Spygate Conspirators Start Selling Their Hoax To A Washington DC Jury, But The Facts Don’t Fit

The Hillary Clinton campaign did not want its attorney, Michael Sussmann, to share the Alfa Bank data with the FBI, jurors were told yesterday during the defense’s opening arguments in the special counsel’s criminal case against Sussmann. But the information known to date, as well as the modus operandi of the Spygate players throughout the years they peddled the Russia-collusion hoax, render this argument laughable.

On Tuesday, trial in United States v. Sussmann began in earnest following a day of jury selection. At issue is whether the former Clinton campaign attorney lied to former FBI General Counsel James Baker when Sussmann provided him data and whitepapers purporting to show the existence of a secret-communications network between the Russian-based Alfa Bank and Donald Trump. Special Counsel John Durham’s team claims Sussmann lied when he shared the Alfa Bank “intel,” saying he wasn’t acting on behalf of a client, while, in fact, Sussmann represented both tech executive Rodney Joffe and the Clinton campaign.

Prosecutor Brittain Shaw set the stage for the jury, telling the 12 jurors and four alternates during opening argument that “Sussmann’s actions were part of ‘a plan to create an October surprise on the eve of a presidential election’ and to get the FBI to investigate, arguing the plan ‘largely succeeded.’”

Sussmann and Joffe “leaked the Alfa-Bank allegations to the New York Times,” Shaw continued, but “when that wasn’t published immediately, Sussmann brought a sense of urgency to the FBI about the media being on the verge of running a story.” According to prosecutors, “the FBI getting involved would make the story ‘more attractive’ to the press” and “Sussmann’s goal was to ‘inject’ the FBI into a presidential election.”

Not so, Sussmann’s lawyer Michael Bosworth countered, telling the jury in the defense’s opening argument that his client “had a genuine interest in national security” and was concerned about the data at a time when questions about Trump’s connections to Russia were swirling. According to Sussmann’s team, the Clinton campaign planned “to take this new weird thing public,” and they handed it to The New York Times. That’s what the campaign wanted—press coverage that hurt Trump and helped Clinton.

“The meeting with the FBI is the exact opposite of what the Clinton campaign would’ve wanted,” Bosworth told the jury, suggesting “the FBI quashed the news story after learning about it from Sussmann.” “The FBI meeting is something they didn’t authorize, they didn’t direct him to do, and they didn’t want him to do,” Sussmann’s lawyers argued. But once the Times was ready to publish the material, Sussmann called Baker “to help the FBI” “and warn them that a story was coming,” the defense claimed.

The evidence on all fronts suggests otherwise. First, emails exchanged between reporters and Peter Fritsch, a co-founder of the investigative research firm, Fusion GPS, that Perkins and Coie had hired on behalf of the Clinton campaign, indicate the Times was nowhere near “ready to publish the material” when Sussmann handed it off to Baker on September 19, 2016.

For instance, in one thread between Fritsch and the Times’ Eric Lichtblau, bearing the subject line “alfa and trump” and dated October 5, 2016, the duo were discussing Alfa Bank data published on Reddit, apparently by April Lorenzen. At that point, Fritsch is still telling the Times he has “no idea” where the material came from, but that “it’s either someone real who has real info or one of the donald’s 400 pounders,” whatever that meant. Fritsch then adds that the “de vos stuff looks rank to me,” in reference to the supposed communications between the Michigan health system’s computer and Alfa Bank.

Another email thread from October 18, 2016 also indicates the Times was not ready to publish the story. In that thread, Fritsch is pushing Reuter’s Mark Hosenball to run the Alfa Bank story. When Hosenball told him “the problem is that the nature of the data is way above my level of competence,” Fritsch responds, “it’s everyone’s problem” and then suggests he call David Dagon at Georgia Tech.

Then, on October 31, 2016, hours before Slate published the Alfa Bank story, in promoting the about-to-break news to Reuters, Fritsch wrote the “USG,” meaning the “United States government,” is “absolutely investigating.” This email shows Fusion GPS knew the value an FBI investigation added to a story it was pushing for the Clinton campaign.

A second problem with Sussmann’s storyline that the FBI meeting was “the exact opposite of what the Clinton campaign would’ve wanted” because it caused the government to quash the New York Times article flows from the fact Sussmann did not originally tell Baker the name of the outlet supposedly poised to publish the story.

In his congressional testimony, Baker explained that after he handed the Alfa Bank material off to the counterintelligence division, they wanted “more time to evaluate it before the media started publishing stuff.” According to Baker, agents asked him to “go back to Sussmann and find out who in the media is going to publish this because we might want to ask them to delay.”

In his testimony, Baker was fuzzy on the details and did not remember whether Sussmann had mentioned the media having the Alfa Bank material during their initial September 19, 2016, meeting or only later during a follow-up conversation. (If the latter, that will really throw a wrench in Sussmann’s theory of defense.)

What Baker stated unequivocally, however, was that Sussmann had not originally identified The New York Times as the outlet supposedly ready to run the story, and that it was only later when Baker followed up with Sussmann that they learned that fact. The FBI then “went to the New York Times” and “started a series of conversations with them to try to get them to slow down,” he said.

If Sussmann’s goal were truly to provide the FBI with a heads-up of the impending story, as his attorneys argued yesterday, he accomplished that objective on September 19, 2016. To achieve that goal, Sussmann would have no reason to answer Baker’s follow-up question concerning the name of the media outlet ready with the Alfa Bank story. In fact, as a lawyer, he would have a good reason to refuse: It was in the Clinton campaign’s interest for the story to run.

But if Sussmann instead sought to spur the media into action, sending the FBI into the arms of The New York Times proved a perfect plan, as it made the Alfa Bank story more marketable.

Here, we see a third problem with Sussmann’s line of defense: From the Steele dossier to the FISA surveillance of Carter Page, the Clinton campaign repeatedly fed the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies supposed “intel” on Trump, which it also peddled to the press. Then it used leaks of the government’s investigation into Trump’s supposed connections with Russia to drive more media coverage of the Russia collusion story.

Yet Sussmann’s legal team told the jury the FBI meeting was something the Clinton campaign “didn’t authorize,” “didn’t direct him to do” and “didn’t want him to do.” That line of argument presents prosecutors with the perfect opening to inform the jury of the Clinton campaign’s modus operandi, and it will likely do so with the questioning of Sussmann’s former legal partner Marc Elias, who is scheduled to testify later today.


Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.

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This Week’s Spygate Trial Is Bad News For Hillary Clinton

This Week’s Spygate Trial Is Bad News For Hillary Clinton

Subpoenaed Fusion GPS employee Laura Seago is likely to stay mum during questioning at the criminal trial of Michael Sussmann that starts this week. Her silence will be yet further evidence that the Hillary Clinton campaign financed and seeded the Russia collusion hoax to both the press and U.S. intelligence agencies.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin this morning in a D.C. federal court in the criminal case against former Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann. While Sussmann faces a single charge of making a false statement to former FBI General Counsel James Baker, proof of that federal crime requires prosecutors to show Sussmann lied when he shared Alfa Bank data and whitepapers with Baker, telling the FBI lawyer that he was not acting on behalf of a client.

To prove that lie, Durham’s team, led by long-time prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis, will present evidence to the jury that Sussmann, in fact, was acting on behalf of two clients—the Clinton campaign and tech executive Rodney Joffe. The special counsel has already previewed much of the evidence it intends to present over the course of the expected two-week trial.

Prosecutors will first seek to establish that the Alfa-Bank hoax—a conspiracy theory that claimed Donald Trump had established a secret communications channel with the Russia-based Alfa Bank—originated with Sussmann’s client, Joffe, but was then shared with the Clinton campaign through its Perkins and Coie attorneys. The testimony of Georgia Tech researcher Dave Dagon, whom the special counsel gave immunity to last summer, will be key in this regard.

In the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Dagon worked closely with Joffe and the originator of the Alfa-Bank data, April Lorenzen, reviewing the data and a whitepaper supposedly showing the Russia-Trump connection. According to Durham’s indictment, Dagon also collaborated with Joffe and Lorenzen to craft another conspiracy theory related to the Russian-made Yota cell phones. In February 2017, Sussmann provided the CIA data related to the Yota cell phones, claiming that the Russian phones were typically used by top Russian officials and that the data showed the cellphones being in multiple locations near Trump, including in the executive office building of the president.

Dagon’s role, however, extended further, with him serving as the go-to expert to push the Alfa Bank story in the media. Emails reveal that the private investigative firm Fusion GPS, which Perkins and Coie hired on behalf of the Clinton campaign, pushed Dagon on reporters skeptical of the Alfa Bank story. Dagon’s testimony concerning his assistance to Fusion GPS in these efforts connects the Alfa-Bank hoax to the Clinton campaign because it was Perkins and Coie who hired Fusion GPS and not Joffe.

While Dagon holds some insight on Fusion GPS’s role in feeding the Alfa-Bank hoax to the media, prosecutors have also subpoenaed Fusion GPS’s “tech maven” Seago to testify. In response, Seago’s attorney, Holly Pierson, informed the government that Seago would invoke her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination absent a court order of immunity compelling her to testify at trial. Last month, on a motion by the special counsel, presiding judge Christopher Cooper entered an order immunizing Seago and compelling her to testify.

The court’s order, however, addressed solely Seago’s right not to incriminate herself, and did not address the question of attorney-client privilege. Another ruling last week by the D.C. federal judge addressed Joffe and the Clinton campaign’s claims of attorney-client privilege.

In that order, the court held that internal Fusion GPS emails related to “ordinary media-relations work” undertaken on behalf of the Clinton campaign were not protected by attorney-client privilege. Other emails, though, including eight emails with their attachments exchanged between Sussmann, Joffe, and Fusion GPS’s Seago, were protected by attorney-client privilege according to the court.

While the court’s order last week addressed only the few dozen emails at issue, the court noted it “will apply the principles set forth above to any assertions of privilege during witness testimony at trial.” Consequently, if prosecutors seek to inquire of Seago about communications she had with Joffe about the Alfa-Bank data and whitepapers, Seago is likely to respond that she cannot answer the questions based on attorney-client privilege.

Such a rejoinder, however, during the highly publicized Sussmann trial will force focus on the basis of that claim. And the premise underlying the court’s ruling that communications between Seago, Joffe, and Sussmann were protected by attorney-client privilege was that Joffe shared a “common interest” with the Clinton campaign.

Testimony by Seago that Fusion GPS worked with Joffe to push the Alfa-Bank conspiracy theory would further the special counsel’s goal of establishing that Sussmann represented Joffe and the Clinton campaign when he met with Baker; but her hiding behind attorney-client privilege would as well.

In fact, according to court filings the special counsel issued trial subpoenas to both the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee “requesting the testimony of witnesses regarding the assertion of attorney-client privilege in front of the jury,” illustrating that Durham’s team sees value in the jury hearing from witnesses that the Clinton campaign sees itself as the client related to communications relevant to the Alfa Bank data.

Likewise, if Seago refuses to answer questions regarding conversations she had with Joffe and others regarding the Alfa Bank data, prosecutors can still win from that loss, with jurors learning from the assertion of privilege that the Alfa Bank theory arose from communications with Joffe, on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

The real loser, though, will be Hillary Clinton, who risks the spectacle of a court ruling during public proceedings that Seago’s communications with Joffe were protected by attorney-client privilege given Fusion GPS’s role of assisting the Clinton campaign. And that is but a sliver of the evidence likely to come out during Sussmann’s trial connecting Clinton to Spygate.


Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.

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Fusion GPS Loses Its Fight Over “Privileged” Documents

Fusion GPS Loses Its Fight Over “Privileged” Documents


Fusion GPS Loses Its Fight Over “Privileged” Documents

And – how Joffe’s “privilege” can be overcome

By Techno Fog via The Reactionary

We’ve documented the ongoing battle to obtain Fusion GPS e-mails and documents in the Michael Sussmann case. At issue in the Sussmann case are 38 e-mails and attachments between and among Fusion GPS, Rodney Joffe, and Perkins Coie.

These 38 e-mails and attachments are among approximately 1,500 documents that Fusion GPS withheld from production to the grand jury based on “privilege.”

What Fusion GPS has to produce.

Today, the court in the Sussmann case made an important ruling and rejected, in large measure, Fusion’s assertion of attorney-client or work-product privilege:

Fusion GPS will have to produce these documents to Special Counsel Durham by May 16, 2022. What do these e-mails and documents contain? The court’s order provides guidance, stating they relate to:

Internal Fusion GPS e-mails discussing the Alfa Bank data and e-mails circulating draft versions of the Alfa Bank white papers that were “ultimately provided to the press and the FBI.”

Here are some examples of what these e-mails might include. These are privilege logs in Fusion GPS’s other litigation relating to the Alfa Bank hoax.

The other emails.

This leaves 16 e-mails and documents remaining. For now, Durham will not get them. These are divided into two categories:

  1. Eight of the e-mails involve internal communications among Fusion GPS employees. The court was “unable to tell from the emails or the surrounding circumstances whether they were prepared for a purpose other than assisting Perkins Coie in providing legal advice to the Clinton Campaign in anticipation of litigaiton.” Coming from the court, that’s a long way of saying that the sworn declarations of Fusion/Clinton lawyers (Levy and Elias) were sufficient to meet the “privilege” burden. This doesn’t mean that Durham can’t overcome this hurdle – just that it hasn’t been overcome yet.
  2. The other eight e-mails and attachments include those among Fusion GPS’s Laura Seago, Sussmann, and Rodney Joffe. The court observed that the e-mails are consistent with Joffe’s assertion of privilege.

With respect to the Joffe e-mails, we note that he is still a subject – perhaps a target – of the Special Counsel’s investigation. Here’s a portion of the transcript from an evidentiary hearing in the Sussmann case that discusses their ongoing investigation into Joffe:

Because the investigation into Joffe is ongoing, it makes sense that the Special Counsel is hesitant to disclose to the court information that could overcome this purported “privilege.” Keep in mind the crime-fraud exception, where communications are not considered privileged where they “are made in furtherance of a crime, fraud, or other misconduct” (citation omitted). In other words, the Special Counsel may still be able to get Joffe’s e-mails – assuming Joffe is charged under 18 USC 1031. He can also get them through the grand jury process, as we saw with Mueller’s investigation of Paul Manafort.1

I’ll also add that the fact that privilege applies to some of these documents strengthens the Special Counsel’s argument that Sussmann was representing a client when he met with then-FBI General Counsel James Baker in September 2016.

As to the e-mails and documents Durham will obtain, he cannot use them during trial. The court considered Durham’s efforts to be too close to the May 16, 2022 trial date to allow these e-mails and documents into trial. I’m not sure that matters. Sussmann is facing a false statement charge, and the court observed these e-mails are not “particularly revelatory.”

Finally, while “Court takes no position on the other approximately 1500 documents that Fusion GPS withheld as privileged,” we can assume based on this ruling that the majority of those documents would not be privileged. Durham will likely get most of them.

For those interested: After I wrote this post, New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau filed this request for a protective order. Lichtblau will be called as a witness by Sussmann’s attorneys to discuss “communications between Mr. Sussmann and Mr. Lichtblau” – meetings at which Rodney Joffe was present (that confidentiality privilege was waived).

The Special Counsel has refused to limit Lichtblau’s testimony to that narrow topic:

Durham is taking this position because Lichtblau was in contact with Peter Fritsch (and Glenn Simpson) of Fusion GPS leading up to the 2016 election. Fritsch was feeding Lichtblau Fusion “opposition research” (what we might accurately call bullshit), and Lichtblau was at least somewhat receptive, though not salivating like Franklin Foer. These are relevant to the broader “media relations” strategy that Sussmann and Fusion GPS pursued on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Here are the e-mails:

**********

(TLB) published this article by Techno Fog via The Reactionary with our appreciation for the coverage

Header featured image (edited) credit: Durham/FOX NEWS screen shot

Emphasis added by (TLB) editors

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Court Agrees To Let Spygate Cabal Hide Some Of Their Emails From The Grand Jury

Court Agrees To Let Spygate Cabal Hide Some Of Their Emails From The Grand Jury

Tech executive Rodney Joffe may assert attorney-client privilege for communications he had with employees of Fusion GPS because those communications furthered Joffe and the Clinton campaign’s common interest, a federal judge presiding over the criminal case against Michael Sussmann ruled yesterday. Prosecutors will now be greatly limited in the material they may elicit from one of the two witnesses granted immunity in exchange for their testimony against Sussmann.

Sussmann, whose trial in a D.C. federal court on a false statement charge is set to begin on Monday, scored a victory Thursday when presiding judge Christopher Cooper rejected Special Counsel John Durham’s attempts to present the jury copies of emails previously withheld by Joffe, the Clinton campaign, and the Democratic National Committee as privileged. The ruling came in response to Durham’s motion to compel Fusion GPS to provide the court, for in camera review, 38 emails the investigative research firm withheld from the grand jury based on the Clinton campaign’s claim of attorney-client privilege and work-product privilege. The latter protects notes, memoranda, and other communications capturing the mental impressions of an attorney, or those helping an attorney prepare for litigation.

Of the 38 emails, the court held that the Clinton campaign “had no valid basis to withhold 22 of” them. Those emails, the court concluded, did not concern legal advice but involved Fusion GPS employees’ interactions “with the press as part of an affirmative media relations effort by the Clinton Campaign.” “That effort,” the court noted, “included pitching certain stories, providing information on background, and answering reporters’ questions.”

Among the emails related to the “ordinary media-relations work” undertaken on behalf of the Clinton campaign were “internal Fusion GPS discussions about the underlying data and emails circulating draft versions of one of the background white papers that was ultimately provided to the press and the FBI.” Because those emails were not written in anticipation of litigation, but instead related “solely to disseminating the information they and others had gathered,” the court held the emails were not protected by either attorney-client privilege or work-product privilege.

Although the court held those 22 emails and the related attachments were not protected by attorney-client privilege, Judge Cooper nonetheless concluded that the special counsel’s office waited too long to file its motion to compel. “As a matter of principle,” the court explained, it would not “put Mr. Sussmann in the position of having to evaluate the documents, and any implications they might have on his trial strategy, at this late date.” Accordingly, the court held, “the government will not be permitted to introduce the emails and attachments that the Court has ruled are not subject to privilege.”

In reaching this conclusion, Judge Cooper noted that the emails did not appear “particularly revelatory,” suggesting there will be little harm to the special counsel’s case against Sussmann from the court’s ruling that the emails will be inadmissible at trial. And beyond the Sussmann case, the court’s ruling inures to the special counsel’s benefit because it establishes a precedent for Durham’s team to seek access to other communications withheld based on the Clinton campaign’s claims of attorney-client privilege. In total, there were nearly 1,500 other documents Fusion GPS withheld as privileged that the special counsel’s office may move to compel the production of as part of future grand jury proceedings or trials.

While that aspect of yesterday’s ruling proves positive for the broader special counsel’s investigation, the court’s conclusion that 16 of the 38 other emails remain privileged creates larger problems for Durham’s team. Eight of those emails also involved internal communications among Fusion GPS employees, the court noted, but because the court was “unable to tell from the emails or the surrounding circumstances whether they were prepared for a purpose other than assisting Perkins Coie in providing legal advice to the Clinton Campaign in anticipation of litigation,” the court deferred to claims by Fusion GPS’s attorney Joshua Levy and Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias that the emails related to legal advice.

Given that Elias maintained all the emails were protected by attorney-client privilege, the court’s unquestioningly accepting his word seems strange. And if a court applies the same standard to assess whether the remaining approximately 1,500 emails are privileged, the special counsel’s office may face challenges obtaining much that matters.

But it was the court’s ruling concerning the final eight emails that has the most immediate effect on the special counsel’s office, namely its prosecution of Sussmann for allegedly lying to former FBI General Counsel James Baker. The last eight emails, with attachments, consisted of two email chains initiated by Joffe to both Sussman and Fusion GPS employee Laura Seago. In opposing disclosure of the email threads, Joffe asserted that “the purpose of the [] communications at issue was to obtain [Fusion’s] assistance in cybersecurity and technical matters to allow Mr. Sussmann to provide [Mr. Joffe] competent, informed legal advice.”

The court held that Joffe’s communications to Sussmann were protected by attorney-client privilege even though the emails included a non-lawyer, Seago, because attorney-client privilege extends to communications by third parties that an attorney hires to facilitate “the effective consultation between the client and the lawyer.” In reaching this conclusion, the court reasoned that Seago’s “involvement related to the technical analysis of the data, which would naturally inform Mr. Sussmann’s advice to his client about the data.”

The court, however, ignored the fact that Fusion GPS, for whom Seago worked, was hired by Perkins Coie to assist the Clinton campaign and the DNC, not Joffe. And Joffe did not pay for Fusion GPS’s services, nor did Perkins Coie charge Joffe. Further, as the special counsel noted in its briefing of the issue, “Perkins Coie also had no agreement, contract, or other arrangement reflecting that Fusion GPS was providing services specifically to aid Perkins Coie’s legal representation of [Joffe].”

Nonetheless, the court held the email threads between Joffe, Sussmann, and Seago were protected by attorney-client privilege based on case law holding communications that further “a common interest” are protected. What the court didn’t say, though, but what must be true under privilege law and “the common interest rule” is that the court believed the communications furthered a common goal of Joffe and the Clinton campaign.

“The joint defense privilege,” or “the common interest rule,” is “an extension of the attorney-client privilege that protects from forced disclosure communications between two or more parties and/or their respective counsel if they are participating in a joint defense agreement.” The common interest rule “protects communications between the parties where they ‘are part of an on-going and joint effort to set up a common defense strategy’ in connection with actual or prospective litigation.” That rule applies to communications subject to the attorney-client privilege, including communications with technical experts retained to assist in the legal defense.

In this case, as prosecutors stressed in their briefing, there was no “formal or informal legal relationship” between Joffe and the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Case law holds, however, that the “parties need not agree in writing to pursue a common interest; the doctrine permits an exchange of confidential information when the parties have clearly and specifically agreed in some manner to pool information for a common goal.” But “without a written agreement, the party’s burden of proving that a statement was made in the common interest will undoubtedly be more difficult.”

Yet, even without a written agreement, the court found a “common interest” existed to protect Joffe’s communications with Fusion GPS’s Seago, who was hired by Elias to provide legal support to the Clinton campaign. And what was that “common interest?”

According to Joffe, he hired “Sussmann to assist him in a specific legal matter – namely, to advise him how to share sensitive information concerning an extremely litigious Presidential candidate with either investigative journalists or Government agencies without revealing his identity and exposing himself to potential liability, frivolous litigation, and/or threats of violence and/or harassment.”

So, in concluding a “common interest” existed between Joffe and the Clinton campaign, the court implicitly also found “the parties have clearly and specifically agreed in some manner to pool information for a common goal,” here the goal of feeding the press and the government the Alfa Bank hoax.

The end results then are that the special counsel’s office cannot compel Fusion GPS to turn over the eight emails between Joffe, Sussmann, and Seago. But yesterday’s holding has broader consequences for the trial because, in closing its 11-page opinion, the court noted that it “will apply the principles set forth above to any assertions of privilege during witness testimony at trial.”

That means if prosecutors seek to elicit testimony from Seago, or any other employee of Fusion GPS for that matter, on various communications with Joffe, the court could rule the questions out of bounds based on attorney-client privilege. Given that the special counsel was forced to provide Seago with immunity to obtain her testimony at Sussmann’s trial, the court’s ruling yesterday represents a setback to Durham’s case.

Durham does have a few options, including asking the appellate court to resolve the issue of privilege before the trial starts. Prosecutors may instead decide to push forward and play any claim of privilege by Seago on the stand to their advantage, using it as further evidence that Sussmann was representing Joffe and the Clinton campaign when he presented Baker with the Alfa Bank material. They may also point to the “common interest” underlying the privilege analysis as proof that yes, there was a joint venture between the Clinton campaign, Joffe, and others, sufficient to overcome the defendant’s hearsay objections to other evidence.

Whether yesterday’s ruling represents an overall loss to Sussmann or the special counsel is yet to be seen, but what is clear is that it is another damning indictment of Hillary Clinton.


Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.

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Clinton Lawyer Michael Sussmann’s Latest Defense Strategy: Litigate Trump-Russia Collusion Lies

Clinton Lawyer Michael Sussmann’s Latest Defense Strategy: Litigate Trump-Russia Collusion Lies

With trial set to begin in just over a week in a Washington D.C. federal court in the criminal case against Michael Sussmann, the former Clinton campaign attorney has revealed his defense strategy: put Donald Trump on trial for colluding with Russia.

Given the heavily slanted anti-Trump jury pool living in the district, it is no surprise that Sussmann’s defense team would seek to play on the Orange-Man-Bad sentiments likely living loudly in the eventual jurors. But a court filing from late yesterday reveals that Sussmann’s lawyers hope to make Trump and his supposed Russia affiliations a focus of the trial.

On Thursday, Sussmann and Special Counsel John Durham’s legal teams filed their respective objections to each other’s proposed trial exhibits. The Special Counsel’s office objected to three categories of exhibits Sussmann appears poised to present to the jury, including: (1) emails related to Sussmann’s work on cyber issues for the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign; (2) notes taken by an FBI agent concerning his investigation of the Alfa Bank allegations and notes taken during a March 6, 2017 briefing by the FBI for the Department of Justice on various Trump-related investigations; and (3) a series of more than twenty news articles about Trump and Russia, which prosecutors listed in a table for the court.

The Special Counsel acknowledged there may be some relevance to the first two categories of trial exhibits, but prosecutors argued that Sussmann must nonetheless establish the documents do not constitute inadmissible hearsay. The third category of supposed evidence in the form of news articles, however, has “no evidentiary or factual basis,” according to Durham’s team.

Those articles, the Special Counsel noted in its court filing, “appear to relate to (i) the DNC hack, and/or (ii) Donald Trump’s purported illicit ties to Russia.”

“News articles regarding such matters are not themselves probative of the charged conduct in any way,” Durham explained. And “permitting the defense to admit the above-listed series of news articles would amount to the ultimate ‘mini-trial’ – of the very sort that will distract and confuse the jury without offering probative evidence,” the Special Counsel stressed in objecting to the admission of the twenty-some articles that date from May 14, 2016, to August 15, 2016.

The Special Counsel did not specify what that “mini-trial” would consist of, but a quick skim of the article titles makes clear Sussmann’s goal is to put Trump on trial for colluding with Russia.

From the first article, “Election 2016: Trump Goes His Own Way with Putin—Warm words and push to improve ties with Moscow aren’t shared by Obama, GOP rivals“, and onward, the media coverage Sussmann seeks to present to the jury consists of a tour de force of the press pushing the Russia collusion hoax. And as with the Alfa Bank hoax that Sussmann and Fusion GPS peddled to the press, much of the coverage Sussmann seeks to rely upon seems to find its roots in efforts by the Clinton campaign to seed the Trump-Russia story with friendly media.

For instance, The Time’s article Sussmann seeks to admit as evidence, entitled, “Donald Trump’s Man, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia,” quotes Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. Mook, of course, launched the entire Russia-collusion hoax live on CNN on the convention floor to distract from news that the DNC had worked to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

Time Magazine’s coverage also relied on reporting by the Slate’s Franklin Foer. Emails since made public reveal Foer worked hand-in-glove with Fusion GPS to frame Trump as a Russian operative, with Foer eventually “breaking” the Alfa Bank story shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

The Washington Post’s similarly titled article, “Here’s what we know about Donald Trump and his ties to Russia,” pushed another pre-election conspiracy theory, implying that the Trump-connected Felix Sater was Russian mafia. To the contrary, since unsealed documents show Sater served as a vital asset to our intelligence community.

Sussmann nonetheless seeks to admit these and other articles at his trial, and his legal team will surely argue they are admissible because they will establish his concern over the Alfa Bank data and whitepapers was genuine. But, as Durham argues, the articles should nonetheless be excluded because of the “unfair prejudice” that will result.

“Unfair prejudice,” as the Special Counsel notes, results if there is “an undue tendency to suggest [making a] decision on an improper basis, commonly, though not necessarily, an emotional one.” Said otherwise, “evidence is unfairly prejudicial ‘if it appeals to the jury’s sympathies, arouses its sense of horror, provokes its instinct to punish, or otherwise may cause a jury to base its decision on something other than the established propositions in the case.”

Or, divorced from its legalese, prosecutors are complaining that Sussmann seeks to present to the jury “evidence” that Trump colluded with Russia so jurors will let Sussmann off scot-free. That the Clinton campaign pushed much of that other Russia-collusion coverage matters not to Sussmann because he knows it will be equally irrelevant to an anti-Trump jury.

But it should matter to the judge because Trump is not on trial and the visceral hatred of Trump and Putin — especially now with Russia’s war in Ukraine — make the articles framing Trump as a Russian stooge unfairly prejudicial to the prosecution.

So, watch for the court to exclude those exhibits, while allowing Sussmann to nonetheless argue he approached the FBI out of a genuine concern for our national security. And don’t be surprised if the D.C. jury buys it.


Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.

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Why The Hillary Clinton Campaign Can’t Hide 38 Documents From The Special Counsel

Why The Hillary Clinton Campaign Can’t Hide 38 Documents From The Special Counsel

Documents made public last week by the Federal Election Commission reveal that Hillary Clinton campaign payments to Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on Donald Trump were not treated as legal expenses. These newly released documents eviscerate the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign’s attempts to hide behind attorney-client privilege in the special counsel’s criminal case against former Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann.

Sussmann, who awaits trial in a D.C. federal court later this month on the charge that he made a false statement to former FBI General Counsel James Baker, is currently fighting to keep prosecutors from seeing 38 documents withheld from the grand jury based on claims of attorney-client privilege. In early April, Special Counsel John Durham’s team filed a motion to compel those secreting the documents to provide them to the court to allow the judge to assess, in camera, whether they were properly withheld. In response, Sussmann argued the special counsel had waited too long to force the issue and that his criminal case was the wrong forum to litigate the question.

The day after the former Clinton campaign attorney filed his response opposing in camera review of the material, his “fellow Spygate hoaxers sought to join in Sussmann’s efforts to keep the documents concealed” by seeking to intervene in the case. Last week, the trial court granted the flurry of motions to intervene, authorizing tech executive Rodney Joffe, Fusion GPS, Perkins Coie, the DNC, and the Clinton campaign to file briefs opposing disclosure of the documents.

On Wednesday the court will hear oral arguments on the special counsel’s motion and decide whether the 38 documents must be turned over, initially to the court and then eventually to prosecutors. While Durham’s team previously had a strong case that the documents were not protected by attorney-client privilege, a document dump last week by the FEC further strengthens the prosecutor’s position.

A little more than a month ago, news broke that the FEC had fined the DNC and the Clinton campaign more than $100,000 related to those organizations’ reporting of fees paid in 2016. Those fees were paid to Fusion GPS for opposition research but marked on financial disclosures as legal expenses remitted to its law firm, Perkins Coie. Until Thursday, however, the basis for the FEC’s conclusion that probable cause existed that the DNC and Clinton campaign had misreported the purpose of those disbursements remained buried in the bureaucracy.

The now-released file about the FEC’s investigation into the DNC and the Clinton campaign contains a bevy of material. It includes, most relevantly, memoranda prepared by the FEC’s Office of General Counsel and approved by the FEC.

The memoranda conclude that probable cause supports a finding that both the Clinton campaign and the DNC misrepresented the purpose of the payments to Fusion GPS. While the political organizations reported the payments to Fusion GPS as “legal services” or “legal and compliance consulting,” the FEC concluded probable cause existed that the expenses instead related to opposition research.

The memoranda—one issued related to the DNC and the second addressing the complaint against the Clinton campaign—begin with the FEC general counsel’s office reciting the now well-known facts, beginning with the players. Perkins Coie served as general counsel for the DNC during the 2016 election cycle, the memoranda say. Then, in April 2016, Perkins Coie hired Fusion GPS to perform “a variety of research and consulting services.” The memoranda then recount the evidence the FEC general counsel reviewed, which “included invoices, account statements, copies of checks, and wire transfers.”

That evidence, the FEC concluded, showed “the DNC paid Fusion $777,907.97 for opposition research” while reporting the work as “legal and compliance consulting.” Similarly, the FEC concluded the Clinton campaign inaccurately reported $175,000 of payments to Fusion GPS for opposition research as “legal services.”

Rather than fight the FEC’s conclusion, the DNC and Clinton campaign entered settlement agreements with the agency, agreeing to pay a fine and refrain from similar violations in the future. While not conceding the violations found by the FEC, the DNC and the Clinton campaign nonetheless agreed they would “not further contest the Commission’s findings.”

After the DNC and the Clinton campaign filed their motions to intervene in the Sussmann case, the attorney for The Coolidge Reagan Foundation—the organization that had filed the complaints against the DNC and the Clinton campaign with the FEC—dispatched a three-page letter to the special counsel’s office. The foundation’s letter from its counsel Dan Backer summarized the key details about the FEC’s recent decision, then suggested the DNC and Clinton campaign’s agreement not to “further contest the Commission’s findings” should prevent them from asserting attorney-client privilege in the Sussmann case.

“The Government should not permit HFA and the DNC to adopt conflicting positions in different proceedings, depending on the federal agency against which they are litigating,” the foundation argued, adding that the trial court may find those breaches of the settlement agreement “material in ruling on any privilege claims.”

While the special counsel’s office made no mention of the FEC’s findings in its response to the DNC and the Clinton campaign’s filings, the foundation’s letter to Durham highlighted a second point that now proves prescient. In his letter, Backer noted that although the FEC memoranda “will not be made public for another week,” the details uncovered in the FEC investigation will likely be useful to the special counsel in attempting to counter the claims of attorney-client privilege pushed in the Sussmann litigation.

Indeed, the FEC memoranda released last week provide additional evidence countering the DNC and the Clinton campaign’s claims of privilege not previously highlighted in the special counsel’s briefing.

For instance, the Clinton campaign reported payments of $175,000 to Perkins Coie as payments for “legal services,” but the FEC memorandum stressed that the Perkins Coie invoices did not treat all of the charges as related to “legal services.” Rather, the invoices reviewed by the FEC showed that in billing the Clinton campaign Perkins Coie distinguished between fees for “legal services rendered” and fees for “professional services — other.” The only service billed as “legal services rendered,” the FEC noted, related to the $5,000 monthly retainer fee paid to Perkins Coie. Conversely, all of the charges related to Fusion GPS’s work charges appeared as “professional services—other.”

The FEC memorandum also stressed that the invoices Fusion GPS sent to Perkins Coie for the services rendered on behalf of the Clinton campaign listed “a monthly retainer fee plus additional fees labeled as ‘Russia Research’ or ‘Russian language researcher.’” Those Fusion GPS charges included payments “Fusion made to its sub vendors, Nellie Ohr, Graham Stack, Edward Austin Limited, and Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd.” The sub-vendors all conducted opposition research for Fusion GPS related to Trump, the FEC memorandum explained, again countering the proposition that the subcontractor and its vendors were assisting Perkins Coie in providing legal services to the Clinton campaign.

Similarly, the FEC memorandum discussing the charge against the DNC noted that it reported paying Perkins Coie $66,500 on August 16, 2016, for “Research Consulting,” while later invoices categorized the payments to Perkins Coie as fees for “legal and compliance consulting.” The FEC found the initial category of “research consulting” captured the accurate purpose of the expenditures and indicated the DNC realized “research consulting” represented the more appropriate classification of the expenses

The invoices also showed that Perkins Coie charged the DNC for the entire portion of the fees invoiced by Fusion GPS. This fact suggested Perkins Coie served as simply a pass-through entity for Fusion GPS’s opposition research. This concerned the commissioners, as a transcript of the hearing made clear: Merely running bills through a law firm could not convert them into legal expenses, the commissioners stressed.

While the FEC’s analysis of the payments to Fusion GPS focused on whether the DNC and the Clinton campaign properly reported the purpose of the expenses, and not on whether an attorney-client relationship existed for purposes of privilege, the evidence discussed provides the special counsel additional ammunition to argue in support of an in camera review of the documents, and their eventual disclosure to prosecutors.

No matter how the court resolves the issue of attorney-client privilege, though, the FEC’s memoranda expose the Clinton campaign and the DNC’s attempts to hide their funding of the Russia collusion hoax. When the Sussmann trial begins later this month, the country will learn even more details of the breadth and depth of the conspiracy when those behind the Alfa Bank hoax testify—with or without the 38 documents now in dispute.


Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.

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Durham unmasks Alliance between Media, Democrat dirt diggers: False Trump Russia Story

Durham unmasks Alliance between Media, Democrat dirt diggers: False Trump Russia Story


Durham unmasks Alliance between Media, Dem dirt diggers: False Trump Russia story

Court filings show plan to introduce evidence that Clinton campaign flooded media with “unverified derogatory information” on Trump.

By John Solomon

Just days after Hillary Clinton emissaries Christopher Steele and Michael Sussmann approached the FBI in September 2016 with dirt that would infuse the Russia collusion probe, the campaign’s opposition research firm sent some of the same information to New York Times journalists.

“Gents good to see you yesterday,” a Fusion GPS executive wrote the reporters. “Sounded like you might be interested in some of the attached russia-related material. these are internal, open source research drafts, as agreed, pls treat this as background/not for attribution. as you’ll see it’s all easily replicated anyway.”

The invitation to further dirty up Donald Trump continued: “Can also send you a [name]/Toronto memo once i dig it out. I’m skipping over [name] and [company name]. believe your guys have done that up … leave it to you to distribute internally, or not, as you see fit. don’t believe sunny isles/hollywood or panama or toronto have been touched by brands xy or z. amazingly, don’t think anyone has done up the trump tower poker ring story either. pretty vivid color there.”

The missive is one of hundreds of emails that Special Counsel John Durham has obtained between Clinton campaign operatives and journalists that spread “unverified derogatory information” about Donald Trump, spawning the false Russia collusion narrative shortly before Election Day 2016. They’ve now been made public in court filings.

Durham recently disclosed several communications with reporters in a filing designed to reject the Clinton campaign’s claim that its Steele dossier and other research should be shielded from public view at an upcoming trial because it was covered by attorney client privilege.

Durham’s argument is straightforward: Attorney-client privilege doesn’t apply to materials the campaign distributed widely to third parties.

But his filing also puts the traditional media on notice that when Sussmann’s trial on a charge of lying to the FBI begins next month, the unholy alliance between traditional media reporters and the Democrat machine will be laid bare for the world to see.

And it is clear prosecutors have a clear theory that much of the information spread and then reported by the news media was glaringly weak if not outright false. Durham’s filings refer to the Clinton opposition research alternately as a “red herring,” “unverified” “too obvious” to be true, or containing a “very weak link.” In some cases, those were words used by the very researchers helping assemble the materials.

Yet the traditional media reported it and re-reported it for nearly two years before Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded there was no evidence of a Trump-Russia conspiracy to hijack the 2016 election.

“One of the famous fake news outlets likes to say, ‘Democracy dies in darkness.’ They’re exactly right,” former Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican House Intelligence Committee chairman who helped uravel the Russia collusion narrative, told Just the News. “They’re the ones who have created the darkness, and democracy does die. It just happens to be the fake news media that’s actually creating this.”

Kash Patel, Nunes’ former chief counsel on the committee, said traditional news media outlets are ignoring or downplaying much of the bombshell revelations in Durham’s filings because “the mainstream media, the fake news media, cannot stand how right we were and how wrong they are.”

Whatever the coverage, Durham’s filings make abundantly clear the Clinton campaign used the media to spread uncorroborated Russia allegations to dirty up Trump at the same time its emissaries were trying to get the FBI, the CIA and the State Department to investigate the same dirt.

The Clinton campaign and its opposition research team “triggered a sizeable outflow of unverified derogatory information into the media, the government, and the public,” Durham wrote in one filing.

In another he added: “The documents produced by Fusion GPS to date reflect hundreds of emails in which Fusion GPS employees shared raw, unverified, and uncorroborated information — including their own draft research and work product — with reporters. And they appear to have done so as part of a (largely successful) effort to trigger negative news stories about” Trump.

Durham said the flooding of the news media was so egregious that it obliterated any claim by the Clinton campaign that Fusion’s work was attorney-client privileged work designed to advise on libel issues.

“One would expect contemporaneous emails and documents to reflect that Fusion GPS and/or its clients exercised some degree of caution and care before publicizing unverified or potentially inflammatory materials,” but they did not, Durham noted.

The most recent Durham filing lays out several contacts Fusion GPS and the Clinton team had with news media, including The New York Times, ABC News and Slate magazine.

The first media contact noted by Durham dates to May 2016, well before the Steele dossier was crafted or the FBI contacted.

“On May 14, 2016, a Fusion GPS employee emailed a Slate reporter who would publish an article about the Russian Bank-1 allegations several months later,” the court fling noted. “In the exchange and subsequent emails, the employee shared portions of research that Fusion GPS was conducting regarding a Trump advisor.”

By July, the campaign research team expanded its contacts, including to the Wall Street Journal, to which it “conveyed information Fusion GPS had gathered regarding, among other things, Trump Advisor-1, Russian Bank-1, and a purported board member of Russian Bank-1 who later would appear in the Fusion GPS white paper that the defendant provided to the FBI.”

Some of Durham’s newly released information shows how the Clinton campaign pointed reporters to elected officials who would confirm or react to the Russia information.

For instance, the prosecutor noted that a Fusion GPS executive urged a reporter at the Wall Street Journal to “call [a named U.S. Representative] or [a named U.S. Senator],” stating, “I bet they are concerned about what [Trump Advisor-1] was doing other than giving a speech over 3 days in Moscow.”

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, told Just the News on Friday that Durham is showing just how closely the media, the Democratic establishment and some rogue elements in U.S intelligence worked together to perpetrate the false Russia story in 2016 — a pattern he said was repeated when the same forces falsely portrayed the Hunter Biden laptop as disinformation in 2020.

“What we all suspected all along is that the Clinton campaign was really pushing this,” he said. “And we didn’t know that they just made it up out of whole cloth. But that looks like exactly what they did.”

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Blocking evidence: Clinton campaign tries to keep memos from Durham’s upcoming trial

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(TLB) published this article with permission of John Solomon at Just the News.  Click Here to read about the staff at Just the News

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Emails Surface More Evidence Hillary Clinton Paid For Anti-Trump Disinformation Operation

Emails Surface More Evidence Hillary Clinton Paid For Anti-Trump Disinformation Operation

Evidence continues to mount that the Hillary Clinton campaign paid former MI6 agent Christopher Steele to launder fraudulent opposition research through U.S. intelligence agencies.

Newly published internal emails reveal that before Fusion GPS hired Steele on behalf of the Clinton campaign to dig up dirt on Donald Trump, the opposition-research firm began peddling several of the same Russia collusion lies that the former MI6 agent would later detail in the Steele dossier. This fact highlights a significant aspect of the Spygate scandal that deserves further focus and condemnation: Democrats’ outrageous exploitation of intelligence credentials and connections to launder scurrilous accusations against a political enemy.

Since early 2018, when the then-Chair of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes exposed in a four-page memorandum evidence that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act during the 2016 presidential election cycle, Americans open to reality have been slowly learning of the breadth of the Spygate scandal.

Attention during this time rightly focused first on FISA abuse and the FBI’s use of unverified “intel” to obtain a court order to surveil former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. As the scandal continued to unravel, the categories of impropriety multiplied, from deep-staters illegally leaking to the media to build the collusion narrative and later to force the appointment of a special counsel, to the selection of the “right people” in the form of rabid partisans to staff the Crossfire Hurricane team.

Another underlying aspect of the scandal only became clear recently with the prosecution of former Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann. Proceedings in Special Counsel John Durham’s false statement criminal case against Sussmann reveal Democrats paid credentialed individuals connected to U.S. intelligence agencies to pass, to both the press and the government, invented evidence of Trump colluding with Russia.

Sussmann, who previously worked for the DOJ, represents one such connected individual whose credentials served to hide the Clinton campaign’s responsibility for creating the Russia-collusion disinformation. Over the last several months, filings in the special counsel’s criminal case against Sussmann have exposed how he played his relationships with FBI and CIA agents to score meetings to pass on data and “white papers” related to the Alfa Bank and Yota phone Russia hoaxes, while hiding their origins.

Now, a batch of emails between Fusion GPS and journalists made public earlier this week in the Sussmann case after the special counsel’s office inadvertently filed them on the public docket suggest Steele was paid for the same reason: his credentials and connections would hide the political nature of the hit.

Those emails reveal that the month before Fusion GPS hired Steele, it had begun spinning the tale that the Trump campaign-connected Carter Page served Russian interests. In mid-May 2016, Fusion GPS’s Jake Berkowitz emailed Slate reporter Franklin Foer about Page. The note, which includes several links with prefatory sentences about Page, reads as a collaborative effort to investigate the Trump advisor.

Peter Fritsch, the co-founder of Fusion GPS, also joined in the email thread. It continued a few days later, with Berkowitz sharing with Fritsch and Foer his latest “research” on Page. That email included a couple of names of “former partners” of Page and a link to a Medium.com article critical of Page. The Medium article also attacked Trump’s then-volunteer campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, whom the FBI would later claim prompted the launching of Crossfire Hurricane when Papadopoulos supposedly bragged that the Russians had dirt on Hillary.

The Fusion GPS researchers continued to share the results of their probe into Page with Foer. Berkowitz on May 19, 2016 told his Fusion GPS boss and the reporter that “some Merrill bond issuances during Page’s tenure” at the investment banking firm of Merrill Lynch involved some “interesting characters,” including Alfa Bank and its founders. To that email, Foer responded that he is “going to do some work on Rick Burt,” whom he bets “does some work for the Russians.” Foer would then claim in a follow-up email that Burt was on the Alfa Bank board.

Foer incorporated the early research he exchanged with Fusion GPS in his Slate piece, “Vladimir Putin has a Plan for Destroying the West—and It Looks a Lot Like Donald Trump,” which cast Page, Papadopoulos, and the Alfa-Bank-connected Burt as Russian-compromised associates of Trump. Foer was also the “journalist” who ran the Alfa Bank tale at Slate just two weeks before the presidential election. Emails exchanged in late June between Fritsch and Foer also show Fusion GPS focusing on Sergei Millian, with Fritsch declaring that Millian is “clearly kgb.”

Fusion GPS continued to exchange emails over the next three months with Foer and other Democrat scribes, such as the Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger and Mark Hosenball from Reuters. Millian was a subject of a July 24, 2016 email sent by Fusion GPS’s other founder, Glenn Simpson, to Hamburger. In that late-July email, Simpson provided the Post’s “journalist” three email addresses for Millian, suggesting a push by Fusion GPS to have reporters focus on Millian as part of the Russia-collusion hoax.

These emails prove significant much beyond exposing the symbiotic relationship that existed between the Clinton-funded Fusion GPS and the unpaid propagandists in the press. That’s because the timing and targets of the communications indicate Democrats paid for Steele to stamp their opposition research with an MI6 imprimatur.

The law firm of Perkins Coie first hired Fusion GPS in April 2016 to conduct opposition research on Trump on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. But Fusion GPS did not retain Steele until June 2016, with Steele’s initial memorandum being first dated June 20, 2016. By then, however, Fusion GPS had already targeted Page and highlighted Alfa Bank as suspect. Fusion GPS’s communications with the press pre-Steele also focused on Page’s role as an advisor for the Trump campaign and various connections to Alfa Bank.

Steele’s dossier would later seemingly confirm Fusion GPS’s framing of Page as a Russian agent based on the numerous lies Steele’s “primary sub-source,” Igor Danchenko, fed the former MI6 agent. Among his other lies, Danchenko, who is currently under indictment for making false statements to the FBI, falsely claimed that Millian had provided detailed intel related to the Trump campaign and Page.

While Steele did not name Danchenko or Millian in his memoranda, his dossier not only identified Page but framed Page as a Russian agent. The Steele dossier then served as the basis for the FBI to obtain a FISA court order to surveil Page, and in turn, the Trump campaign.

The DOJ’s Office of Inspector General has already excoriated the DOJ and FBI agents involved in obtaining FISA surveillance orders for Page for misconduct, but the blame extends further to the FISA court. It issued the unconstitutional surveillance orders based on Steele’s work as a former MI6 agent.

No wonder Fusion GPS paid Steele. They needed his credential as an MI6 agent to provide gravitas to their opposition research and to hide the Clinton-campaign roots of the attacks on Trump. The Clinton campaign also needed Steele to exploit his government contacts, which the former spy did by passing the dossier off to his handler, his pal Bruce Ohr, and later the U.S. State Department. Steele thus served as a facade for Democrats’ attempt to frame Trump as a Russian patsy.

The email dump earlier this week, which represents but a fraction of “the hundreds” of emails between Fusion GPS and reporters, further reveals this reality by showing that Fusion GPS already had the storyline it paid Steele to compile well in hand before they retained the former MI6 agent. The same could be said for the journalists.


Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.

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