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John Durham, Ask Not for Whom the Statute of Limitation Tolls …

As he did with Igor Danchenko, John Durham has raised a potential conflict as a way to air his conspiracy theories so he can jack up the frothy right. In this case, he describes an uncharged meeting at which Michael Sussmann, who no longer had anything to do with the DNC, shared an updated version of the Alfa Bank allegations with the CIA on February 9, 2017.

The Indictment further details that on February 9, 2017, the defendant provided an updated set of allegations – including the Russian Bank-1 data and additional allegations relating to Trump – to a second agency of the U.S. government (“Agency-2”). The Government’s evidence at trial will establish that these additional allegations relied, in part, on the purported DNS traffic that Tech Executive-1 and others had assembled pertaining to Trump Tower, Donald Trump’s New York City apartment building, the EOP, and the aforementioned healthcare provider. In his meeting with Agency-2, the defendant provided data which he claimed reflected purportedly suspicious DNS lookups by these entities of internet protocol (“IP”) addresses affiliated with a Russian mobile phone provider (“Russian Phone Provider-1”). The defendant further claimed that these lookups demonstrated that Trump and/or his associates were using supposedly rare, Russian-made wireless phones in the vicinity of the White House and other locations. The Special Counsel’s Office has identified no support for these allegations. Indeed, more complete DNS data that the Special Counsel’s Office obtained from a company that assisted Tech Executive-1 in assembling these allegations reflects that such DNS lookups were far from rare in the United States. For example, the more complete data that Tech Executive-1 and his associates gathered – but did not provide to Agency-2 – reflected that between approximately 2014 and 2017, there were a total of more than 3 million lookups of Russian Phone-Provider-1 IP addresses that originated with U.S.-based IP addresses. Fewer than 1,000 of these lookups originated with IP addresses affiliated with Trump Tower. In addition, the more complete data assembled by Tech Executive-1 and his associates reflected that DNS lookups involving the EOP and Russian Phone Provider-1 began at least as early 2014 (i.e., during the Obama administration and years before Trump took office) – another fact which the allegations omitted.

The frothy right is very excited that, among the data that someone heavily involved in cybersecurity like Rodney Joffe would have ready access to, was data that included the White House. They seem less interested that, to disprove the allegations Sussmann presented, Durham effectively (in their frothy minds) conducted the same “spying” on EOP networks of President Obama that Durham insinuates Joffe did of Trump.

Remember: This meeting is not charged. It’s not clear such a meeting with the CIA could be charged. Durham presents zero evidence Sussmann knows anything about the comparative value of this data, either.

That’ll become important in a bit.

The conflicts Durham raises to justify this filing are a bit more interesting than the ones he raised with Danchenko. Latham Watkins used to represent Perkins Coie and Marc Elias in this matter, now they represent just Sussmann, and Elias will be asked to testify about instructions Sussmann got about billing records in his representation of the DNC. Latham represented the DNC. Latham represented Sussmann in December 2017 House Intelligence testimony that significantly undermines Durham’s indictment (and shows that the allegations at the core of this indictment originally came from Kash Patel, who by the time of trial may be charged for his participation in helping Trump attempt a coup). Latham also provided Perkins Coie advice regarding a PR statement that, Durham admits, he’s not been able to pierce the privilege of and he knows those who made the statement had no knowledge that could implicate the statement in a conspiracy. Somebody on Sussmann’s team used to work at the FBI and then worked for the White House. Those are the conflicts — more substantive than the ones Durham raised about Danchenko, but probably nothing that problematic.

Which makes the relative timing of this filing all the more interesting.

With Danchenko, Durham raised the potential conflict, first, at a status hearing less than two weeks after Stuart Sears filed a notice of appearance for Danchenko, and then again, in a filing two weeks after Sears filed, for a less pressing imagined conflict involving different lawyers in Sears’ firm.

With Sussmann, Durham waited for almost five months after indicting Sussmann to raise the conflict, even though all but one element of the imagined conflict would have been immediately apparent to Durham, not least that Latham had previously represented Elias.

That doesn’t seem to reflect any real burning concern about this conflict.

But, as noted, it did give Durham an excuse to float previously unreleased information that may not even come in at trial, given that it’ll have to be presented as 404(b) evidence and it, in fact, as presented, undermines the claim that Sussmann was hiding his ties to Hillary from the Federal government.

If the information doesn’t come in at trial, this may be Durham’s only chance to jack up the frothy right with it.

And that’s interesting because of the date of that CIA meeting: February 9, 2017, five years and two days before Durham filed this belated notice of a conflict.

As I keep noting, Durham is obviously trying to pull his fevered conspiracy theories into an actual charged conspiracy, one tying together the DNC, Fusion GPS, Christopher Steele, and Hillary herself. If he succeeds, these flimsy charges (against both Sussmann and Danchenko) become stronger, but if he doesn’t, he’s going to have a harder time proving motive and materiality at trial.

After charging Sussmann on almost the last possible date before the statute of limitations expired for his claimed lie to the FBI, though, Durham would need something on which to hang a continuing conspiracy to be able to charge the others. One of those events could have been the PR statement issued in 2018, which Durham says is inaccurate.

Privilege logs and redacted emails obtained from Law Firm-1 in this investigation reflect that in the days before the issuance of these statements, Latham attorneys sent, received, and/or were copied on correspondence relating to the drafting and dissemination of the statements. (Much of the substance of those emails was redacted and withheld from the Special Counsel’s Office pursuant to Law Firm-1’s assertion of attorney-client privilege and attorney work product protections). Because the defendant was aware of and/or reviewed these media statements, the Government may seek to offer them as evidence pursuant to Rule 404(b) or other provisions of law to establish that the defendant sought to conceal the Clinton Campaign’s ties to the Russian Bank-1 allegations from the FBI and others.3

3 According to counsel for Law Firm-1, the attorneys at Law Firm-1 and Latham who participated in drafting and/or reviewing these statements were unaware at the time that the defendant had billed work on the Russian Bank-1 allegations to the Clinton Campaign.

Except, as laid out here, none of the Perkins Coie people involved in writing the statement knew how Sussmann had billed his time. And Durham hasn’t found a reason to otherwise pierce the privilege claims that went into the drafting of the statement.

So that’s probably not going to work to establish his continuing conspiracy.

The other event on which Durham might have hung a continuing conspiracy was that February 9 meeting. It involved updated work from Joffe, after all. And Durham claims Sussmann again deliberately hid who his client was rather than (as he now knows Sussmann did for tips from Jofffe that had nothing to do with Donald Trump) just shared a tip anonymously.

But instead of rolling out what Sussmann presented in that February 9 meeting five years and two days ago in a conspiracy indictment, Durham instead packaged it up in a filing pertaining to a potential conflict. This February 9 meeting, it appears, won’t be the hook on which Durham gets to charge a conspiracy.

I’m not saying that Durham won’t be able to pull together his grand conspiracy. He might next point to testimony in Congress (possibly Glenn Simpson’s) to claim that there was some grand cover-up of what he imagines was an attempt to smear Donald Trump. Except, as this filing admits, Sussmann’s sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee shows that when asked — by future coup investigative subject Kash Patel — Sussmann testified consistently with sharing this information on behalf of Joffe, which is what Sussmann’s currently operative story remains. Durham did suggest he thinks he can show Sussmannn misled members of Congress because he claims it was, “knowingly and intentionally misleading insofar as it failed to disclose that the defendant billed work on the Russian Bank-1 allegations to the Clinton Campaign,” except (as with the alleged lie more generally) that’s not what he was asked about.

By all means, John Durham, make Kash Patel a witness at your trial. Give Sussmann an opportunity to ask how Kash came to learn of this meeting in the first place, to say nothing about whether Kash has recently been involved in efforts to overthrow the US government.

Whatever Durham hopes to use to sustain the claim of a continuing conspiracy, this filing seems to concede that the lies Durham claims Sussmann told in that meeting that took place five years and a few days ago will not be charged.

Ask not for whom the statute of limitations toll, John Durham. They toll for you.

Hot and Cold Running John Durham Conspiracy Conspiracies

I’d like to congratulate Assistant [Durham] Special Counsel Michael Keilty. In what is close to a first from Durham’s team, he submitted a filing without obvious glaring errors (like the Criminal Information for Kevin Clinesmith that revealed the Durham team didn’t even know for what crime Carter Page had been investigated or their persistent cut-and-paste errors).

The filing is a motion for miscellaneous relief, asking Judge Anthony Trenga to require Igor Danchenko to waive any conflict he might have because his new defense attorneys, Danny Onorato and Stuart Sears, are at the same firm as (according to Josh Gerstein) Robert Trout, who is representing, “the 2016 “Hillary for America” presidential campaign (the “Clinton Campaign”), as well as multiple former employees of that campaign, in matters before the Special Counsel.”

The filing is entirely reasonable.

It simply asks that Judge Trenga inquire into the conflict presented by partners from the same firm representing multiple investigative Durham subjects and ensure that if Danchenko chooses to continue with Onorato and Sears as his attorneys, he does so waiving any potential conflict down the road.

Notwithstanding the potential conflicts involved, the government believes that this potential conflict is waivable, should the defendant so choose, assuming a knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver is executed.

Based on the foregoing, the government respectfully requests that Court inquire into the conflict issues set forth herein.

It’s how Keilty gets there — as well as the Durham’s team uneven treatment of the connectivity of their investigation — that I find interesting. Remember: The Clinton campaign is referenced in Michael Sussmann’s indictment, though Durham already had to confess that the indictment overstated Sussmann’s contacts with members of the campaign.

But Durham’s effort to implicate the Hillary campaign in Danchenko’s actions is more of a stretch, going through Charles Dolan and entailing treating Hillary as a more dangerous adversary than Russian intelligence.

Again, the Paul Manafort report may be the most provably correct report in the entire dossier. Claiming (correctly) that Manafort was ousted not just because of his corrupt ties in Ukraine — a claim that Republicans have spent five years claiming was just a propaganda campaign launched by Democrats — but also because others wanted him out actually undercuts the story that has always claimed to be the most useful to Democrats. The report on Embassy staff changes was, Durham suggests, based directly off quotes Dolan got from the staffer in question; indeed, Durham points to the accuracy of those quotations to prove the report came from Dolan. There was a flourish added — that the person in question was untainted by involvement with the Russian election operation — which Danchenko disclaims, but there’s no evidence the flourish comes from Dolan (or even Danchenko — it’s the kind of thing Steele seems to have added). In other words, assuming Dolan was the source for the things Durham claims he was, Dolan seems to have been the most accurate source for the dossier.

There was an unbelievable amount of shit in the dossier and it would be useful if there were an accounting of how that happened (which Durham is not doing here). The Danchenko-to-Steele reporting process (which, contrary to Durham’s claims, Danchenko candidly laid out in his first interviews with the FBI) was one source of the problems with the dossier. But at least as much of the shit seems to come from Danchenko’s sources, several of whom had ties to Russian intelligence and who may have been deliberately injecting disinformation into the process. Instead of focusing on that — on Russians who may have been deliberately feeding lies into the process — Durham instead focuses on Dolan, not because Durham claims he wittingly shared bad information to harm Trump (his one lie served to boost an accurate story that went against the grain of the Democrats’ preferred narrative), but because as a Democrat he — not Russian spies — is being treated by Durham as an adversary.

Plus, at least as alleged in the Danchenko indictment, there’s no firsthand Hillary witness necessary to Danchenko’s conviction. The witnesses to Danchenko’s five alleged lies are all FBI personnel. The evidence against Danchenko regarding the four claimed lies about Sergei Millian involve Danchenko’s own emails and — !!! — the hearsay Twitter account of someone once and possibly still suspected of being a Russian agent. Dolan’s testimony about what he and Danchenko discussed six years ago at the Moscow Ritz will undoubtedly be of interest to the jury and still more interest to the frothy right, but not only is that not necessary to prove the single count claiming Danchenko lied about Dolan’s role in all this, it falls short of proof that Danchenko didn’t go from that lunch to speak to personnel at the Ritz himself.

Even though no one with a paid gig on the Hillary campaign is needed (or even, at least as charged, conceivably useful) as a witness against Danchenko, here’s how Keilty lays out the potential conflict.

As discussed above, the Clinton Campaign, through Law Firm-1 and U.S. Investigative Firm-1, commissioned and financed the Company Reports in an attempt to gather and disseminate derogatory information about Donald Trump. To that end, U.K. Person-1 relied primarily on the defendant to collect the information that ultimately formed the core of the allegations contained in the Company Reports. The Indictment alleges that certain statements that the defendant made to the FBI about information contained in the Company Reports, were knowingly and intentionally false. Thus, the interests of the Clinton Campaign and the defendant could potentially diverge in connection with any plea discussions, pre-trial proceedings, hearings, trial, and sentencing proceedings. Areas of inquiry that may become relevant to defense counsel’s representation of the defendant, and which also may become issues at trial or sentencing, include topics such as (1) the Clinton Campaign’s knowledge or lack of knowledge concerning the veracity of information in the Company Reports sourced by the defendant, (2) the Clinton Campaign’s awareness or lack of awareness of the defendant’s collection methods and sub-sources, (3) meetings or communications between and among the Clinton Campaign, U.S. Investigative Firm-1, and/or U.K. Person-1 regarding or involving the defendant, (4) the defendant’s knowledge or lack of knowledge regarding the Clinton Campaign’s role in and activities surrounding the Company Reports, and (5) the extent to which the Clinton Campaign and/or its representatives directed, solicited, or controlled the defendant’s activities. On each of these issues, the interests of the Clinton Campaign and the defendant might diverge. For example, the Clinton Campaign and the defendant each might have an incentive to shift blame and/or responsibility to the other party for any allegedly false information that was contained within the Company Reports and/or provided to the FBI. Moreover, it is possible that one of these parties might also seek to advance claims that they were harmed or defrauded by the other’s actions, statements, or representations. In addition, in the event that one or more former representatives of the Clinton Campaign (who are represented by defense counsel’s firm) are called to testify at any trial or other court proceeding, the defendant and any such witness would be represented by the same law firm, resulting in a potential conflict. Finally, it is also likely that defense counsel’s firm already has obtained privileged information from the Clinton Campaign regarding matters involving or relating to the defendant, the Company Reports, and the conduct alleged in the Indictment.

Some of this is the kind of fevered conspiracy theorizing that has fueled Durham for 950 days so far and sustains the Durham presumption that Hillary Clinton is a greater adversary to the United States than Russian intelligence operatives. None of it is contained within the existing indictment. It doesn’t envision as a possibility that this was all a clusterfuck better suited to a child’s game of telephone than the conspiracy Durham needs it to be. It also seems to forget that even if Danchenko lied to Christopher Steele, that would not amount to fraud on the Hillary campaign.

But it is a road map to what Durham is planning: an attempt to sic various participants in the 2016 efforts against each other such that they start entering cooperation agreements in which they spin up the grand conspiracy Durham is certain exists. It’s certainly sound prosecutorial strategy for Keilty to alert Judge Trenga that down the road they seek to pit all the subjects of their investigation against each other such that down the road, people who have never been alleged to have interacted with Danchenko personally might one day testify against him, all to support the claim that the Hillary campaign engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the FBI, DOJ, and DARPA funders.

But it raises questions about something that happened in the other active prosecution of the Durham investigation, Michael Sussmann’s. Based on court filings and what was said at a December 8 hearing in the Sussmann case, Durham has the following evidence about what Sussmann did or did not say:

  • A report written by Durham investigators, probably in conjunction with a 2017 leak investigation, in which “Durham or someone on his team questioned James Baker’s credibility.”
  • An October 3, 2018 Baker interview that conflicts with the indictment.
  • An October 18, 2018 Baker interview that conflicts with the indictment.
  • A July 15, 2019 Baker interview that conflicts with the indictment.
  • The first Durham interview with Baker on this subject, in June 2020, that conflicts with the indictment.
  • Three more Durham interviews with Baker on this subject that align with the indictment.
  • Grand jury testimony that must align with the indictment, but which had not been released to Sussmann’s cleared lawyers before the December 8 hearing.
  • Hearsay testimony from Bill Priestap that generally aligns with the indictment.
  • Hearsay testimony from another FBI witness that differs in some respects from Priestap’s and may or may not align with the indictment.
  • Testimony from two CIA witnesses at a different meeting that may or may not align with the indictment.
  • A report based on notes that have been destroyed, the final version of which differs somewhat from the indictment and may or may not align with it.
  • A draft (there seems to be some disagreement whether it is a memorandum to the file or emails) of that CIA report that reflects Sussmann mentioning a client — which therefore dramatically undermines the indictment.
  • At least one 302 reflecting an interview with Baker about another aspect of the Durham investigation.

Had Mueller believed it ethical to charge someone with evidence this contradictory — and I’m really not exaggerating when I say this — he had the goods to charge Trump with agreeing to give Russia sanctions relief in exchange for an impossibly lucrative real estate deal in Moscow. He could have charged Paul Manafort with trading $19 million in debt relief for the campaign strategy and help carving up Ukraine. He could have charged Roger Stone — and through him, Donald Trump — with entering into cooperation with the Russian hacking team before they spent September hacking Hillary’s analytics, for a still unexplained purpose.

This list of conflicting evidence that Durham has is a testament to the recklessness with which he has decided to pursue his own feverish conspiracy theories. It doesn’t mean he won’t get there. He might! It means he’s engaging in extraordinary conduct to get there.

It’s the last bullet I find particularly interesting. In the December 8 hearing, AUSA Andrew DeFilippis explained, “We did a meeting w/Mr. Baker in which we did not touch on charged conduct. We did not produce to defense.” That is, they’re withholding at least one 302 of a Durham interview in this investigation with Baker. Judge Christopher Cooper responded that he, “won’t disturb USG’s view that this is not discoverable.”

So on the one hand, Durham’s prosecutors are arguing that a conspiracy not yet charged creates conflicts for an Igor Danchenko indictment that doesn’t implicate any paid members of the Hillary campaign. But on the other hand, they’re arguing that the same investigation is sufficiently bracketed that they’re not required to provide Sussmann the records of what exposure Baker himself may have that might persuade him to change his story.

Sussmann’s attorney Sean Berkowitz observed that Baker had obviously changed his story. Durham’s team explains that’s because Baker refreshed his memory (though what we’ve seen of the contemporary records suggest there are two possible readings of them). But Sussmann could well argue that, because of criminal exposure himself, Baker changed his story to reflect what Durham wanted it to be.

As I have said, repeatedly, Durham needs Sussmann to have lied to have any hope of building this conspiracy case, and if he fails, each of the parts are far weaker.

And while claiming the conspiracy case he has not yet charged creates already existing conflicts, he’s still going to withhold the evidence of the conspiracy he’s trying to create.