individuals associated with the Trump campaign or state that Carter Page served as an “intermediary” between Manafort and the Russian government. In addition, the FBl’s summary of the Primary Sub-source’s interview did not describe any discussions between the parties concerning the disclosure of DNC emails to Wikileaks in exchange for a campaign platform change on the Ukrainian issue. To the contrary, according to the interview summary, the Primary Sub-source told the FBI that Person 1 told him/her that there was “nothing bad” about the communications between the Kremlin and Trump, and that he/she did not recall any mention of Wikileaks. Further, although Steele informed the FBI that he had received all of the information in Report 95 from the Primary Sub-source, and Steele told the OIG the same thing when we interviewed him, the Primary Subsource told the FBI that he/she did not know where some of the information attributed to Source E in Report 95 came from. 388 Despite the inconsistencies between Steele’s reporting and the information his Primary Sub-source provided to the FBI, the subsequent FISA renewal applications continued to rely on the Steele information, without any revisions or notice to the court that the Primary Sub-source had contradicted the Steele reporting on key issues described in the renewal applications. Instead, as described previously, FISA Renewal Application Nos. 2 and 3 advised the court:

In an effort to further corroborate [Steele’s] reporting, the FBI has met with [Steele’s] [redacted] sub-source [Primary Sub-source] described immediately above. During these interviews, the FBI found the [redacted] subsource to be truthful and cooperative [redacted]. The FBI is undertaking additional investigative steps to further corroborate the information provide [sic] by [Steele] and [redacted]

It cannot be the case that FBI at once ignored everything Danchenko said that should have raised concerns, but also that Danchenko’s repetition of the things he said in his first interview would be material to later parts of the investigation. There’s a 478-page report laying out why that’s not the case.

As to the Dolan tie, the FBI obtained intelligence that the reports that most mattered to the ongoing Russian investigation — the sketchy Cohen-in-Prague stories sourced to Olga Galkina, stories that may well have arisen because Dolan vouched for Galkina with Peskov — were disinformation a week before first speaking to Danchenko.

A January 12, 2017, report relayed information from [redacted] outlining an inaccuracy in a limited subset of Steele’s reporting about the activities of Michael Cohen. The [redacted] stated that it did not have high confidence in this subset of Steele’s reporting and assessed that the referenced subset was part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations. A second report from the same [redacted] five days later stated that a person named in the limited subset of Steele’s reporting had denied representations in the reporting and the [redacted] assessed that the person’s denials were truthful.

As I have shown, Mueller did not use the Cohen reports at all in predicating the investigation against Trump’s lawyer.

Finally, the DOJ IG Report strongly suggests that the FBI was not going to get a fourth FISA targeting Page until they discovered two new facilities — probably one or more encrypted app and some financial accounts — they thought might answer some of their outstanding questions about Page.

[A]vailable documents indicate that one of the focuses of the Carter Page investigation at this time was obtaining his financial records. NYFO sought compulsory legal process in April 2017 for banking and financial records for Carter Page and his company, Global Energy Capital, as well as information relating to two encrypted online applications, one of which Page utilized on his cell phone. Documents reflect that agents also conducted multiple interviews of individuals associated with Carter Page.

Case Agent 6 told us, and documents reflect, that despite the ongoing investigation, the team did not expect to renew the Carter Page FISA before Renewal Application No. 2’s authority expired on June 30. Case Agent 6 said that the FISA collection the FBI had received during the second renewal period was not yielding any new information. The OGC Attorney told us that when the FBI was considering whether to seek further FISA authority following Renewal Application No. 2, the FISA was “starting to go dark.” During one of the March 2017 interviews, Page told Case Agent 1 and Case Agent 6 that he believed he was under surveillance and the agents did not believe continued surveillance would provide any relevant information. Cast Agent 6 said [redacted]

SSA 5 and SSA 2 said that further investigation yielded previously unknown locations that they believed could provide information of investigative value, and they decided to seek another renewal. Specifically, SSA 5 and Case Agent 6 told us, and documents reflect, that [redacted] they decided to seek a third renewal. [redacted]

This is yet another reason why nothing Danchenko could have said in his interviews would have changed the FBI’s actions.

That leaves the purported lies — the same alleged lies about Millian — told in October and November 2017 that Durham claims Danchenko had been telling all along. By that point, though, Mueller already had George Papadopoulos refusing to provide details pertaining to Millian that would have raised further questions about Millian’s activities in 2016.

Honestly, this post barely scratches the surface of problems with Durham’s Igor Danchenko case. Things get worse when you consider Oleg Deripaska’s role in the dossier and the very active investigation into him and more recent sanctions into Dmitry Peskov.

And, this time, Durham may realize that. Just weeks before the Sussmann trial, Durham made a frenzied effort to include details about the dossier and Millian in Sussmann’s case. For example, he got approved as exhibits and “accidentally” released Fusion GPS files entirely unrelated to the Sussmann case. He attempted, but failed, to make Christopher Steele a central issue at the Sussmann trial. And during the testimony of Jared Novick, he attempted to introduce the names of dossier subjects that were unrelated to the core Sussmann charge. That is, Durham expanded the scope of his already unhinged conspiracy theory to incorporate topics — most notably, the dossier — that he might otherwise present at the Danchenko trial.

In the next two weeks, Durham will — after over ten weeks of delay — have to face the challenges of obtaining the classified discovery that Danchenko can demand to prove this is the case. In light of those challenges, we’ll see whether Durham wants to barrel forward towards yet another humiliating loss at trial.

Will KleptoCapture Catch John Durham, Along with the Russian Spies and Oligarchs?

I’ve been right about a lot of things regarding John Durham’s investigation (though not, apparently, that he would supersede the indictment against Michael Sussmann — maybe he was afraid of getting no-billed if he corrected the things in the indictment he has since discovered to be false?).

Perhaps the most prescient observation I’ve made, though, was that Durham had no fucking clue where to look for evidence related to his already-charged allegations.

I’ve seen reason to believe Durham doesn’t understand the full scope of where he needs to look to find evidence relevant to that case.

I said that in November. Since that time in the Sussmann case, Durham has had to publicly confess he had not:

Effectively, Durham spent most of three years speaking to those who would confirm his conspiracy theories, and not consulting the actual evidence. It took until six months after Durham charged Sussmann before Durham tested Sussmann’s sworn explanation for his Baker meeting — and when he checked, he found the evidence backed Sussmann’s explanation.

Six months after indicting Igor Danchenko, Durham asked to extend discovery another month

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.

See this post for an explanation of all the classified information that Danchenko should be able to demand and the onerous process that using it requires, called Classified Information Procedures Act. Even in November, I showed that Danchenko could likely make a case that he should get discovery from the FBI and NSA, and probably CIA and Treasury. There is no way Durham is getting through this case with just 5,000 classified documents.

As he noted in his opposition to this latest request for an extension, with each request, Durham’s proposed schedule was shrinking the time afforded Danchenko to review classified discovery before providing a list of the classified information he wanted to use at trial (called a CIPA 5 notice), first from 60 days to 40, and then from 40 days to 22.

On March 22, 2022, the Special Counsel filed a Consent Motion to Adjourn the Classified Discovery and CIPA Schedule. Dkt. 44. In his Motion, the Special Counsel sought to extend the deadline to produce classified discovery from March 29, 2022, to May 13, 2022. Id. at 2. The Special Counsel’s motion also sought to extend the dates for various CIPA filings and hearings. Id. Importantly, the Special Counsel’s proposed schedule reduced the amount of time within which Mr. Danchenko had to file his Section 5(a) written notice from approximately 60 days after the close of classified discovery to approximately 40 days.

[snip]

On May 9, 2022, the Special Counsel filed his Second Motion to Adjourn the Classified Discovery and CIPA Schedule. Dkt. 48. In his motion, the Special Counsel now tells the Court that he can provide the outstanding classified discovery by “no later than” June 13, 2022. See id. at 2. He also proposes a June 29, 2022, deadline for Defendant’s Section 5(a) written notice. Id. Therefore, the Special Counsel has essentially asked this Court to enter an Order that will now decrease Mr. Danchenko’s time within which to file his Section 5(a) written notice from approximately 40 days after the close of classified discovery to approximately 22 days.

[snip]

Mr. Danchenko would be substantially prejudiced by the Special Counsel’s proposed schedule because it significantly shortens the time period within which Mr. Danchenko can review any final classified productions and file his CIPA Section 5(a) notice. That is of particular concern to Mr. Danchenko because the Special Counsel has not provided sufficient notice of how much additional classified discovery may be forthcoming other than his “belie[f]” that the “bulk” of the classified discovery has already been produced.

Shrinking Danchenko’s deadlines would make the additional discovery that is still outstanding far less useful. In the Sussmann case, for example, it took over a month for Sussmann’s team to find the documents that disprove Durham’s case buried among 22,000 other documents provided on his extended deadline. So while Durham might be trying to comply with discovery obligations, arguing that the proper solution to his struggles fulfilling discovery is to shrink Danchenko’s own time to review the evidence suggests he’s not doing so in good faith.

Judge Trenga must have agreed. While he granted the government’s request for an extension, he gave Danchenko 42 days to submit his CIPA 5 notice.

A Russian dog named Putin ate Durham’s classified homework

I’ve noted how the post-invasion sanctions on Alfa Bank deprived John Durham of a second investigative team, Alfa Bank’s Skadden Arps lawyers, whose filings a judge observed seemed to be “written by the same people” as Durham’s.

But the aftermath of Putin’s attempt to overthrow Ukraine may be causing Durham even bigger problems in the Danchenko case.

When Durham asked for an extension of his CIPA deadline in the Sussmann case days after Russia extended its invasion of Ukraine, he explained that the people who had to write declarations in support of CIPA (usually agency heads like CIA Director William Burns or NSA Director Paul Nakasone) were busy dealing with the response to Ukraine.

However, the Government’s submission includes not only the Government’s memorandum but also one or more supporting declarations from officials of the U.S. intelligence community. The Government’s review of potentially discoverable material is ongoing, and these officials cannot finalize their declarations until that review is complete.

Moreover, recent world events in Ukraine have further delayed the Government’s review and the officials’ preparation of the supporting declaration(s). As a result, the Government respectfully submits that a modest two-week adjournment request to its CIPA Section 4 filing deadline is appropriate and would not impact any other deadlines, to include the currently scheduled trial date

Effectively, this request moved the CIPA deadline from a week before Durham’s classified discovery deadline to a week after; yet Durham just committed, once again, to finalizing his CIPA 4 submission almost a week before his classified discovery deadline in the Danchenko case.

That’s important because Durham overpromised when he said he could finish a CIPA filing before the discovery deadline. Durham filed a supplement to his CIPA 4 notice on May 7 (nine days before trial) that, unless Judge Cooper ruled orally at a closed hearing last week, remains outstanding. That’s not entirely unusual in a case that relies on classified information, but if Cooper were to rule this classified information was necessary for Sussmann’s defense, it would give Sussmann no time to actually prepare to use it.

Durham cited the Ukraine response again on March 22, a month after Russia launched its failed attempt to take Kyiv, when he asked for an extension on his classified discovery deadline.

However, recent world events in Ukraine have contributed to delays in the production of classified discovery. The officials preparing and reviewing the documents at the FBI and intelligence agencies are heavily engaged in matters related to Ukraine.

Importantly, these people focusing on keeping us safe from Russian aggression rather than, as Durham is, making us safe for Russian aggression, are different than the people cited in the Sussmann case. These aren’t senior officials, but instead those “preparing and reviewing the documents at the FBI and intelligence agencies.” That’s not William Burns, that’s FBI counterintelligence agents, among others.

In last week’s request for an extension, Durham didn’t mention Ukraine, but his reference to “overseas activities” suggests the response to Ukraine remains the problem.

However, recent world events continue to contribute to delays in the processing and production of classified discovery. In particular, some of the officials preparing and reviewing the documents at the FBI and intelligence agencies continue to be heavily engaged in matters related to overseas activities.

Unsurprisingly, Danchenko asked Trenga to require Durham to provide some kind of explanation for why “overseas activities,” probably Ukraine, continue to delay classified discovery in a case criminalizing an attempt to fight Russia’s attack on democracy in 2016.

Moreover, the Special Counsel has failed to adequately explain how “recent world events” (Dkt. 48 at 2) have specifically made it impossible for him to meet his discovery obligations. While it seems unlikely that the same government officials charged with declassifying discovery are also responding to events overseas, it certainly is possible. But, even if that is the case, the Special Counsel must offer more explanation than he has, especially in light of the fact that his prior motion to extend the discovery deadline was based on the events in Ukraine, and the ongoing nature of that conflict must or should have been considered when he requested the May 13 deadline.

Sadly, Trenga didn’t order up an explanation for why this delay, probably Ukraine-related, is causing so many difficulties for Durham’s prosecution of Danchenko.

KleptoCapture threatens at least one and possibly up to three key Durham figures

One reason I would have liked Trenga to force Durham to explain how a dog named Putin ate his classified homework is because the public response to Russia’s attempt to conquer Ukraine has already implicated three figures who are key to Durham’s case. While I need to update it, this post attempts to capture everything that the US government and some partners have done since the expanded invasion.

Dmitry Peskov

Perhaps the response least damaging to Durham’s case — but one that will affect discovery — involves Dmitry Peskov. As I explained in this post, Durham made Peskov’s relationship with Chuck Dolan and Olga Galkina a key part of his indictment against Danchenko.

In his role as a public relations professional, [Dolan] spent much of his career interacting with Eurasian clients with a particular focus on Russia. For example, from in or about 2006 through in or about 2014, the Russian Federation retained [Dolan] and his then-employer to handle global public relations for the Russian government and a state-owned energy company. [Dolan] served as a lead consultant during that project and frequently interacted with senior Russian Federation leadership whose names would later appear in the Company Reports, including the Press Secretary of the Russian Presidential Administration (“Russian Press Secretary-I”), the Deputy Press Secretary (“Russian Deputy Press Secretary-I”), and others in the Russian Presidential Press Department.

[snip]

In anticipation of the June 2016 Planning Trip to Moscow, [Dolan] also communicated with [Peskov] and Russian Deputy Press Secretary-I, both of whom worked in the Kremlin and, as noted above, also appeared in the Company Reports.

[snip]

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

On March 3, the State Department added Peskov to the sanctions list under a 2021 Executive Order President Biden signed, in part, to target those who (among other things), “undermine the conduct of free and fair democratic elections and democratic institutions in the United States and its allies and partners.” On March 11, Treasury added Peskov’s family members to the sanctions list. The package used to sanction Peskov would have been the product of intelligence reports circulated within the US government.

While the legal reason Peskov was sanctioned pertained to his official role in the Russian government (and the lavish lifestyles his family enjoys even with his civil service salary), State also described Peskov as “the chief propagandist of the Russian Federation.” That, by itself, would be unremarkable. But if — as even Durham alludes — Peskov had a role in feeding Galkina disinformation for the Steele dossier, particularly if he crafted disinformation to maximally exploit Michael Cohen’s secret call with Peskov’s office in January 2016, that could be a part of the sanctions package against Peskov. If it were, then it would be centrally important discovery for Danchenko.

Oleg Deripaska

Then there’s Oleg Deripaska. This post lays out in depth the reasons why Danchenko would have reason to demand information on Deripaska’s role in the dossier, including:

  • Evidence about whether Oleg Deripaska was Christopher Steele’s client for a project targeting Paul Manafort before the DNC one
  • All known details of Deripaska’s role in injecting disinformation into the dossier, up through current day
  • Details of all communications between Deripaska and Millian

Given his blissful ignorance of the actual results of the Mueller investigation and the DOJ IG Carter Page investigation, Durham was always going to have a nasty discovery surprise in complying with such requests. Plus, a search last October of two Deripaska-related properties made clear that the most likely source of disinformation in the dossier was under aggressive criminal investigation for sanctions violations.

A recent Bloomberg story reported that that criminal investigation has now been moved under and given the prioritization of the KleptoCapture initiative started in response to the Ukraine war.

Deripaska has been sanctioned since 2018 for his ties to Vladimir Putin, and the seizures at a Washington mansion and New York townhouse linked to him predate the invasion of Ukraine. But the investigation of Deripaska’s assets is now part of an escalating U.S. crackdown on ultra-rich Russians suspected of laundering money and hiding assets to help finance Putin’s regime.

The raids were key steps to unearth information that may determine whether — and how — Deripaska moved money around. Among the mishmash of items taken from the New York and Washington properties were half a dozen works of fine art, sunglasses, hiking boots, housewares, financial records, telephone bills and other documents, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the investigation hasn’t been made public.

The Deripaska inquiry is now part of a special U.S. Department of Justice task force dubbed “KleptoCapture,” according to New York federal prosecutor Andrew Adams, who is heading up the group.

“As Russia and its aggression continues, we have our eyes on every piece of art and real estate purchased with dirty money,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a recent news conference.

If DOJ plans on indicting Deripaska — for sanctions violations and anything else on which the statute of limitations has not expired — they might delay discovery cooperation with Durham until they do so. And if such a hypothetical indictment mentioned Deripaska’s role in facilitating the 2016 election interference and/or successful efforts to exploit the dossier to undermine the Russian investigation, it might make Durham’s charges against Danchenko unsustainable, even if he is able to otherwise fulfill his discovery requirements. Durham’s theory of prosecution is that Danchenko is the big villain that led to FBI confusion over the dossier, but Deripaska seems to have had a far bigger role in that.

Sergei Millian

Finally, there’s Sergei Millian, who happened to meet with Deripaska in 2016 at an event, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, that played a key role in the election operation.

In the same week Millian met Deripaska, a bunch of cybersecurity experts first started looking for evidence of Russian hacking in DNS data and Igor Danchenko was in Moscow meeting with Chuck Dolan and his other named Steele dossier sources.

As the DOJ IG Report and declassified footnotes make clear, FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into Millian in October 2016. All the evidence indicates that the investigation did not arise from Crossfire Hurricane and, given that Millian’s ID was hidden in the dossier reports shared with NYFO on their way to HQ, and given that other information on Millian was fed into DC, not NY, was probably predicated completely independent of Crossfire Hurricane.

In addition, we learned that [Millian] was at the time the subject of an open FBI counterintelligence investigation. 302 We also were concerned that the FISA application did not disclose to the court the FBI’s belief that this sub-source was, at the time of the application, the subject of such an investigation. We were told that the Department will usually share with the FISC the fact that a source is a subject in an open case. The OI Attorney told us he did not recall knowing this information at the time of the first application, even though NYFO opened the case after consulting with and notifying Case Agent 1 and SSA 1 prior to October 12, 2016, nine days before the FISA application was filed. Case Agent 1 said that he may have mentioned the case to the OI Attorney “in passing,” but he did not specifically recall doing so. 303

301 As discussed in Chapter Four, [Millian] [redacted]

302 According to a document circulated among Crossfire Hurricane team members and supervisors in early October 2016, [Millian] had historical contact with persons and entities suspected of being linked to RIS. The document described reporting [redacted] that [Millian] “was rumored to be a former KGB/SVR officer.” In addition, in late December 2016, Department Attorney Bruce Ohr told SSA 1 that he had met with Glenn Simpson and that Simpson had assessed that [Millian] was a RIS officer who was central in connecting Trump to Russia.

303 Although an email indicates that the OI Attorney learned in March 2017 that the FBI had an open case on [Millian], the subsequent renewal applications did not include this fact. According to the OI Attorney, and as reflected in Renewal Application Nos. 2 and 3, the FBI expressed uncertainty about whether this sub‐source was Person 1. However, other FBI documents in the same time period reflect that the ongoing assumption by the Crossfire Hurricane team was that this sub‐source was [Millian].

Plus, Mueller found plenty on Millian to raise separate issues of concern.

Given several other counterintelligence cases developed in NYFO, the predication likely had more to do with Russia’s effort to use cultural and other diaspora groups as a way to covertly extend Russian influence.

And in fact, Millian’s group — the Russian American Chamber of Commerce — has already made a cameo appearance in one such prosecution, that against Elena Branson, a complaint that was rolled out in the same week as the sanctions against Peskov.

a. On or about January 30, 2013, BRANSON received an email from an individual using an email address ending in “mail.ru.” Based on my review of publicly available information, I have learned that this individual was a Senior Vice President of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce in the USA. This email had the subject line “Problem.” and the text of the email included, among other things, a portion of the FARA Unit’s website with background on FARA. In response, BRANSON wrote, in part, “I am interested in the number of the law, its text in English[.]” The sender then responded with “Lena, read …” and copied into the email background on FARA and portions of the statute.

This awareness and flouting of registration requirements is the kind of thing that often features in prosecutions for 18 USC 951 violations. And, at least in the case of Branson, the statute of limitations can extend so long as the person in question continues to play a role in US politics, though in Branson’s case, she only fled the country 18 months ago.

If the FBI believed Millian was an unregistered foreign agent who fled to avoid an investigation in 2017, his ongoing involvement in efforts to gin up an investigation into the investigation — particularly claims that, even according to Durham, misinterpreted facts his own prosecutors filed and thereby contributed to death threats against witnesses in the investigation — then it wouldn’t rule out an investigation into Millian himself, an investigation that would have preceded Durham’s reckless reliance on him (or rather, Millian’s unvetted Twitter feed) as a star witness against Danchenko.

Even Millian’s public claim (albeit one offered by someone the FBI considers an embellisher) that he called the White House directly to elicit this investigation could be of interest.

We can now say with great certainty that Durham didn’t check the most obvious sources of evidence against key players involved in the Steele dossier, such as DOJ IG’s backup files in the Carter Page investigation that is the primary focus of Durham’s Danchenko indictment. That makes it highly likely he never bothered to see whether other parts of DOJ considered key players in the Steele dossier to be actual threats to democracy.

One of those key players is undoubtedly Oleg Deripaska. And the renewed focus on Russian influence operations may expand beyond that.

“Not Us at All:” In His Bid to Pierce Privilege, John Durham Makes Strong Case for Immunizing Rodney Joffe

The folks in John Durham’s Office of Conspiracy-Mongering seem to be frazzled. What other explanation might they have for a positively hysterical entry in their bid to pierce Democrats’ privilege claims?

To be clear (because frothy lawyers are making false claims about what I think might happen), I think some of the privilege claims being made are suspect. Durham might succeed, in part, and a more professional effort to do so in a different case — say, Igor Danchenko’s — might get the results he wanted.

But last night’s filing, even ignoring that Durham released confidential emails while purportedly asking permission to release them under seal, was a clown show.

Start with what Durham doesn’t mention.

In Michael Sussmann’s opposition to Durham’s motion to compel, he raised four procedural problems with Durham’s effort.

First, the Special Counsel’s Motion is untimely. Despite knowing for months, and in some cases for at least a year, that the non-parties were withholding material as privileged, he chose to file this Motion barely a month before trial—long after the grand jury returned an Indictment and after Court-ordered discovery deadlines had come and gone.

Second, the Special Counsel’s Motion should have been brought before the Chief Judge of the District Court during the pendency of the grand jury investigation, as the rules of this District and precedent make clear.

Third, the Special Counsel has seemingly abused the grand jury in order to obtain the documents redacted for privilege that he now challenges. He has admitted to using grand jury subpoenas to obtain these documents for use at Mr. Sussmann’s trial, even though Mr. Sussmann had been indicted at the time he issued the grand jury subpoenas and even though the law flatly forbids prosecutors from using grand jury subpoenas to obtain trial discovery. The proper remedy for such abuse of the grand jury is suppression of the documents.

Fourth, the Special Counsel seeks documents that are irrelevant on their face. Such documents do not bear on the narrow charge in this case, and vitiating privilege for the purpose of admitting these irrelevant documents would materially impair Mr. Sussmann’s ability to prepare for his trial.

While Durham makes unconvincing attempts to address the first and fourth issue (to which I’ll return), he doesn’t meaningfully address the second and third. In this post, I opined that the third — his blatant abuse of grand jury rules — could be easily addressed (which he didn’t try to do), but given how obviously irrelevant and potentially inadmissible these documents are to the charge against Sussmann, I’m not so sure anymore.

But Durham only addresses Sussmann’s argument that he ignored local rules and deliberately bypassed Beryl Howell, who would have been the proper person to assess these privilege claims, by making unconvincing claims he made a good faith effort to do so directly.

There’s another thing he doesn’t mention, another point Sussmann raised. Some of the emails Durham is focused on make it explicit that there was a separation between Fusion’s research (including the Steele dossier) and the DNS research.

The Special Counsel makes much of the fact that (1) there was an August 11, 2016 email exchange between Mr. Sussmann, Mr. Elias, and Fusion employees with the subject “connecting you all by email” and (2) that thereafter, Fusion employees “began to exchange drafts of a document . . . the defendant would provide to the FBI General Counsel.” Motion ¶¶ 29, 30. But in seeking to draw inflammatory and unsupported inferences, the Special Counsel ignores another email—that he produced in discovery—in which a Fusion employee stated that the document was “an [A]lfa memo unrelated to all [the Alfa Bank DNS information].” See Email from P. Fritsch to M. Hosenball (Oct. 5, 2016), SC-00027475, at SC-00027476.

Indeed, Peter Fritsch told Mark Hosenball that “the DNS stuff” was “not us at all.”

Even though Sussmann pointed that out, Durham did not address the clear evidence in his possession that this was not a joint effort. Other of these communications, Peter Fritsch has testified under oath, he engaged in because he was independently alarmed about the Alfa Bank allegations. And some of them, Fusion has noted before, derived from Paul Singer’s involvement in the project and Singer didn’t invoke privilege.

Much of rest, though, is primarily focused on Carter Page and Sergei Millian (though in one place, Durham also downplays that Fusion was investigating Felix Sater, which is interesting given Durham’s efforts to pretend the notion Trump had multiple back channels with Russia is malicious and political). Indeed, included emails explain that what had been a potentially scandalous reference — the allegation that Millian had an email “with” Alfa Bank — actually came from public Internet research, not from the DNS analysis.

Given the focus on Millian, though, it is inexplicable why Durham is trying to pierce these privilege claims here rather than in the case where it might matter, Danchenko’s. Rather, I can think of some explanations, such as that someone in Millian’s organization viewed the obligation to register under FARA as a “problem” as early as 2013, but none of them are legally sound.

The far more interesting aspect of Durham’s filing comes in how he addresses two substantive issues. First, here’s how he addressed the timing of his belated decision to try to pierce privilege.

As an initial matter, the defendant and others accuse the Government of carrying out an untimely “full frontal assault” on the attorney client privilege by raising these issues more than a month before trial. (Def. Opp. at 1.) But those characterizations distort reality. Indeed, the opposite is true: the primary reason the Government waited until recently to bring these issues to the Court’s attention was because it wanted to carefully pursue and exhaust all collaborative avenues of resolving these matters short of litigation. The Government did so to avoid bringing a challenge to the parties’ privilege determinations and to ensure that it first gathered all relevant facts and provided the relevant privilege holders with notice and an opportunity to explain the bases for their privilege assertions. Even the emails between the Government and counsel that the defendant quotes in his opposition reflect this very purpose. See., e.g., Def. Opp. at 7 (quoting emails in which the Special Counsel’s Office stated that it “wanted to give all parties involved the opportunity to weigh in before we. . . seek relief from the Court” and requested a call “to avoid filing motions with the Court.”).

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

This flips a point Sussmann made on its head — that Durham kept prodding Sussmann to waive privilege. “[T]he Special Counsel has been asking Mr. Sussmann whether there would be any waiver of privilege in this case because of his concern that a privilege waiver at this stage in the proceedings would fundamentally impact the course of trial.”

Durham provides no dates on his claimed efforts to resolve the privilege issues. But Sussmann has already revealed what some of those dates are. The two Durham cites were in August.

Email from Andrew DeFilippis, Dep’t of Just., to Patrick Stokes, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, et al. (Aug. 9, 2021) (requesting a call to discuss privilege issues with a hope “to avoid filing motions with the Court”); Email from Andrew DeFilippis, Dep’t of Just., to Patrick Stokes, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, et al. (Aug. 14, 2021) (stating that the Special Counsel “wanted to give all parties involved the opportunity to weigh in before we . . . pursue particular legal process, or seek relief from the Court”). And since January— before the deadline to produce unclassified discovery had passed—the Special Counsel suggested that such a filing was imminent, telling the DNC, for example, that he was “contemplating a public court filing in the near term.” Email from Andrew DeFilippis, Dep’t of Just., to Shawn Crowley, Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP (Jan. 17, 2022).

2 In response to these inquiries and discussions, Tech Executive-1’s counsel withdrew his client’s privilege assertions over a small number of documents, and Fusion GPS produced a redacted version of its retention agreement with Perkins Coie. [my emphasis]

August is when Durham should have been involving Chief Judge Howell. Instead, we’re in April, and Durham is only now involving Judge Christopher Cooper. Importantly, using the dates Sussmann decided to include but which Durham did not, Durham was talking about taking imminent action in January, over two months before he first raised piercing privilege. After that, Durham again nudged Sussmann to waive privilege on his own. And the only reason why Durham was still getting responses to subpoenas, to the extent he was, is because he subpoenaed some of this after indicting (again, which he doesn’t address).

Given Durham’s claims he was trying to use other methods to get this information, his explanation of why he “only recently” decided he needed to pierce privilege is utterly damning: He only recently decided he needed to immunize Laura Seago and call her as a witness, he says.

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

That’s utterly damning because one of the last two things Alfa Bank was pursuing in their John Doe lawsuits before they were sanctioned, on Thursday, February 10, was to revisit privilege claims made by Fusion in a September Seago deposition with Alfa Bank (Seago’s first interview, in March 2021, was abandoned quickly). The reason Alfa gave for needing to challenge privilege claims Seago made in a 4-hour September deposition at which she invoked privilege over 60 times was because, “people at Fusion are speaking with the likes of Rodney Joffe.” And before Associate Judge Heidi Pasachow could rule, Alfa Bank was sanctioned to prevent it from helping Russia to attack democracy.

As I’ve laid out, all of Durham’s missed deadlines came after he could no longer rely on Alfa Bank to do his dirty work. As did, by his own description, the belated decision that he needs to immunize Seago and get her to testify at trial.

And that’s important because in spite of the pages and pages of irrelevant emails, when Durham turns to make the case that he needs to pierce this privilege, he again turns to Seago, claiming that she has “unique” knowledge about the charges against Sussmann.

Where a party seeks to overcome work product protection, it must show either that “it has a substantial need for the materials to prepare its case and cannot, without undue hardship obtain their substantial equivalent by other means” for fact work product, or make an “extraordinary showing of necessity” to obtain opinion work product. Boehringer, 778 F.3d at 153 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quotations omitted).

Here, the vast majority of the relevant materials likely constitute fact work product, given that few of the communications involve an attorney. In addition, the Government has met both prongs of the relevant test. First, the Government has a “substantial need” for materials that it has requested the Court to review in camera. Those materials include, for example, communications between Tech Executive-1 and the Fusion Witness whom the Government will call at trial. The Fusion Witness is, to the Government’s knowledge, the only Fusion GPS employee who exchanged emails with Tech Executive-1 concerning the Russian Bank-1 allegations (or any other issue). The Fusion Witness also (i) acted as the firm’s primary “technical” expert; (ii) worked for an extended time period on issues relating to the Russian Bank-1 allegations; (iii) was a part of the team that handled work under Fusion’s contract with HFA and the DNC; and (iv) met in 2016 with various parties – including Law Firm-1, Tech Executive-1, and the media – about the Russian Bank-1 allegations. As such, the Fusion Witness undoubtedly possesses unique insight to the core issue to be decided by the jury—i.e., whether the defendant was acting on behalf of one or more clients when he worked on the Russian Bank-1 allegations. Accordingly, the Government has a “substantial need” to obtain the Fusion Witness’s communications relating to the Russian Bank-1 allegations. Moreover, the materials for which the Government has requested in camera review also include internal Fusion GPS communications regarding one of the three white papers that the defendant provided to the FBI, namely, the “[Russian Bank-1’s parent company] Overview” paper. Communications regarding the origins and background the very Fusion GPS paper that the defendant brought to the FBI are therefore likely to shed unique light on the defendant’s meeting with the FBI General Counsel, including the defendant’s work on behalf of his clients. Fusion GPS’s communications regarding that paper in the days prior to the defendant’s meeting with the FBI General Counsel are also likely to reveal information about the paper’s intended purpose and audience. Such facts will, again, shed critical light on the defendant’s conduct and meeting with the FBI.

Second, the Government cannot “without undue hardship obtain the[] substantial equivalent” of these materials “by other means.” Boehringer Ingelheim Pharms., Inc., 778 F.3d at 153. That is because these materials constitute mostly internal Fusion GPS communications and, accordingly, are not available from any other source. To the extent these communications reflect emails with Tech Executive-1, they are similarly unavailable because Tech Executive-1 has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Therefore, obtaining the materials or their substantial equivalent from another source would not merely present an “undue hardship,” but rather, is impossible. [my emphasis]

This is a fairly astonishing argument.

That’s because Seago’s knowledge of the communications she had with Joffe is not unique. Joffe also has knowledge of their communications. To get Seago’s testimony, Durham plans to immunize her.

Yet he says he can’t get the very same testimony from Joffe because Joffe would invoke the Fifth.

Durham has an obvious alternative, and it just so happens to be the alternative that Sussmann is also seeking: To immunize not Seago, but Joffe. That would be more beneficial for Durham, if he really wants that testimony, because Joffe can waive privilege over precisely these communications and enter them as evidence with no hearsay exception. Immunizing Joffe gives Durham everything he wants and his testimony would be unquestionably pertinent to the charge against Sussmann.

Just twelve days ago, John Durham argued that he’s not playing fast-and-loose with his immunity decisions and that Joffe would offer no testimony useful to Sussmann (though to do so, Durham misrepresented Sussmann’s statement about Joffe’s role in helping to kill the NYT story).

Indeed, to now arbitrarily force the Government to immunize Tech Executive-1 merely because the defense believes he would offer arguably helpful testimony to the defendant would run afoul of the law and inject the Court into matters plainly reserved to the Executive Branch.

[snip]

(The Government also currently intends to seek immunity at trial for an individual who was employed at the U.S. Investigative Firm. But unlike Tech Executive-1, that individual is considered a “witness” and not a “subject” of the Government’s investigation based on currently-known facts.)

Finally, the defendant fails to plausibly allege – nor could he – that the Government here has “deliberately denied immunity for the purpose of withholding exculpatory evidence and gaining a tactical advantage through such manipulation.” Ebbers, 458 F. 3d at 119 (internal citation and quotations omitted). The defendant’s motion proffers that Tech Executive-1 would offer exculpatory testimony regarding his attorney-client relationship with the defendant, including that Tech Executive-1 agreed that the defendant should convey the Russian Bank-1 allegations to help the government, not to “benefit” Tech Executive-1. But that testimony would – if true – arguably contradict and potentially incriminate the defendant based on his sworn testimony to Congress in December 2017, in which he expressly stated that he provided the allegations to the FBI on behalf of an un-named client (namely, Tech Executive-1). And in any event, even if the defendant and his client did not seek specifically to “benefit” Tech Executive-1 through his actions, that still would not render his statement to the FBI General Counsel true. Regardless of who benefited or might have benefited from the defendant’s meeting, the fact still remains that the defendant conducted that meeting on behalf of (i) Tech Executive-1 (who assembled the allegations and requested that the defendant disseminate them) and (ii) the Clinton Campaign (which the defendant billed for some or all of his work). The proffered testimony is therefore not exculpatory, and certainly not sufficiently exculpatory to render the Government’s decision not to seek immunity for Tech Executive-1 misconduct or an abuse.6

6 The defendant’s further proffer that Tech Executive-1 would testify that (i) the defendant contacted Tech Executive-1 about sharing the name of a newspaper with the FBI General Counsel, (ii) Tech Executive-1 and his associates believed in good faith the Russian Bank-1 allegations, and (iii) Tech Executive-1 was not acting at the direction of the Clinton Campaign, are far from exculpatory. Indeed, even assuming that all of those things were true, the defendant still would have materially misled the FBI in stating that he was not acting on behalf of any client when, in fact, he was acting at Tech Executive-1’s direction and billing the Clinton Campaign.

Now, he’s claiming that the only possible way he can get testimony pertaining to Seago’s communications with Joffe is to immunize Seago and breach both Joffe’s and the Democrats’ claims of privilege.

By far the easiest way of solving this issue — and the one that meets Sussmann’s due process rights — is instead to immunize Joffe.

It’s a great case Durham made that they should cede to Sussmann’s request and immunize Joffe!

We’ll see what Cooper thinks of these claims at the status hearing tomorrow (because the hearing is in person, it’s unclear whether I’ll be able to call in).

But what is clear is that Durham keeps presenting evidence that he’s looking in the wrong place for the evidence he says he needs.

Josh Marshall’s “Team on the Field:” Putting GOP on Defense Over Russia Requires Reversing Their Offense

Josh Marshall argued yesterday that the Democratic Party needs to start going on offense on the GOP’s complicity in Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

A new AP poll says that 54% of Americans think President Biden has been “not tough enough” on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. These kinds of public perceptions can be shaped by perceptions of a leader as much as they drive them. So you think Biden is weak as your starting point and therefore you think he’s not being tough enough on Russia rather than the other way around. Also notable, Americans’ hawkishness over Ukraine has dipped a bit from a month ago. But the first, second and third most important thing about this poll is that this is what you get when you’re not reminding Americans every day — and I mean every god-damned day — that the GOP has spent the last 7 years boosting, allying with and even conspiring with Russia.

[snip]

Will pushing the GOP’s guilt and complicity on Russia make people stop caring about inflation? Of course not. But if you’re not even putting that team on the field you are simply not doing the simplest blocking and tackling of politics. It’s that bad. [my emphasis]

I don’t disagree with him. But for a guy with his own media outlet, he needs to start taking his own advice. That’s because his site has done little to undercut the flood of disinformation that the GOP has used to hide their own complicity.

Between the tag, “Durham,”

And “John Durham,” Marshall’s site shows four stories this year.

The tag, “Hunter Biden,” returns just two things this year.

While I haven’t focused on undermining the ridiculous claims the GOP are making about the “Hunter Biden” “laptop” — I have written just three stories this year (one, two, three), though that number would be far more if you count my focus on the investigation into Rudy — I’ve written 28 stories on the Durham investigation this year. Among other things, I have shown that:

One of the only other reporters covering this stuff with any attention, Charlie Savage, has to cater to a general audience. Meanwhile, an absolute torrent of propaganda from the frothy right has ignored the accumulated evidence not just of prosecutorial abuse, but shocking sloppiness. Instead, they spin Durham’s unsubstantiated conspiracy theories as fact, and from that, conclude that Trump wasn’t really badly implicated by Russia, but instead that was all made up by Hillary ahead of time.

If I weren’t alone swimming against this tide, Durham’s rank ignorance would actually be a great vehicle to correct the frothers. As I’ve noted, Durham and his rubes appear entirely unaware that the suspicions of the researchers trying to understand the Alfa Bank anomalies — that Trump had back channel communications with the Kremlin, that people close to Trump were laundering payments from oligarchs close to Trump, and that a family member of an Alfa Bank oligarch might be helping — all proved to be true.

The story of the Durham investigation is that he has criminalized people investigating reasonable inferences that turned out to be true. And yet the story that has gotten told, largely because other reporters are largely silent about it, is that he continues to chase Russian-seeded conspiracy theories in defiance of the evidence obtained as part of the Mueller investigation.

Josh Marshall has been far more successful than me in the two decades we’ve done this online journalism thing, so I’m in no place to tell him how to run his business.

But people believe that Biden is weak on Ukraine not just because Democrats aren’t screaming about how complicit Trump and his enablers are. They believe it because Trump has seeded two screaming conspiracy theories that have filled that void with false denials that all the suspicions about Trump turned out to be true.

Update: Added a third “Hunter Biden” “laptop” story.

John Durham’s Top Prosecutor, Andrew DeFilippis, Allegedly Miffed that DARPA Investigated Guccifer 2.0

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions imposed as a result has led lawyers in the US to drop the now-sanctioned Alfa Bank and its owners, leading to the dismissal of the John Doe, BuzzFeed, and Fusion GPS lawsuits filed by Alfa Bank or its owners. That has, for now, brought an end to a sustained Russian effort to use lawfare to discover “U.S. cybersecurity methods and means” (as some of Alfa’s targets described the effort).

But the dismissal of the Alfa Bank suits hasn’t halted the effort to expose US cybersecurity efforts in the guise of pursuing right wing conspiracy theories. Both Federalist Faceplant Margot Cleveland and “online sleuths” goaded, in part, by Sergei Millian have picked up where Alfa Bank left off. In recent days, for example, documents obtained via a Federalist FOIA to Georgia Tech exposed the members of a cybersecurity sharing group, including a bunch at Three-Letter Agencies, which has little news value but plenty of intelligence value to America’s adversaries (these names were released even while someone — either Georgia Tech or the Federalist — chose to redact the contact information for Durham’s investigators, some of which is otherwise public).

Even while doing her part to make America less safe (raising the perennial question of who funds the Federalist), Cleveland has continued to do astounding work misrepresenting Durham’s investigation. From the same FOIA release, she published a document in which research scientist Manos Antonakakis described that chief Durham AUSA Andrew DeFilippis insinuated to him that it was abusive for DARPA to try to discover the network behind the Guccifer 2.0 persona.

Finally, I will leave you with an anecdote and a thought. During one of my interviews with the Special Counsel prosecutor, I was asked point blank by Mr. DeFilippis, “Do you believe that DARPA should be instructing you to investigate the origins of a hacker (Guccifer_2.0) that hacked a political entity (DNC)?” Let that sync for a moment, folks. Someone hacked a political party (DNC, in this case), in the middle of an election year (2016), and the lead investigator of DoJ’s special council would question whether US researchers working for DARPA should conduct investigations in this matter is “acceptable”! While I was tempted to say back to him “What if this hacker hacked GOP? Would you want me to investigate him then?”, I kept my cool and I told him that this is a question for DARPA’s director, and not for me to answer.

Assuming this is an accurate description, this is a shocking anecdote, a betrayal of US national security.

It suggests that Durham’s lead prosecutor doesn’t believe the government should throw its most innovative research at a hostile nation-state attack while that nation-state is attempting to influence an election. Sadly, though, it’s not surprising.

It is consistent with things we’ve seen from Durham’s team throughout. It’s consistent with Durham’s treatment of a loose tie between an indirect and unwitting Steele dossier source and the Hillary campaign as a bigger threat than multiple ties to Russian intelligence (or Dmitry Peskov’s office, which knew that Michael Cohen and Donald Trump were lying about the former’s secret communications with Peskov’s office). It is consistent with Durham’s more recent suggestion that the victim of such a nation-state attack must wait until after an election to report a tip that might implicate her opponent.

I almost feel like DeFilippis will eventually say Hillary should have just laid back and enjoyed being hacked in 2016.

DeFilippis, and Durham generally, have consistently treated Hillary as a far graver threat than Russia, even now, even as Russia conducts a barbaric invasion of a peaceful democracy.

But Antonakakis’ anecdote is all the more troubling because it suggests that DeFilippis seems to misunderstand what happened with the DARPA contract in question in 2016. The Enhanced Attribution RFP’s description of the hacking campaigns it was targeting — “multiple concurrent independent malicious cyber campaigns, each involving several operators” — pretty obviously aims to tackle Advanced Persistent Threats, of which APT 28 and 29 (both of which targeted the DNC) were among the most pressing in 2016. DARPA presumably didn’t ask Antonakakis to focus on Guccifer 2.0 — a persona which didn’t exist when the contract was put up for bid in April 2016, much less in the months earlier when it was originally conceived. Rather, by description, they were asking bidders to look at APTs, and looking at APT 28 would have happened to include looking at Guccifer 2.0, the DNC hack, and a number of hacks elsewhere in the US and the world.  The reason DARPA would ask Georgia Tech to look at APT 28 is because APT 28 was hacking a lot of targets in the time period, all of which provided learning sets for a researcher like Antonakakis. DeFilippis, then, seems miffed that the APT that DARPA wanted to combat happened to be one of two that targeted Hillary.

That’s a choice Russia made, not DARPA.

While I think Cleveland did serious damage with some of her releases, I’m glad she released this document because it provides a way for Michael Sussmann to make DeFilippis’ troubling views on national security a central issue at trial, something that normally is difficult to do.

It also provided Cleveland another opportunity to faceplant in spectacular trademark Federalist fashion. Cleveland used this document to rile up the frothers by suggesting this is proof that Durham is investigating the DNC attribution.

Exclusive: Special Counsel’s Office Is Investigating The 2016 DNC Server Hack

The U.S. Department of Defense tasked the same Georgia Tech researcher embroiled in the Alfa Bank hoax with investigating the “origins” of the Democratic National Committee hacker, according to an email first obtained by The Federalist on Wednesday. That email also indicates the special counsel’s office is investigating the investigation into the DNC hack and that prosecutors harbor concerns about the DOD’s decision to involve the Georgia Tech researcher in its probe.

[snip]

The public storyline until now had been that CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm Sussmann hired in April 2016, had concluded Russians had hacked the DNC server, and that the FBI, which never examined the server, concurred in that conclusion. Intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller likewise concluded that Russian agents were behind the DNC hack, but with little public details provided.

It now appears that DARPA had some role in that assessment, or rather Antonakakis did on behalf of DARPA, which leads to a whole host of other questions, including whether DARPA had access to the DNC server and data and, if so, from whom did the DOD’s research arm get that access? Was it Sussmann?

There’s no reason to believe this and every reason to believe that — as I said — DeFilippis is pissed that DARPA prioritized their research on a target that was badly affecting national security (and not just in US, but also in allied countries) in 2016, one that happened to attempt to help Trump get elected.

But look how many errors Faceplant’s Cleveland made in the process:

Cleveland repeats the Single Server Fallacy, imagining that the DNC, DCCC, and Hillary had just one server between them to be hacked and all the servers that got hacked were in the possession of one of those victims. That’s, of course, ridiculous. The server that GRU hacked to get John Podesta’s emails belonged to Google. The server that GRU hacked to get Hillary’s analytics belonged to AWS. There was a staging server in AZ; I have been told that the FBI seized at least one US-based server that did not belong to the DNC (that server is why the frothy right’s focus on what Shawn Henry testified to HPSCI is so painfully ignorant — because it ignores that the FBI had access to servers that Henry did not that did show exfiltration).

Cleveland apparently doesn’t know that FBI knew who was hacking the DNC when they warned them starting in September 2015 they were being hacked. The FBI’s awareness of that not only explains why APT 29 and 28 would have been included in DARPA’s targets for EA, but proves that the government was tracking these hacking groups above and beyond the attack on Hillary. This was never just a reaction to the election year hack.

Cleveland claims Mueller’s attribution of the DNC hack to the GRU provided “little public details,” when in fact the Mueller Report showed 29 sources other than CrowdStrike, including:

  • Gmail
  • Linked-In
  • Microsoft
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • WordPress
  • ActBlue
  • AWS
  • AOL
  • Smartech Corporation
  • URL shortening service
  • Bitcoin exchanges
  • VPN services

According to Mueller’s report, all these sources also corroborated the GRU attribution. And Mueller’s list doesn’t include a number of other known entities that corroborated the attribution, including NSA and Dutch intelligence, which couldn’t be named in a public DOJ document. Mueller’s list doesn’t include Georgia Tech either, but it wouldn’t need to, because there was so much other evidence.

The Mueller Report described obtaining almost 500 warrants, but the released list — from which FBI’s Cyber Division successfully withheld those pertaining to the GRU investigation — only includes around 370-400 warrants (based on an 156 pages of warrants with roughly three per page), suggesting there may be 100 warrants tied to the GRU attribution alone.

By the time Antonakakis started looking at the DNC hack as part of EA, multiple entities, including several Infosec contractors, non-US intelligence services, and non-governmental entities like tech giants (including at least three of the ones on Mueller’s list), had plenty of evidence that the Guccifer 2.0 campaign was run by the APT 28. Including Guccifer 2.0 as part of the research set would simply be part of the existing targeting of a dangerous APT.

But apparently neither DeFilippis nor Cleveland understand that 2016 was part of an ongoing identified threat to US national security.

One thing Putin did in 2016 was to use disinformation to train the frothy right to favor Russia more than fellow Americans from the opposing party. Even as Russia attacks Ukraine, that still seems to be true.

“Problem:” SDNY Charges Elena Branson as Unregistered Agent of Russia

Back in 2013, the Senior Vice President of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce (Sergei Millian’s organization) sent Elena Branson language from FARA with the subject line, “Problem.”

a. On or about January 30, 2013, BRANSON received an email from an individual using an email address ending in “mail.ru.” Based on my review of publicly available information, I have learned that this individual was a Senior Vice President of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce in the USA. This email had the subject line “Problem.” and the text of the email included, among other things, a portion of the FARA Unit’s website with background on FARA. In response, BRANSON wrote, in part, “I am interested in the number of the law, its text in English[.]” The sender then responded with “Lena, read …” and copied into the email background on FARA and portions of the statute.

Branson, who the prior year had founded the Russian Center of New York and subsequently became the Chair of Russian Community Council of the USA (KSORS), apparently didn’t think it was an urgent problem. It wasn’t until 2019 that she appears to have considered — but then, after asking Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov for guidance, decided not to — register under FARA.

b. On or about December 10, 2019, BRANSON received an email indicating that BRANSON had requested a new FARA “eFile” account.21 That day, a member of the FARA Unit emailed the Branson RCNY Account with an eFile account number and temporary password to log in to the FARA eFile system. Later that day, a user logged in to the FARA eFile system using that account number and temporary password, and entered the registration name “Russian Center, Inc.” and the RCNY Office as the address. The user did not submit a FARA registration for the account. A user then accessed the account again on or about December 11, 2019, but, again, the individual did not submit a FARA registration. The internet protocol addresses connected to both log-ins of this account resolve to the same zip code as the RCNY Office.

c. On or about December 26, 2019, BRANSON emailed the Embassy Email Account. In the cover email, BRANSON wrote, in part, “[A] letter is in the attachment. Respectfully, Elena.” In the attached letter, BRANSON wrote, in part, that she had been asked questions from “compatriots” about “whether it is necessary to register their public organizations as a foreign agent.” BRANSON further wrote “[t]hese questions began to arise after the arrest of Maria Butina in Washington in July 2018 on charges of working as a foreign agent in the United States without registration.” BRANSON concluded the letter by asking the Embassy to advise such Russian compatriot groups, writing, “I am asking you to provide legal advice regarding registration as a foreign agent . . . for public organizations of Russian compatriots in the United States.” The letter was addressed to Ambassador-1.

Branson’s failure to register lies at the core of a 6-count complaint unveiled by SDNY yesterday, charging Branson in several conspiracies, under both FARA and 18 USC 951, as well as for visa fraud.

Branson won’t be arrested off this complaint. She’s long gone.

A month after the FBI interviewed her and searched her office in September 2020, she fled the country. Not long after Biden was inaugurated, Branson sold her NYC apartment.

During this investigation, the FBI has, among other things, executed judicially authorized search warrants for (i) approximately eight of BRANSON’s electronic accounts (the “Branson Accounts”3); (ii) the RCNY office (which was also BRANSON’s residence) in Manhattan, New York (the “RCNY Office”); and (iii) BRANSON’s person, for all electronics and other materials in her possession at the time of the search. From the RCNY Office and the search of BRANSON’s person, the FBI recovered a total of approximately 34 electronic devices (the “Branson Electronics”), including approximately 11 cellular phones. The FBI also conducted a voluntary interview of BRANSON on the same day as the search of the RCNY Office (the “Branson Interview”) and has interviewed other individuals living in the United States in connection with the investigation.

The searches of the RCNY Office (the “RCNY Search”) and BRANSON’s person, as well as the Branson Interview, took place on or about September 29, 2020. BRANSON flew to Moscow, Russia, on or about October 20, 2020, and BRANSON does not appear to have returned to the United States since that date. In or about March 2021, BRANSON sold the RCNY Office, which had been her residence in New York City. During in or about October and November 2020, BRANSON’s then boyfriend 9 (“Boyfriend-1”) wired approximately $197,000 to two of BRANSON’s bank accounts at Russian banks.4 On or about October 15, 2021, RT, formerly known as Russia Today, a Russian state-controlled television station, published an interview conducted by Maria Butina5 of BRANSON. During this interview, BRANSON told Butina, in substance and in part, that BRANSON left the United States for Moscow approximately one month after the Branson Interview because BRANSON was “scared” and thought the “probability was very high” that she would be arrested if she stayed in the United States.6

3 The Branson Accounts include four email accounts and four social media accounts, including BRANSON’s Facebook account (the “Branson Facebook Account”).

So Branson will only be arrested if she decides to flee Putin’s increasingly totalitarian regime.

Unlike the prosecution of Jack Hanick, then, whose indictment may have been timed to tolling statutes of limitation last November and in which the US is working on getting him extradited from the UK, this complaint seems to be more about messaging in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As a messaging vehicle, it shows how Russia has committed to the “consolidation” of Russian diaspora, cultivating a Russian identity that can be used to mobilize political pressure (and, in Ukraine and the Baltics, justifications for imperialism).

In or about November 2015, Lavrov published an article titled “Russian World: Steering Towards Consolidation.” In this article, Lavrov wrote, in part, “The provision of support to the Russian world is an unconditional foreign-policy priority for Russia, as formalized by Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept. . . . Over the years, we have managed to elevate our work in this area to an entirely new level and to create effective cooperation mechanisms in close contact with representatives of foreign communities.”

Some of Branson’s activities are mundane cultural exchanges paid for by Russian government entities. Some sprinkle the names of likely spies or handlers in the description.

Perhaps most interesting, the complaint provides an interesting addition to this passage from the Mueller Report.

Later [on November 9, 2016, the day after Trump’s victory, Kirill] Dmitriev flew to New York, where Peskov was separately traveling to attend the chess tournament. 1020 Dmitriev invited Nader to the opening of the tournament and noted that, if there was “a chance to see anyone key from Trump camp,” he “would love to start building for the future.” 1021 Dmitriev also asked Nader to invite Kushner to the event so that he (Dmitriev) could meet him. 1022 Nader did not pass along Dmitriev’s invitation to anyone connected with the incoming Administration. 1023 Although one World Chess Federation official recalled hearing from an attendee that President-Elect Trump had stopped by the tournament, the investigation did not establish that Trump or any Campaign or Transition Team official attended the event. 1024 And the President’s written answers denied that he had. 1025

The complaint describes how Branson had been instructed to arrange a meeting with Trump or Ivanka in March 2016, around the same time Russia was hacking John Podesta, though the complaint is remarkably coy about whether Branson ever sent her draft letter to Trump Organization (and if so, whether it was among the documents showing direct ties to Russia that Trump Organization withheld from Mueller’s inquiry and SSCI).

In or about March 2016, BRANSON exchanged a series of emails with Minister-2. During these messages, in part, Minister-2 asked BRANSON to organize a meeting with CC-2 and the now-former President of the United States, who was then a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, or his daughter, in New York. On or about March 23, 2016, BRANSON received an email from Minister-2 with the subject line “additional meetings of [CC-2].” The email stated, in part, that the author was requesting BRANSON’s assistance in organizing meetings for CC-2 with “the management” of certain specified U.S. companies. On or about March 16, 2016, BRANSON sent an individual, who was then-chair of KSORS, a draft letter addressed to the now-former President, inviting him to the Russia Forum New York in April 2016 and suggesting that if his “busy schedule will not permit your attending our forum, perhaps you can suggest one of your children . . . who have followed in your footsteps.” The draft invitation included BRANSON’s name and contact information in the signature block. There is no indication that the now-former President or his children attended the referenced meeting.

Branson’s complaint describes what would be a second attempt to get Trump to attend the Chess Championship, in addition to Kirill’s attempt to extend an invite through George Nader. Branson sent her invite to an unnamed Trump Advisor.

BRANSON also attempted to arrange meetings for Russian officials at the 2016 World Chess Championship, which was held in Manhattan, New York:

1. On or about November 9, 2016, CC-6 emailed BRANSON with the subject line “Chess business.” CC-6 wrote to BRANSON, in part, “as discussed we will try to get Kirsan online after tomorrow’s official press-conference is over around noon at Fulton Street Market Building, South Street Seaport NY[.]”20 On or about that same day, BRANSON responded to CC-6 and wrote “[CC-6], good evening! I can bring the ipad for a Skype session. I will contact the media. Need them at noon?”

2. On or about November 10, 2016, BRANSON emailed an advisor to the now-former President of the United States (“Advisor-1”), expressing congratulations for their victory in the presidential election and attaching an invitation to the World Chess Championship addressed to the then-President- elect. The invitation was signed by “President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE-FIDE).” There is no indication that the now-former President attended the referenced event.

3. On or about November 11, 2016, BRANSON was photographed at the World Chess Championship with CC-6 and a second individual who I recognize, based on my review of publicly available photographs, to be the current Press Secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

20 Based on my training and experience, including my review of publicly available material, I have learned that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is the former President of the Republic of Kalmykia in the Russian Federation and the former president of FIDE, the International Chess Federation. I have further learned that, on or about November 25, 2015, the United States Department of the Treasury designated Ilyumzhinov as a Specially Designated National for his involvement with the Government of Syria and related entities.

Here, the complaint reiterates the Mueller conclusion: there’s no evidence Trump attended the event. But it does raise questions about the completeness of the response Trump offered to Mueller’s questions, pertaining to whether Trump was asked to attend.

Were you asked to attend the World Chess Championship gala on November 10, 2016? If yes, who asked you to attend, when were you asked, and what were you told about about [sic] why your presence was requested? 1. Did you attend any part of the event? If yes, describe any interactions you had with any Russians or representatives of the Russian government at the event.

Were you asked to attend the World Chess Championship gala on November 10, 2016? If yes, who asked you to attend, when were you asked, and what were you told about about [sic] why your presence was requested? 1. Did you attend any part of the event? If yes, describe any interactions you had with any Russians or representatives of the Russian government at the event.

Response to Question V, Part (a)

I do not remember having been asked to attend the World Chess Championship gala, and I did not attend the event. During the course of preparing to respond to these questions, I have become aware of documents indicating that in March of 2016, the president of the World Chess Federation invited the Trump Organization to host, at Trump Tower, the 2016 World Chess Championship Match to be held in New York in November 2016. I have also become aware that in November 2016, there were press inquiries to my staff regarding whether I had plans to attend the tournament, which was not being held at Trump Tower. I understand these documents have already been provided to you.

Trump describes a March 2016 discussion about hosting the event and November press inquiries about whether he would attend it. But there’s no mention of a November 2016 invitation asking him to attend.

Yet the Branson complaint suggests there would have been an invitation to Trump, signed by the sanctioned Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, sent through an unnamed advisor. His response reflects only earlier (in March) communications about the chess championship, not anything sent on November 10 bearing Ilyumzhinov’s signature.

This is a signaling complaint, one that likely won’t lead to anyone’s arrest. But it should raise more questions about Donald Trump’s candor with Mueller back in 2018.

And we should expect more of the same. On Twitter, Brandon Van Grack, who would have been involved in Branson’s investigation when he ran the National Security Division’s FARA office and likely knows what else might be in the pipeline, suggested there’s probably more of the same to come.