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John Durham Avenged Warrants Targeting Carter Page by Getting a Warrant Targeting Sergei Millian

In both his opening and closing statements, John Durham prosecutor Michael Keilty described the materiality of the alleged lies Igor Danchenko told the FBI about Sergei Millian by pointing to the role the Steele report on Millian played in getting FISA warrants targeting Carter Page.

The evidence in this trial will show that the Steele dossier would cause the FBI to engage in troubling conduct that would ultimately result in the extended surveillance of the United States citizens. And the defendant’s lies played a role in that surveillance.

[snip]

So let’s now talk about why the defendant’s lies matter. The defendant’s lies about Sergei Millian mattered because the information he allegedly received from Millian ended up in a FISA warrant against a U.S. citizen, one of the most intrusive tools the FBI has at its disposal. The FBI gets to listen to your calls and read your emails. It’s a really significant thing.

You heard Brian Auten testify that that Millian information — alleged Millian information was contained in every single FISA application on four different occasions. The FBI surveilled a U.S. citizen for nearly a year based on those lies.

Even accepting the problems of the FISA warrants, the claim never made any sense.

According to the trial record, Danchenko’s information didn’t end up in FISA applications. Language Christopher Steele wrote based on Danchenko’s information did. Danchenko claimed that Steele had exaggerated it, and even after interviewing Steele twice, the FBI believed Danchenko.

Keilty was accusing Danchenko of doing something that — no one has contested — that Steele did, not Danchenko.

Plus, two of the alleged lies took place after the FBI had ceased surveilling Page, in October and November 2017. Even if Danchenko did lie, it would defy the laws of physics to blame those alleged lies for surveillance that ended in September.

Crazier still, one reason why DOJ retroactively withdrew the probable cause claims for the last two FISA orders on Page, obtained in April and June 2017, is because FBI didn’t integrate the warnings Danchenko gave them about the report in the applications. Danchenko is the last person you should blame for the FISA surveillance of Page. He claims he didn’t even know the reports were being shared with the FBI!

The obvious problems with this claim have not stopped stupid propagandists like Margot Cleveland from repeating the nonsensical claim.

It all the weirder, though, when you consider that John Durham was himself responsible for obtaining senseless search warrants against two American citizens.

First, there are the warrants Durham served to obtain Chuck Dolan’s communication, as Stuart Sears had Dolan explain on cross examination.

Q You’re aware, Mr. Dolan, aren’t you, that the government was investigating you at some point?

A Yes.

Q You’re aware that they issued search warrants and subpoenas for your email communications?

A Yes.

Q You’re aware that they issued subpoenas for your phone records?

A Yes.

Q Your work email records?

A Yes.

Q Your Facebook records?

A Yes.

As Sears had Dolan explain, those warrants yielded nothing to refute his claim never to have “talked” to Danchenko about anything that appeared in the dossier.

Q And I think you have already testified to this, but even knowing everything that the government has done to look into you, it’s still your testimony today that you’ve never talked to Mr. Danchenko about anything that ended up in the dossier, correct?

A Correct.

Last Friday, in dismissing the single count pertaining to Dolan, Judge Trenga ruled that any evidence these warrants targeting Dolan yielded did not prove a crime.

And Durham also obtained warrants targeting Sergei Millian — one of his purported victims! — who at least in 2016 had dual citizenship. Durham had his case agent, Ryan James, describe all the surveillance Durham did of Millian.

Q With respect to those documents, tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury whether you personally have been involved in sorting through those records.

A Yes, I have.

Q Travel records, the travel records relating to Sergei Millian was brought to the jury’s attention. Who obtained those records?

A Our team did.

[snip]

Q The jury has heard testimony relating to a number of telephone numbers involved with a fellow by the name of Sergei Millian. Would you tell the jury, sir, whether or not you have any knowledge about records and information being retrieved concerning Sergei Millian.

A Our team requested legal process on some of his numbers that we’ve identified that belong to him.

Q When you say legal process, just so the jurors have an understanding of that, what kind of legal process would typically be involved in getting those records?

A In this particular case, subpoenas.

Q All right. And in addition to subpoenas, do you know if Facebook records and the like were retrieved using the leal process?

A Yes.

Q And what kind of legal process was used to obtain those records?

A Those would be via search warrants.

Even more than the Facebook warrant, Durham’s collection of Millian’s travel records — all the way through current day! — are probably more intrusive on Millian’s privacy.

Q Now, let me start, if I might then. With regard to the records in this matter, you’ve told the jurors that among those records that you obtained were travel records for Sergei Millian, correct?

A Yes.

Q And with respect to Millian’s travel records, how would you describe them? Were they plentiful or there was one or two? What’s your best recollection as to Millian’s travel records?

A I would say he frequently comes in and out of this country.

Q Based on your review of all the travel records, has he been in the country anytime recently?

A No.

It’s too early to say whether any of these records included evidence of a crime. After all, DOJ’s KleptoCapture complaint against Elena Branson shows that one of Millian’s colleagues at the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce viewed the requirement to register under FARA as a “problem” way back in 2013.

But according to an EDVA jury, any evidence the warrants and subpoenas targeting Millian obtained did not prove Danchenko committed a crime.

Durham unpacked the digital lives of two American citizens, plus Danchenko, partly through search warrants that he attacked Mueller’s investigators for not obtaining.

And unless the evidence obtained ends up being used to show that Millian was an illegal foreign agent of Russia, that evidence did not provide that anyone committed a crime.

The right wing is defending John Durham today because he avenged an American who was unfairly targeted by a warrant. And along the way, they seem to have missed that Durham himself obtained a bunch of apparently pointless search warrants targeting American citizens, including Trump fan Sergei Millian.

As John Durham Preps for his Closing Report, His Own Withholdings become Key

Update: Judge Trenga has dismissed the Chuck Dolan charge because it was based entirely on the definition of “talk.”

It’s sometimes helpful to think of all the witnesses at a trial as just tactical preparation for a closing argument. Their credibility is important, sure, but they also serve to get evidence admissible, which the two sides then use in their closing arguments to direct how the jury will assess it.

In the Igor Danchenko case, however, John Durham appears to be prepping not for his closing argument in this trial, but for the report he will write after it’s clear who will run which houses in Congress next year.

At the end of the day yesterday, as part of a second redirect of Danchenko’s handling agent Kevin Helson, Durham introduced evidence I suspect he’ll use to argue that Danchenko — and not, say, Oleg Deripaska — was the prime mover of disinformation in the dossier. After duping poor Christopher Steele for years, Durham may argue in his report (but not necessarily to the EDVA jury), Danchenko succeeded in duping poor Kevin Helson and through him the poor FBI for years, and as a result led the FBI to believe a whole bunch of false information about Russian influence operations. Again, that’s not what the record shows, but I suspect Durham is laying foundation to make that argument.

Based on what Durham pulled yesterday, if Republicans win at least one house of Congress, I expect there will be a concerted effort to force the Biden Administration to deport Danchenko, whether or not he’s acquitted (and thus far, both Durham’s initial witnesses have testified that Danchenko didn’t lie, so acquittal is a good possibility).

None of this makes any sense. But it only has to make sense for people like Jim Jordan and (if they’re reelected) Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley. They’ve never cared about the damage they do to national security by trying to criminalize being a Democrat (nevermind that testimony yesterday from Danchenko’s handling agent said he’s not one).

I’ll return to this — as well as the damage that Grassley is alleged to have already done — tomorrow, after I get a chance to read the transcript for what will be Durham’s continued questioning of Helson this morning.

But the likelihood that Durham is only trying to prep material for his own report, not for this jury, raises the stakes on Durham’s own withholdings.

Key to Durham’s materiality argument is that if Danchenko had told the truth about things Durham claims Danchenko lied about, there would have been a much closer immediate focus on Chuck Dolan and the access Danchenko facilitated between Dolan and his childhood friend, Olga Galkina. In Durham’s mind, that would have allowed Crossfire Hurricane to ask questions of Dolan that Durham’s own questions and an FBI investigation of Dolan didn’t surface when they did investigate Dolan, starting in late 2017, some details of which Danchenko attorney Stuart Sears introduced during cross-examination of Dolan yesterday.

Q You’re aware, Mr. Dolan, aren’t you, that the government was investigating you at some point?

A Yes.

Q You’re aware that they issued search warrants and subpoenas for your email communications?

A Yes.

Q You’re aware that they issued subpoenas for your phone records?

A Yes.

Q Your work email records?

A Yes.

Q Your Facebook records?

A Yes.

Q And I think you have already testified to this, but even knowing everything that the government has done to look into you, it’s still your testimony today that you’ve never talked to Mr. Danchenko about anything that ended up in the dossier, correct?

A Correct.

Durham imagines that if Danchenko had told the truth about a report no one much cared about and he was never asked about, the FBI would have proven that Chuck Dolan was behind the pee tape, even though neither a prior FBI investigation nor Durham’s own have developed evidence he is (though that didn’t stop Durham from falsely implying he had in the Danchenko indictment).

If Danchenko had told the truth about things Durham claims he lied about — again, I’m just thinking with Durham-brain here, the evidence thus far is that Danchenko didn’t lie — then the FBI would have realized from the start that Danchenko lied to Christopher Steele about ever speaking to Millian. Such a claim is utterly useless to materiality of the Mueller investigation, both because Mueller didn’t use the dossier and the FBI didn’t integrate Danchenko’s own warnings about the limits of his conversation with Millian into the FISA applications against Carter Page. But it would be useful if Durham wants to spin an even bigger conspiracy theory, that Danchenko duped first Steele and then the FBI.

I mean, there are other reasons it wouldn’t make sense (not least that Steele, not Danchenko, drove the focus on Millian). But it only needs to make sense for Jim Jordan and Chuck Grassley to have an effect.

And so, Durham wants the jury to believe that Danchenko was covering something up because he didn’t hand over key communications — including:

  • August 2016 emails with Dolan that might have sourced the arguably most accurate Steele report, one that –as Brian Auten testified the other day — “has absolutely nothing to do about collusion in Russia, which is the whole point that Crossfire Hurricane was opened”
  • Any evidence of a mobile app phone call made by Millian (or anyone else) to Danchenko in late July 2016
  • An August 2016 email with Millian (and/or possibly August 2016 emails with the RIA Novosti journalists who facilitated Danchenko’s introduction to Millian)

FBI would have obtained the Dolan emails in question — including his much more extensive communications with Olga Galkina — both from FISA 702 collection on Galkina by June 2017 as well as from the investigative steps Sears laid out, above, and even still, the FBI was simply not interested in the report that Durham has made the centerpiece of this case.

As for the communications with or about Millian, after saying in his first interview that the call with Millian could have been on a phone app, Danchenko said from the third day of his first interview in January 2017 that he had deleted some communications.

[Danchenko] said that he had gone back to check for electronic communications records, but he said that he had deleted most of the election-related communications “months ago.” He also has a different phone from the one he used previously. He didn’t delete communication involving [Dmitry Zlodorev], and he had reported that communication to Christopher Steele.

Whether that’s true or not will likely be a key detail the lawyers will confirm or debunk in days ahead. It’s also true, however, that from the start Danchenko described both his emails to Millian and his exchanges with the RIA Novosti journalists, and email with whom Danchenko did turn over, and his original descriptions were consistent with what Durham eventually obtained.

And that’s why it’s interesting that Durham himself withheld things, and attempted to withhold critical evidence from the jury (and in the process, avoid having it made public to debunk his own eventual report).

Critically, Durham (who charged Danchenko without first getting a commitment that Millian wouldn’t hand him his ass, as he eventually did), attempted to withhold from they jury and did withhold from Brian Auten and Helson documents that show a phone call with Millian in late July was possible as well as documents that show Danchenko acted as if he believed he would meet someone he believed to be Millian.

Perhaps the most important exchange came when Durham led Auten through questions in which — possibly by cutting his review of a document one page short — he got Auten to say that Danchenko said Millian called him on a telephony call.

Q You have a version of it. What you have in front of you is the portion relating to Report 95, correct?

A 100, sorry.

Q The excerpt you have relates to — on page 19 — starting on page 19 going to 20?

A Yes, correct.

Q And will you take a look at that and see if it refreshes any recollections on either the 24th or the 25th, which then appears at 37 as to what kind of device he purportedly received a phone call?

A On page 20 — this would have been the 24th — it says “phone call.”

Again, you can see that the reference in question carries over to page 21, but Durham asked Auten to review just pages 19 to 20.

Danny Onorato later went back and — in exchange that not only caught Durham in his deceit, but showed the hazards of claiming others were withholding material information — had Auten correct his testimony.

Q. Okay. And, again, I’m not giving you a hard time because you didn’t ask a lot of probing questions on that day because you were just trying to break the ice with him to see if you can get him to work with you. Somma said you’d have more time to work with him, right?

A. Correct.

Q. Okay. But I do want to try to correct something about what you testified about this morning. Okay?

A. Okay.

Q. And you prepared to testify with Mr. Durham and his team, right?

A. Yes.

Q. Okay. And I think he asked you to look at Government Exhibit 100.

A. Yes.

Q. Okay. And when he asked you to look at Government one- — Exhibit 100, I think you may have answered that he did not mention a call app on Page 20, right, in response to his questions?

A. Yes.

Q. Okay. Well, do me a favor. Look at Page 20 and then 21, And see if that refreshes your memory the first day about what Mr. Danchenko told you.

A. I apologize. Yes, it basically says — would you like me to read it?

Q. Yeah.

A. Okay. I’ll start at the middle of — middle of the last paragraph of Page 20. [As read:] “The two of them talked for a bit and the two of them tentatively agreed to meet in person in New York City at the end of July. At the end of July, Danchenko traveled with his daughter to New York but the meeting never took place and no one ever called Danchenko back. Altogether, he had only a single phone call with an individual he thought to be Millian. The call was either a cellular call or it was a communication through a phone app.”

Q. I’m sorry, what did you just say?

A. “Or it was a communication through a phone app.”

Q. Okay. So remember when Mr. Durham asked you questions this morning, right?

A. Yes.

Q. Did he omit — ask you to look at page 21 to see what Mr. Danchenko told you that day?

A. I don’t think he was omitting. I think I —

Q. Okay. And did you intentionally omit, intentionally tell the jury something wrong, right?

A. No.

Q. But the import of the testimony was that, no, he never mentioned in that first meeting it could have been a phone app, right?

A. Correct.

Q. And now we all know that that’s false, right?

A. Correct.

Q. So he did mention a mobile app?

A. That is correct. [my emphasis]

I expect that Danchenko’s team has a follow-up or two for days ahead on this issue. Note that in this case, unlike the Michael Sussmann case, Durham intends to put his case agent on the stand.

The point, however, is that Onorato caught Durham eliciting knowingly false testimony about a central issue in the case: whether Millian could have called Danchenko using a phone app, leading Danchenko to honestly believe they might meet face to face in NYC on July 28, 2016.

But, for all Durham’s claims that withholding emails are evidence of guilt, Danchenko’s team caught him doing that too. Here’s how Onorato walked Auten through an email Millian sent bragging about his ties to Trump in July 2016.

Q And, again, I don’t want to discuss whether the information in this email is truthful, okay. But it purports to be an email from Sergei Millian, right?

A 481, yes.

Q Okay. And it purports to be sent on July 15 of 2016?

A Correct.

Q And it purports to be to someone named bridgeusa —

A @aol.com, yes.

Q And the subject matter is Trump?

A Trump, yes.

Q Okay. And do you remember when Mr. Durham asked you questions about if you had certain facts, would they have been material or helpful to you? Right?

A Yes. Yes.

Q Okay. So in July 15 of 2016, again, the same time frame that Mr. Danchenko allegedly received this anonymous phone call, right?

A Yes.

Q If you had known that Mr. Millian was telling people that he would be meeting with Trump and his people, would that be significant to you?

A Yes.

Q Okay. So I’m going to ask you to look at 4 — and that’s what that email purports to say, that Mr. Millian was going to be meeting with Trump and his people?

[snip]

Q Okay. So that would have been material and important when evaluating whether the anonymous caller could have been Mr. Millian? A Yes, this would have been helpful.

Q Correct. Did anybody from Mr. Durham’s team ever show you that document?

A This is the first time I’ve seen this document.

Similarly, Onorato walked Auten through an email — of uncertain content — between Millian and Dmitry Zlodorev, the RIA Novosti journalist who gave Danchenko Millian’s contact information.

Q Okay. So let’s go to the next document. That’s 482, again, the translated page. It’s also dated the same day. So it’s July 15, 2016, but this time it’s from Millian to a person named Zlodorev, right?

A Correct.

Q And Zlodorev is someone that Mr. Danchenko discussed with you in your January meetings, correct?

A That is correct.

Q In fact, he told you that Zlodorev was actually the individual that put him in touch with Millian, right?

A That is my recollection, yes.

Q Okay. And it’s fair to say, again, not whether a meeting happened or it was truthful, but that Millian was saying at the beginning of August, “I’m meeting with Trump and his people. I assume we will discuss Russia.” Right?

A Yes.

Q And, again, that fact would be important for you as an analyst, right?

A Yes.

Q And that’s a document that Mr. Danchenko, of course, was not copied on, right?

A Correct.

Q But did the special counsel show you that document before today?

A I have not seen this document.

Yesterday, Stuart Sears walked Helson through the fact that neither the Mueller team nor Durham ever told him that Danchenko had turned over emails relating to Millian.

Q. And I think you already testified to this, but were you aware that Mr. Danchenko had told Mr. Auten about that email in January 2017?

A. No.

Q. Okay. Were you also aware that he had provided them with an email during the January interviews between him and Mr. Zlodorev, which is the person he got Mr. Millian’s contact information from in August?

A. No.

Q. He actually gave him a screenshot of the email?

A. No.

Q. You were not aware of that?

A. No.

The most important of these is a Facebook message Danchenko sent, apparently to his spouse, on July 28, 2016, referencing that he had one more meeting that day. Outside the presence of the jury, Durham fought hard against admitting the communication, arguing it was hearsay, even though he had planned on introducing the exhibit himself until just days ago.

The government has evidence in its possession that is, frankly, Brady or exculpatory. And what they’re telling this Court is — and this was co-marked as Government Exhibit 607 until Friday night, so we relied on this to be used by them. And, again, I don’t want to say that it’s truthful that there was a meeting, just a statement of intent, because there was no meeting. He told them there was no meeting, and this supports that notion. And there’s going to be evidence that he left New York City later that night in a window where that meeting could have taken place.

MR. DURHAM: The issue is that it is not admissible under the rules of evidence. And the defense —

THE COURT: Well, I’m not sure — I’m not sure that’s dispositive, though, as far as what importance he would have attached to it, had he known of it. I understand your point.

MR. DURHAM: But the point is — Your Honor had observed earlier — you don’t know what’s even being talked about here. You don’t know whether it’s a meeting that Mr. Danchenko is supposed to intend, that he was invited to, if it relates to the L messages. You just don’t — you don’t know if it is a meeting involving other people that he’ll get information on down the road. It just — it is unclear and it just invites speculation on the part of the jury. So to incorporate that same information in a question would be, respectfully, inappropriate.

MR. ONORATO: And, Your Honor, I just have one more point to make. It’s almost as if Mr. Danchenko would be omniscient, right? I mean, to have his state of mind where I have a meeting tonight and then he leaves New York, you know, five or six hours later, and knowing that he’s going to be sitting in this courtroom and, my god, he’s so lucky this email exists and they want to suppress the fact — not that it happened, but that was part of the intent from the agent who they said — you believe he’s now lying because we showed you a couple of emails you haven’t seen.

THE COURT: This was previously a proposed Government Exhibit?

MR. ONORATO: Yes. Government’s Exhibit 607.

What didn’t get mentioned in this colloquy is that what appears to be the same communication was included in the Danchenko indictment.

c. Also on or about July 28, 2016, DANCHENKO messaged an acquaintance the following: “Another meeting tonight. Thanks to my reporting in the past 36 hours, [U .K. Person1] and [U.K. Investigative Firm Employee] are flying in tomorrow [i.e., July 29, 2016] for a few days so I might be busy-don’t know when but in Downtown D.C.”

Here’s how Onorato walked Auten through the Facebook message Danchenko sent during the afternoon of July 28 expressing a belief that he had another meeting that day.

Q. But somewhere in that ballpark between 2:23 and 4:23, Mr. Danchenko makes a post. And I want to focus on the third line of that post. Can you highlight that? Okay. What does that say?

A. [As read:] “Another meeting tonight.”

Q. Okay. And Mr. Danchenko was posting at some point in the afternoon from New York City that he had another meeting tonight between 2:23 and 4:23 p.m., depending on how you interpret UTC time, right?

A. Correct.

Q. Okay. And I think — and he told you that he went to New York City for the purpose of having a meeting, right?

A. Correct.

Q. Okay. And the special counsel never showed you this exhibit, I take it?

A. I have not seen this.

Q. And so you’ve never been aware before today that Mr. Danchenko professed in the evening hours on the 28th that he believed he had a meeting at the time?

A. No. This is the first I am seeing this.

Q. Okay. And would you say that’s material to your consideration as to whether there’s a probability that would support the fact of his belief that it could have been Millian, that he had a meeting, first of all —

A. Right.

Q. It’s corroborative that he thought he had a meeting, right?

A. Correct.

Q. Okay. And that it would also corroborate that it could be Millian because you saw Millian’s travel records, right?

A. It is the possibility that it could be Millian.

Here’s how Stuart Sears walked Helson through the same material.

Q. Did they share with you evidence they had uncovered that Mr. Danchenko had sent a Facebook message to his wife from the Bronx Zoo in New York where he wrote, among other things, another meeting tonight on July 28th of 2016?

A. No.

Q. Did they share with you when they were sharing you the evidence they had uncovered in their investigation, that Mr. Millian had been reaching out to George Papadopoulos who was a foreign policy advisor to President Trump at the time, during the same time frame or very close to it, that Mr. Danchenko believed he spoke to Mr. Millian?

A. No.

Q. Would you agree with me, Agent Helson, that those additional facts that were uncovered by the Durham team tend to offer some support for Mr. Danchenko’s belief that the caller may have been Sergei Millian?

A. It could, yes.

Durham had in his possession abundant communications that showed not only that it was possible that Millian called Danchenko, but that Danchenko took action that suggested he believed someone, whether Millian or someone else, had set up that meeting.

But he tried to keep it away from the jury — even a detail he himself included in the indictment, that on the afternoon of July 28, Danchenko still believed he had one more meeting in New York.

John Durham is arguing that when someone withholds communications that are material to an investigation, it is proof he’s lying.

Thus far, the trial has shown he did far more of that than Igor Danchenko.

“It Certainly Sounds Creepy:” John Durham Adopts the “Coffee Boy” Defense

At one point during his redirect of FBI Supervisory Analyst Brian Auten yesterday, John Durham was so desperate to insinuate that the Crossfire Hurricane/Mueller team was incompetent, that he even argued that they didn’t investigate Sergei Millian thoroughly enough.

Durham was trying to suggest that Auten should have discovered and pulled the call records for a 212 number, in addition to the 404 prefix number around which Durham has built his entire case.

Q. Right. Do you recall whether or not the FBI ever did — in Crossfire Hurricane ever run that number down to see what the records might show?

A. The 212 number?

Q. Correct.

A. It’s possible. I don’t have a recollection of that while I sit here now.

Q. If you had done that, if the investigators had done that, is that something you think you would recall?

A. Not necessarily.

Q. There’s some probability that if you had actually run the numbers to the ground, you would remember that?

A. No. But, I mean, for a number trace, that may have been one of the analysts that I had under me. If we did it, again, I don’t know whether it was run or not.

Durham was trying to suggest that the FBI should have found a second phone number used by Sergei Millian that — it appears from Durham’s own exhibit list — Durham either didn’t know about or wanted to keep hidden. In the process, he implied that Mueller didn’t investigate Millian, whom Durham still believes was a victim in all this, aggressively enough.

I predicted, on multiple occasions, that Durham would be destroying his purported victims in a claimed effort to avenge them.

He should have listened to me.

Because thus far, Durham’s vengeance for Trump and his flunkies has done more to air details of the criminal investigations into everyone Durham claims to be defending than it has served to present proof of Danchenko’s guilt.

Close to the beginning of his cross-examination yesterday, Danchenko attorney Danny Onorato got Auten to lay out that three of the original subjects of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation — everyone but Carter Page — were convicted.

Q Now, you also understand that when Crossfire Hurricane opened — I think you testified yesterday that there were four people who the government was looking at, correct?

A Correct.

Q Papadopoulus?

A Correct.

Q Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager?

A Correct.

Q Carter Page?

A Correct.

Q And the fourth?

A Michael Flynn.

Q And are you aware that — I think Mr. Durham asked you — whether Mr. Page was ever charged or convicted of a crime?

A Yes, he did. He asked me that.

Q And what did you tell him?

A No.

Q What about the other three people?

A Well, Mr. Manafort, yes.

Q Was he convicted?

A Yes.

Q Next person?

A Michael Flynn.

Q Convicted?

A Yes.

Q Okay. Next?

A George Papadopoulos.

Q Okay. And?

A Yes.

Q So three of those four were convicted of crimes?

A Correct.

Q Based on the Crossfire Hurricane investigation?

A As it went over to the special counsel’s office, yes.

Q Okay.

Even before rehearsing the results of the Mueller investigation, Onorato had Auten describe that the Australian tip that predicated the entire investigation pertained to George Papdopoulos.

Okay. Now, given your background with respect to, you know, analytics and, you know, your work history, is it fair to say that you were assigned to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation?

A Yes.

Q Now, a quick summary would be to say that Crossfire Hurricane started because someone who was represented to be a high-level Trump campaign official and advisor, Mr. Papadopoulos, allegedly indicated that the Russians would help leak damaging information to the Clintons and Obamas, right?

A They had received a suggestion that they could be helped that way, yes.

Q Again, that person was George Papadopoulos, right?

A That is correct.

Q Okay. And the FBI opened an investigation on July 31, 2016?

A Yes.

Q That was before you had any information regarding the Steele dossier, right?

A That is correct.

Q That was before you even — so you would agree with me that the opening of that investigation had nothing to do with the Steele information; it had nothing to do with the initiation of Crossfire Hurricane?

A Correct.

Q You would agree that the goal of Crossfire Hurricane was to determine whether or not there was truth to the allegation that a friendly foreign government had provided the U.S. with respect to Russia and collusion between the Trump administration?

A That is correct. [my emphasis]

Onorato was laying the foundation — as I also predicted — to show proof that Durham’s entire basis for claiming that Millian could not have called Danchenko in July 2016 was easily disproven with basic details of Millian’s cultivation of Papadopoulos in the very same time period. This wasn’t about the fact that Papadopoulos admitted he had lied to cover up his ties with Russian-linked figures.

But it seems to have made Durham nervous that the jury would notice he had.

Perhaps because of this, Durham several times made really defensive comments about George Papadopoulos.

Durham spent part of his redirect of Auten attacking his claim that Papadopoulos was a “high level advisor to the Trump Campaign” (which arose from Onorato’s accurate description of the tip from Australia, as I noted in bold above), delivering the “Coffee Boy” defense Trump once used with great flourish to the “ladies and gentlemen of the jury.”

Q. Okay. Now, there were a number of questions that defense counsel asked you that you — well, there were a number of questions that counsel asked you that I want to probe a little bit more deeply. Mr. Onorato asked you or made reference to George Papadopoulos and said — and said — incorporated in his question, that George Papadopoulos was a high level advisor to the Trump Campaign, and you said yes. Well, tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury with respect to George Papadopoulos, how old was George Papadopoulos in the 2016 election?

A. I want to say Papadopoulos was in his 30s.

Q. How about 28? Does that refresh your recollection?

A. It could be around 28.

Q. And was he such a high level advisor that he still had on his resume that he was in a student UN panel?

A. No, that was on his resume.

Q. Right. So this person that you agreed to was a high level advisor to Trump, the Trump Campaign, was a 28-year old who still had on his resume that he was a UN — a student UN person? [my emphasis]

When Auten tried to remind Durham that Trump himself had pitched Papadopoulos as a key foreign policy advisor, Durham interrupted.

A. I would say that part of my articulation of that deals with the fact that Mr. Papadopoulos was part of the small group of advisors that were named, I believe, in March of 2016

Q. Right.

A. For the president — for the former president.

Q. With respect to high level advisor, you don’t have any idea whether Papadopoulos even, you know, had occasion to talk to Trump, do you?

A. Well, he was at the meeting that — that was announced —

Q. He was at one meeting —

MR. ONORATO: Can the witness finish his question — his answer?

MR. DURHAM: Sure.

Remember that Durham and Bill Barr went on a junket to Italy together to chase Papadopoulos’ conspiracy theories without ever interviewing Papadopoulos first (which he still has not done, three years later). And now he’s telling us Papadopoulos was just a low level coffee boy?

After attempting to debunk that people — like the former President, the former Attorney General, and he himself treated Papadopoulos as if he had credibility — Durham then tried to get Auten to agree that Mueller was more worried that Papadopoulos was an asset of Israel’s than Russia’s. When Auten tried to clarify that, no, Mueller investigated Papadopoulos for both, Durham interrupted again.

Q. And, in fact, with respect to Mr. Papadopoulos, isn’t it, in fact, true that, as to Papadopoulos, what the FBI thought it was more — of more interest in Papadopoulos was his relationship to Middle Eastern countries, not to Russia?

A. Actually, I would argue that it was a combination of both. I think —

Q. And I — I’m sorry.

THE COURT: Go ahead. Finish your answer.

THE WITNESS: I think I’ve asserted in testimony that it was a both and.

Before this, Durham twice went on at great length suggesting that Millian couldn’t be a spy recruiting George Papadopoulos — even though Papadopoulos himself described Millian as “a very shady kind of person” — because they were discussing real estate and energy, not “collusion” with Russia. He did this first in a morning hearing before the jury came in.

The defendant has provided what he has premarked as Defendant’s Exhibit 480, 4-8-0, which is an email, a LinkedIn message from Millian to George Papadopoulos. Unless the defendant is going to somehow explain to the jury what Millian and Papadopoulos were communicating about at this period of time, then the Court should not permit it. Papadopoulos and Millian, as I think the defense knows from the discovery in this case, were exchanging any number of emails or Facebook exchanges or LinkedIn all about real estate, potential real estate transactions.

And so what the defense would be asking the jury to do is to draw some adverse inference that there was something going on between Millian and Papadopoulos that they really don’t know about, but it certainly sounds creepy. Well, in fact, if you look at what the communications were, as I say, between Papadopoulos and Millian, they are all about real estate, potential real estate investments.

[snip]

MR. DURHAM: 486 is from Millian to Papadopoulos. Again, you know, its irrelevant to these proceedings, but for the same reason, in the government’s view, it would be inadmissible unless we want to get into evidence relating to what Papadopoulos and Millian were doing at or about the time these email exchanges were occurring. [my emphasis]

He did it again in the middle of Onorato’s cross in the guise of voir dire before admitting the communications between Millian and Papadopoulos.

Q. And do you remember what Papadopoulos and Millian were involved in that generated these numbers?

A. I don’t recall exactly what they were involved in, but it was —

Q. But was it pretty much they were involved in real estate or investment discussions over a long period of time?

A. That, I don’t recall exactly.

Q. Well, how about generally? Do you generally refer — recall that Papadopoulos and Millian were involved in discussions about real estate projects and the like?

A. In January of…

Q. Well, this whole period that’s reflected in Defendant’s Exhibit 403.

A. Yeah, again, I don’t know if I — I don’t know if I can speak to that at this point.

Q. Well, you — you were the analyst — that supervisory analyst, correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you recall, sir, what it was that Mr. Millian was involved in, the kind of investments?

A. Yes, he was involved in investments and the like.

Q. Right.

A. But I don’t know if I can speak to, at this point, these phone records being tied to any real estate deals or anything of that sort.

Q. Right. So all of these records have shown there was contact between the two of them, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. And did you know that Millian was involved in the energy sector as well?

A. Yes, correct.

Q. And did you know that Papadopoulos was talking about getting involved in the energy sector in the Middle East?

A. Yes, I did know that.

Q. Does that refresh any recollection as to whether or not the contact between Millian and Papadopoulos had to do with energy and other investments?

A. Again, I am familiar with both of those things. I don’t know if that is what this document was actually written for.

Q. Okay. And there’s nothing in this document that tells you what it is about, correct?

A. No. Gmail talks about — there are a couple of references on — it’s not — it’s Bates Number — last Bates number is 105262.

Q. Uh-huh.

A. And there are two paragraphs that talk about another individual involved with energy.

Q. Right. This is all about business, correct?

A. Again, I don’t know if all of this is about business. I know that there are paragraphs in here involving energy.

Q. Okay. So one can tell from this is that they were involved in exchanges of emails or the like, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. And it appears it has to do with energy, correct?

A. It might , yes. Again, there are a lot of — there are a lot of communications on here.

Q. Yes.

A. So I would not be able to state with any substance that these are all involving energy issues.

Q. You can’t say that because the document doesn’t tell the jury what it’s about, other than that it, at least it has partially to do with energy?

A. Correct.

Q. Between Millian and Papadopoulos, correct?

A. That’s what it appears, correct.

Q. So it would be unreasonable to conclude anything or draw any conclusions from this other than Papadopoulos and Millian were involved in investments in the energy sector, right?

A. I don’t know if I can say that it follows necessarily from this, that all of these things deal with that.

Q. That wasn’t my question, though.

A. Okay.

Q. My question was: It would be unreasonable to conclude from this document anything other than they were at least involved in talking about — the energy sector, correct?

A. I would say that from this document there may —

Q. Uh-huh.

A. — there are likely communications within this list of communications dealing with energy, though I cannot say, analytically speaking, that all of these deal with energy

Q. Fair enough. You know that Millian was involved in the energy sector and real estate?

A. I do recall that.

Q. And Papadopoulos is involved in the energy sector and real estate?

A. I recall that.

Q. And so this document doesn’t have anything to do, from looking at it on its particulars, anything to do with Russia and Russia collusion and the like, correct?

A. So the only thing that this has is — it has a list of — most of it is a list of communications between the two parties, dates, times.

Q. Okay. [my emphasis]

When he finally got the witness back and the exhibits admitted, Onorato mocked the way Durham had wasted all his time.

Q. Okay. And I’m glad that Mr. Durham took five minutes of my examination with you to talk about something I didn’t want to ask you about, okay? I don’t care if they were talking about going to the beech or vacation. It’s not relevant to —

He then noted that he really didn’t give a fuck what they were talking about. This was about metadata. Onorato was introducing it to show that the investigation into both Millian and Papadopoulos revealed that there were communications between the two men — communications not relying on the single cell phone that Durham bothered to obtain the call records for. Danchenko’s lawyer was showing that, during the same period when, Durham is arguing, Millian could not have arranged a meeting in New York with Danchenko because he was in Asia and the single phone the records of which Durham bothered to pull had been turned off temporarily, Millian had been arranging a meeting in New York with Papadopoulos.

Q. So the import of that document is that you were investigating Mr. Papadopoulos after Crossfire Hurricane, right?

A. In Crossfire Hurricane, yes.

Q. Right. But you got —

A. And special counsel.

Q. Right. And then Mr. Millian was also being investigated, right?

A. Correct.

Q. And so, the import of that is that there’s communication between Papadopoulos and Millian, and the FBI was documenting that because it was important, right?

A. Correct.

Q. Okay. It doesn’t — I don’t care about the contents of what they were discussing, just the fact that there was this relationship that you needed to explore, right?

Again, the primary purpose of introducing Papadopoulos was to show that the entire metadata-based argument that Durham will make about the impossibility of a call between Millian and Danchenko simply ignored publicly-known metadata from the very same period, metadata that the FBI believed was important.

Onorato was not trying to and does not need to prove that Millian was recruiting Papadopoulos as a Russian asset.

But the mere act of introducing these communications flipped the table, and Durham started making a desperate defense of two of the claimed victims he was championing.

Durham’s observation that all those communications “certainly sound[] creepy” was made outside the presence of the jurors. But in his bid to claim Papadopoulos was just a Coffee Boy, Durham himself introduced the possibility that two men he is attempting to claim were unfairly investigated really were engaged in “Russia collusion.”

John Durham Twice Misread Steele Dossier Sourcing to Invent a Partisan Claim

To understand what a train wreck FBI Supervisory Analyst Brian Auten was for John Durham’s case yesterday, let’s start with the fact that, on redirect, Durham lied about — or maybe just doesn’t understand — what Igor Danchenko said to the FBI about Sergei Millian in January 2017. He did so when trying to get Auten to agree that Millian couldn’t have called Danchenko because he’s a Trump supporter.

Q. So would you find it peculiar that somebody who had never spoken to Millian, Millian never spoken to him, would be telling somebody he doesn’t know about a, quote, well-developed conspiracy of cooperation, between The Trump Organization and Russian leadership?

A. I mean, I would say that is peculiar, yes.

Q. That is very peculiar, right?

A. Yes.

Q. Almost unbelievable, wouldn’t you say? A. I don’t know if I would say “unbelievable,” but I would say “peculiar.”

Durham, of course, was citing from the Steele dossier’s report attributed to Sergei Millian, which Danchenko didn’t write and claimed not to have seen before it was published. In fact, one of the reasons why the FBI found Danchenko was credible is that he didn’t try to protect Steele. Danchenko implied that Steele exaggerated his report on Millian, which instead amounted to a 10 to 15 minute phone call.

More importantly, Danchenko claims that he didn’t tell Steele that Millian had described a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation.” On the contrary, Danchenko told the FBI that Millian had told him there were ties between Russia and Trump, but there was “nothing bad about it.”

[The Primary Sub-source] recalls that this 10-15 minute conversation included a general discussion about Trump and the Kremlin, that there was “communication” between the parties, and that it was an ongoing relationship. (The Primary Sub-source] recalls that the individual believed to be [Source E in Report 95] said that there was “exchange of information” between Trump and the Kremlin, and that there was “nothing bad about it.” [Source E] said that some of this information exchange could be good for Russia, and some could be damaging to Trump, but deniable. The individual said that the Kremlin might be of help to get Trump elected, but [the Primary Sub-source] did not recall any discussion or mention of Wiki[L]eaks.

If Danchenko is to be believed — and the FBI long believed he was — Danchenko interpreted Millian’s comments as helpful for, not harmful to, to Trump.

And that’s important because a fundamental article of faith, as far as John Durham goes, is that someone’s political party dictates all regarding sourcing. Millian couldn’t have called Danchenko, in Durham’s book (even though a whole ton of evidence was presented that he could have), because he was a vocal Trump supporter.

Q. Right. Did you find it at all peculiar — you and your colleagues find it at all peculiar that somebody who is an avid Trump supporter would be calling somebody he had never met and talked to before to provide negative information about the Trump campaign?

A. I would say, in this case, you don’t know.

Durham needs the Millian report to be negative because he needs to find a partisan angle to everything in the dossier, but he simply invents what Danchenko — as opposed to Steele — claims Millian said.

By comparison, Durham suggests that Chuck Dolan’s role in potentially sourcing the arguably most accurate report in the dossier (it’s unsurprising it was accurate because it was based on press coverage) is suspect because of Dolan’s role in Democratic politics.

BY MR. DURHAM: Q Do you recall whether or not when you were chatting with Mr. Danchenko in January 2017 if he indicated that the work he was doing with Christopher Steele was an important project for him?

A I don’t know if he characterized it as an important project for him, but he characterized it as a project that he was very busy with.

Q With respect to the second part of that sentence, “…and our goals clearly coincide,” in context Mr. Danchenko’s and Mr. Dolan’s goals?

A That is how I would read that.

Q Would it have been of value to the FBI to know that Mr. Danchenko’s goals and Mr. Dolan’s goals related to the Trump campaign coincided?

[snip]

Q And with respect to goals coinciding, let me ask you this: Did you determine whether or not Mr. Dolan had any particular partisan persuasion?

A Yes.

Q And what was that?

A Democratic.

Q And how deeply involved in democratic politics was Mr. Dolan, if you know, based on your own personal participation in the investigation?

MR. ONORATO: Objection to relevance.

THE COURT: I’ll let him answer. Go ahead.

A I understand he worked with various aspects of democratic campaigns over the years.

Q And when you say over the years, was it like two or three years or a longer period?

A My recollection is it was longer.

Q Much longer?

A For a while back. I wouldn’t be able to actually specify how long back.

Q In any event, it would have been valuable for you to know that Mr. Danchenko’s goals coincided with Mr. Dolan’s goals, correct?

Note, Durham doesn’t consider — apparently doesn’t even conceive of the possibility — that Danchenko would have told Dolan their goals coincide as an appeal to Dolan’s partisanship even if he himself had none.

Steele (and therefore Danchenko) was first paid to dig up dirt on Paul Manafort by Oleg Deripaska, someone working to get Trump elected, and in fact one of the most important new details of this exchange is that Danchenko prefaced it by referencing asking someone much earlier, in May — possibly during the time when Deripaska was still paying the tab — for dirt on Manafort. With regards to Manafort, it’s not clear Danchenko would have reason to distinguish between the two projects paying to develop dirt (and he didn’t know precisely who was paying either time). He wanted dirt and the record shows that even someone closely tied to Manafort, Deripaska, was willing to pay for that dirt.

In any case, Durham makes a materiality claim that it was really important for the FBI to know Dolan’s partisan leanings.

Q. But for the FBI’s purposes in evaluating 105, Government’s Exhibit 112, was of significance this reportedly was coming from, quote, an American political figure associated with Donald Trump and his campaign, closed quote?

A. Yes, that was important.

Q. So with respect, then, to that information, that person that was providing the information, was Donald — was Charles Dolan, would that be import to you?

A. Yes, that would be of import.

Later, to play up the import of Dolan’s politics, Durham again misreads the dossier and in the process, misstates his entire case. He implies that the FBI, in assessing Report 105 — which, as Danchenko’s lawyer got Auten to agree, “has absolutely nothing to do about collusion in Russia, which is the whole point that Crossfire Hurricane was opened,” but which is Durham’s single piece of evidence that the Steele dossier was sourced to Democrats — should have known that a source described as “an American political figure associated with Donald TRUMP and his campaign” was actually a Democrat.

Q. And would it be of import to you that Mr. Dolan was not somebody who was an American political figure associated with Donald Trump and his campaign but, in fact, was a Democratic operative for a long period of time? Would that have been significant to you?

A. Yes, we were interested in all of the —

Q. Right.

A. — sources.

Q. So if you knew that that was the case, it wasn’t some Republican insider or some associate of Donald Trump’s, what, if any, impact did that have on your evaluation of the validity and credibility of the information that’s being conveyed in these dossier reports?

A. Well, it helps — it would have helped to understand kind of accuracy and things of that sort for the dossier reports.

Except that, once again, that’s not what the sourcing indicates. If Durham’s allegations are correct and this came from Dolan, it amounts to Danchenko sourcing something Dolan attributed to a Republican friend of his. If this claim is inaccurate, it’s not because Danchenko lied, it’s because Dolan did.

That is, Durham’s problem isn’t that Dolan is a Democrat. It’s that Dolan — his own witness — is an admitted fabricator.

And John Durham is trying so hard to invent partisanship rather than Russian rat-fuckery, that he doesn’t understand he’s impugning his source, not Danchenko.

John Durham’s Re-Virgined Birth of the Carter Page and Sergei Millian Investigations

The Igor Danchenko trial kicked off yesterday to contentious start, with prosecutor Michael Keilty accusing Danchenko of lying while making some, um, expansive claims about the public record, and Danchenko attorney Danny Onorato accusing Keilty of lying about the extent of the immunity Danchenko was granted for his January 2017 interviews, after which Judge Anthony Trenga admonished Onorato for overstating the extent to which Keilty overstated Danchenko’s immunization.

And then John Durham — in the flesh!! — after naming some more FBI employees so the former President could include them in another frivolous lawsuit, settled in for some rather painful direct examination of Supervisory Analyst Brian Auten.

Most of it–because it focused on events that preceded the first FBI interviews of Danchenko (and because during his interview he could not have known how much of his reports or in what form were used in the Carter Page FISA)–was irrelevant to the charges against Danchenko.

The country wasn’t served by any of this.

But along the way, we learned that Sergei Millian was once a source for the FBI, and that the investigation into Millian was closed without charges. By the end of the day yesterday, prosecutors hadn’t been permitted to raise details of the investigation into Danchenko.

About two key details, however, Durham deliberately obscured the record.

First, as the Durham team did during the Michael Sussmann trial, Durham made a big deal about the fact that Crossfire Hurricane investigation was opened as a full investigation from the start.

Q. And the FBI opened that up to say full investigation?

A. That is correct.

Q. From day one?

He did this without mentioning the hack-and-leak by a hostile intelligence service targeting Hillary Clinton, making it sound, instead, as if Australia shared the George Papadopoulos tip out of the blue, rather than in response to the seeming corroboration of the tip by the WikiLeaks publication.

John Durham never tires of minimizing Russian attacks on democracy, it seems.

As his team did during the Sussmann trial, Durham made a big deal about the fact that only at a Full Investigation could DOJ get a FISA warrant targeting Page (Durham also incorrectly suggested the primary goal of a FISA warrant is to find criminal information).

Q. Explain to the jurors, then, what tools, investigative tools, the FBI had available at that time as a result of opening a full investigation as opposed to some lesser level of —

A. With a full investigation, you are able to use the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

Q. And are court authorized FISAs, essentially, the most powerful tool that the FBI has available and —

A. I would say one of.

The problem with this entire premise — and the problem with his attack on the Horowitz Report is that there was already an investigation into Carter Page. What FBI did, with Carter Page, was take an existing counterintelligence investigation arising out of Page’s fondness for being recruited by Russian intelligence officers, and open it as part of an UNSUB (see this post for an explanation of what that means) tied to apparent advance knowledge of an attack on democracy.

Similarly, with Millian, Durham tried to get Auten to suggest that the first investigative focus the FBI developed on Millian in 2016 was from Steele.

Q. Let me ask you this: With respect to your meeting with Mr. Steele in early October of 2016, do you recall whether or not the name Sergei Millian came up?

A. Yes.

Q. And how did that come up?

A. Sergei Millian’s name came up as —

MR. ONORATO: Your Honor, I’m going to object.

THE COURT: Overruled. Go ahead.

BY MR. DURHAM: Q. With respect to Sergei Millian, whatever you learned from Mr. Steele in October of 2016, what, if anything, did you and your colleagues do regarding Sergei Millian?

A. Out of what we learned from Steele or from — or what came up before —

Q. With respect to Sergei Millian, whatever you learned from Mr. Steele in October of 2016, what, if anything, did you and your colleagues do regarding Sergei Millian?

A. Out of what we learned from Steele or from — or what came up before —

Q. Based on what you knew. Let’s not worry about hearsay from Steele.

A. No, no. I mean —

Q. What did you learn?

A. Millian’s name came up in the course and scope of the investigation prior to us talking to Mr. Steele.

Q. Okay. So — and this just calls for a yes or no. Did you have a — in your meetings with Steele, did Sergei Millian’s name come up?

A. Yes.

As the DOJ IG Report revealed, by that point, Millian was already a focus of other FBI agents.

According to a document circulated among Crossfire Hurricane team members and supervisors in early October 2016, Person 1 had historical contact with persons and entities suspected of being linked to RIS. The document described reporting [redacted] that Person 1 “was rumored to be a former KGB/SVR officer.”

Again, Durham tried to create a virgin rebirth to create original harm from the dossier where it did not exist.

Unsurprisingly, Durham also didn’t elicit from Auten that Steele had called Millian a “boaster” and said he “may engage in embellishment” in that meeting, or that as described in that meeting, Steele had claimed that the Carter Page information came from his research during the period when Oleg Deripaska, not Hillary, was paying for his research.

I assume Danchenko’s team will lay all this out in cross-examination today.

It’s just rather pathetic that, in his first outing, Durham is still obscuring the public record to create harm against Trump rather than an attack against the US by Russia.

Anthony Trenga Smothers the Frothers’ Hopes for a Pee Tape Trial … But Not the Damage Done by Credulous Press

Judge Anthony Trenga has issued his order on John Durham’s omnibus motion in limine in the Igor Danchenko case which was — as the equivalent motion was in the Michael Sussmann case — a last desperate bid to turn a false statements trial into a conspiracy theory.

On all the most substantive issues, including whether Durham will be able to fly a German Ritz Hotel staffer in to testify about the pee tape, which is not charged, Trenga ruled against Durham.

His rulings include:

  • That the pee tape allegations are not intrinsic to the charged crimes and the confusing and prejudicial nature of the claims would outweigh any probative value of the story
  • Unless Durham can prove that Danchenko gave Steele the information on Millian that ties him to the pee tape, prosecutors can’t introduce utterly equivocal answers Danchenko gave to the FBI that a pee tape source could be Millian
  • Durham can introduce evidence that Danchenko told Charles Dolan he worked for Steele (though the communications in question show primarily that Dolan knew it), but he can’t introduce evidence showing that Danchenko told others he worked for Steele
  • The only reason to introduce an email to a business associate would be as impermissible evidence of bad character; it is not sufficiently related to the charges against Danchenko to be admitted under 404(b)
  • An email Sergei Millian sent on July 26, 2016 can be admitted (I’ve shown that it reflects Millian coming back from Asia earlier than he otherwise would have), but two emails from 2020 are inadmissible hearsay because by then, “Millian certainly possessed motive and opportunity to misrepresent his thoughts”
  • Durham cannot introduce the details of the 2009 counterintelligence investigation into Danchenko because to introduce those details would require hearsay, and the details themselves would not be all that useful to proving the case against Danchenko but would be very prejudicial
  • Trenga will rule on evidence pertaining to the reliability or credibility of Durham’s witnesses at trial

Both the issues on which Trenga ruled for Durham — Dolan’s knowledge that Danchenko worked for Steele and Millian’s July 2016 email — may actually hurt Durham’s case. On all the other issues, every bit of Durham’s effort to spin a conspiracy theory, Trenga has ruled for Danchenko.

And aside from noting, twice, that Millian had “opportunity and motive to fabricate and/or misrepresent his thoughts,” there’s another sign that Trenga gets what Durham’s ruse is.

His reasoning for excluding the pee tape lays out all the flimsy threads Durham spun in an effort to present his conspiracy theory.

Through [German Ritz employee] Kuhlen, for example, the government seeks to prove that Danchenko completely fabricated his sources to Steele on the Ritz-Carlton allegations and then lied about it to the FBI to keep Dolan off the FBI’s radar. But that justification faces several obstacles. First, Dolan’s role in these uncharged false statements is unclear. The government does not allege that Dolan was a source for Danchenko’s Ritz-Carlton reporting, and therefore this evidence seemingly is not being used to prove the falsity of Danchenko’s statement in Count I. While Dolan, in June 2016, received a tour of the presidential suite and had lunch with the hotel’s general manager and staff, the government does not appear to intend to present evidence that Dolan told Danchenko about those events, including meeting or speaking with Kuhlen.2 Thus, the link between Danchenko’s allegedly false statement about the Ritz and Dolan is a highly attenuated one. Perhaps recognizing this, the government instead proffers that this evidence goes to proving the materiality of Danchenko’s Count I statement, not its falsity. But the proffered evidence relating to the RitzCarlton allegations bears little probative value in terms of materiality. The government contends that had Danchenko told the FBI that Dolan was a source it is more likely that it would have interviewed Dolan, in part, because of his proximity to Danchenko in June 2016. But that fact can be established separate and apart from trying to prove Danchenko lied about his Ritz-Carlton sourcing. The government can sufficiently establish at trial that Danchenko engaged in fact gathering for the Steele Reports in Moscow in June 2016, that Dolan was present in Moscow during that same time, and that the two met in Moscow, without getting into the purported false statements or the underlying details, which have an attenuated connection to the charged false statement. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, proving up an uncharged false statement does not bear on the materiality of the charged false statement.

Second, the government fails to reference any evidence that Danchenko told Steele either that he met with Kuhlen or, more generally, a western member of the hotel staff. The government does not, by all indications, intend to call Steele as a witness; and in terms of what Danchenko told Steele, the jury will be left solely with the hearsay description in the Report itself, which Steele, not Danchenko, prepared. Why Steele characterized the sources for the Ritz-Carlton allegations as he did in the Report or, indeed, whether the listed sources, in fact, came from Danchenko are subject to a significant degree of speculation. As such, the reference in the Report to those sources does not provide strong evidence that Danchenko informed Steele that he met with a western member of the hotel staff. Moreover, when asked by the FBI about “Source E” in his May 18, 2017 interview, Danchenko completely equivocated. See [Doc. No. 84], at 11 (“Danchenko: . . . I don’t think it’s just uh, I don’t think [UI] one of the um, hotel managers. Agent 1: You think source E is? Danchenko: [ ] Somebody I met. . . . And I don’t know who, who [Steele’s] referring to.”). The government seeks to prove that Danchenko never met with Kuhlen; and while that may be true, that evidence does not, given the circumstances, have much probative value concerning whether Danchenko lied to the FBI about his sourcing of the Ritz-Carlton allegations.

2 The government’s position on the probative value of this evidence, aside from materiality, is unclear. The government at one point, characterizes Dolan as a “fact witness” because of his tour of the presidential suite and time at the Ritz-Carlton in general, but does not draw a clear line between Dolan’s experiences and Danchenko’s reporting to Steele. [Doc. No. 78], at 10. The Indictment strongly implies, however, that Danchenko used information learned from Dolan during the June 2016 Moscow planning trip in his reporting to Steele. [Indictment], ¶¶ 30-34.

Judge Trenga won’t let this stuff in not just because the Rules of Evidence say you can’t rely on the emails of an unreliable witness written four politicized years after the fact without making him show up and risk prison himself to substantiate his claims.

He ruled against this stuff because Durham has not claimed to have any evidence to justify a number of wild leaps of logic he made to spin this conspiracy theory in the first place: Durham has not claimed to have (reliable) evidence about what Dolan told Danchenko over 6 years ago (indeed, Dolan apparently, “will testify that he has no recollection of seeing the defendant at the Ritz Carlton in June 2016”). Durham does not claim to know what Danchenko really told Steele about the pee tape, and he does not claim to know to what degree Steele exaggerated what Danchenko told him or if he otherwise reported it unfaithfully. The evidence Durham does have — that Danchenko made equivocal statements in response to a speculative cue and told the FBI his reporting stopped well short of what Steele claimed it did — doesn’t say what Durham claims it does.

Trenga won’t let Durham present his pee tape conspiracy theories in part because it is the pee tape, with six years of rabid focus by all parties behind it. But more importantly, he won’t let Durham present his pee tape conspiracies because Durham’s pee tape conspiracies were never any more substantive than Christoper Steele’s pee tape report drafted back in 2016.

That didn’t stop any number of media figures — Devlin Barrett, Jonathan Swan, Barry Meier, Rachel Weiner, and Marshall Cohen, among others — who regurgitated the evidentiary flimsiness of Durham’s conspiracy theories and printed them as fact.

You might be under the impression that John Durham has charged Igor Danchenko with multiple counts of lying regarding the role of Charles Dolan in the sourcing of the dossier. You might similarly be under the impression that, in the indictment, Durham alleges that Dolan was the source for the pee tape.

You’d be forgiven for believing those things. After all, the WaPo reported charges, plural, showed that “some of the material” in the Steele dossier came from Dolan.

The indictment also suggests Danchenko may have lied to Steele and others about where he was getting his information. Some of the material came from a Democratic Party operative with long-standing ties to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, according to the charges, rather than well-connected Russians with insight into the Kremlin.

The allegations cast new uncertainty on some past reporting on the dossier by news organizations, including The Washington Post.

Relying on that report, Jonathan Swan described charges, plural, that Dolan was, “one of the sources for the rumors about Trump.”

And Barry Meier, who so badly misunderstood the import of Oleg Deripaska in his book on private intelligence, also claimed there were charges, plural, relating to Dolan and insinuated that Durham had alleged the pee tape came from him.

In Durham’s indictment, however, Danchenko comes across more like the type of paid informant often found in the world of private spying — one who tells their employer what they want to hear.

According to those charges, he supposedly fed Steele some information that did not come from Kremlin-linked sources, as the dossier claims, but was gossip he picked up from an American public-relations executive with Democratic Party ties who did business in Moscow. In 2016, the indictment states, the manager of the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow gave that executive a tour of the the hotel’s presidential suite, and soon afterward, Danchenko took a selfie of himself and the executive at the hotel.

Reporting on Danchenko’s arraignment, WaPo went off at more length, not only failing to distinguish an uncharged accusation as such (one likely source of the belief that Durham charged multiple counts pertaining to Dolan), but stating as fact that Danchenko made up an entire conversation — one Danchenko has consistently attributed to a named Russian source — regarding the pee tape.

He is also accused of lying about revealing to sources that he was working for Steele.

Durham says Danchenko made up a conversation he claimed was the source of one of the dossier’s most salacious claims, that Trump paid prostitutes at a Moscow hotel room to urinate on a bed in which President Barack Obama had once slept. The dossier also suggested Russian intelligence agencies had secretly recorded that event as potential blackmail material. Trump has denied any such encounter.

The indictment suggests that story came from Dolan, who in June 2016 toured a suite at a hotel in Moscow that was once occupied by Trump.

Judge Trenga’s ruling will spoil the frothers’ hopes for a trial about the pee tape.

But the frothers aren’t the problem: The problem is how many actual journalists bought this sleight of hand and now remain silent about the baseless claims they perpetuated last year.

Update: Meanwhile, Danchenko has moved to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

On the Belated Education of John Durham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

Danchenko waited six weeks and got almost nothing new.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Igor 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.