The Blitzkrieg On Bill Barr And John Durham Is Just Beginning

The Blitzkrieg On Bill Barr And John Durham Is Just Beginning

The New York Times is terrified of what Special Counsel John Durham has uncovered during his more than three-year investigation into intelligence and law enforcement agencies. There is no other explanation for why the outlet went from publishing “All the News That’s Fit to Print” to piloting a month-long probe to tarnish Durham and former Attorney General William Barr, only to follow a few days later with an op-ed parroting the nonsensical points. 

The first swing at Barr and Durham came on Thursday when The New York Times’ leading Russia-collusion hoaxers, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner, published “How Barr’s Quest to Find Flaws in the Russia Inquiry Unraveled.” As I detailed on Monday, the hit piece consisted of “one part chutzpah and two parts mendacity,” with the authors — among other things — declaring the special counsel’s investigation a failure even before Durham released his final report, and only then by ignoring the already public evidence of misconduct by members of the Crossfire Hurricane team.

The New York Times obviously planned a one-two punch, running on Monday an op-ed penned by editorial board member David Firestone, entitled “Bill Barr’s Image Rehab Is Kaput.” Firestone’s blow failed to land as well, with the former Times reporter and editor merely repeating many of the original misguided attacks on Barr.

For instance, Firestone referenced Savage, Goldman, and Benner’s reporting that Barr would regularly meet with Durham to discuss his progress and would advocate “on his behalf with intelligence officials,” with Firestone declaring such involvement verboten because “attorneys general are not supposed to interfere in a special counsel’s investigation.” 

While Firestone avoided the more comical complaint Savage and his crew presented on Thursday — that Barr and Durham “sometimes dined and sipped Scotch together” — the premise that Barr acted inappropriately in regularly meeting with Durham to discuss his investigation is fatally flawed for two reasons. 

First, Barr did not appoint Durham as a special counsel until Oct. 19, 2020, with Durham’s work from May 2019 until then unrelated to the regulations governing special counsel appointments. And the Times’ original reporting noted that those “weekly updates and consultations about his day-to-day work” were only “at times” and likely ended long before Barr appointed Durham as special counsel.

No Conflict of Interest

But even if Barr continued to meet regularly with Durham from Oct. 19, 2020, to when Barr departed as attorney general two months later, so what? Barr did not grant Durham the protections of a special counsel because of any conflict of interest that required Barr to avoid discussing the investigation with Durham. 

While the pertinent regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 600.1, provides for the appointment of a special counsel when the attorney general determines a “criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted” and the investigation or prosecution “would present a conflict of interest for the Department,” the relevant section also authorizes the naming of a special counsel when “other extraordinary circumstances” exist. 

In appointing Durham as special counsel, Barr expressly stated it was “in light of the extraordinary circumstances relating to these matters,” and the public interest warranted Durham continuing his “investigation pursuant to the powers and independence afforded by the Special Counsel regulations.” 

Because there was no conflict of interest underlying Barr’s appointment of Durham, there would be nothing nefarious about any conversations Barr had with Durham over the last two months of the probe. In fact, Barr could have micromanaged Durham on a daily basis and there would have been no impropriety. 

The op-ed argues otherwise by claiming, “the whole point of the system is to isolate the prosecution of sensitive cases from the appearance of political meddling.” There is no special-counsel-for-sensitive-cases rule, however, and that Durham was investigating whether Crossfire Hurricane was political doesn’t make his investigation political.

Painting It Political

But that is precisely what The New York Times wants Americans to believe: that politics prompted Barr to appoint Durham, and politics pushed Durham to reach whatever negative conclusion he details in his final report. This “it was all political” narrative will provide the foundation for The New York Times and the other media outlets that pushed the Russia-collusion hoax to demand the public disregard the substance of Durham’s final report once it’s released.

To further that narrative, Firestone’s op-ed sought to cement a caricature of Barr as a political creature beholden only to Donald Trump. “During his 22 months in office, he allowed his Justice Department to become a personal protection racket for his boss, Donald Trump,” Firestone declared. The Times editorial board member then went on a question-begging journey through Barr’s service as attorney general and his return to private life.

Barr acted politically here, because he was acting political, Firestone’s logic went. Here, though, the former Attorney General was not acting political, seeking instead to salvage his legal and ethical reputation, by not acting political. But decreeing by fiat that politics motivated Barr or Durham does not make it so.

A Closed Loop

The op-ed further advanced the “it was all political” narrative by parroting several of Savage, Goldberg, and Benner’s charges. And as the Russia-collusion hoax proved, if you repeat innuendos and accusations often enough, the public will believe they are true. 

Firestone also placed his imprimatur on the veracity of Thursday’s attack by telling readers, “The Times published the details of what really happened when Mr. Barr launched a counter-investigation into the origins of Robert Mueller’s report on the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.” So that’s that. The Times told Americans what happened, so there’s no need to read further — and especially not the Durham report when it is released.

The Times’ efforts to preempt the special counsel’s report are already gaining ground. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., pledged on Monday that the Senate Judiciary Committee will review Durham’s investigation, premising the supposed need for a congressional inquiry solely on The New York Times’ reporting. 

Sadly, we all know from the Russia-collusion canard what this means: The loop has been closed, and the circular reporting has begun. So now, as proof of the Times’ reporting on Barr and Durham, we have the fact that the Senate Judiciary Committee intends to investigate the special counsel probe.

Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and, 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.


Gaetz on Durham, The FBI are the Perpetrators Not the Victims

Last night, Congressman Matt Gaetz joined “Prime News with Jenn Pellegrino” on Newsmax to share his reaction to Igor Danchenko’s acquittal, and how the Durham investigation failed to bring accountability to the FBI. {Direct Rumble Link}

The evidence to prove Matt Gaetz perspective is brutally obvious.  John Durham never brought any issue to the surface that would indict the people within government. Durham focused exclusively on those outside government.   As Gaetz notes, the Durham investigation was structured to present the FBI as victims to outside forces.  WATCH:



Igor Danchenko Found Not Guilty on all Four Counts of Lying to the FBI

Igor Danchenko Found Not Guilty on all Four Counts of Lying to the FBI

Igor Danchenko was a well-known fabricator of (dis)information long before the FBI made the purposeful decision to enlist him in their Trump targeting efforts.  Specifically because Danchenko had no moral compass to the truth he was particularly useful for the FBI effort.  This was the big problem for John Durham in prosecuting Danchenko for material lies the FBI knew from the outset were false.

How does the same DOJ who used the lies for their political purposes, then prosecute the liar for the false information?  That was always the structural flaw in any case brought by Durham.  As a result, the trial was not so much about the lying Danchenko as it was about the lying FBI and their use of Danchenko.

A jury found Igor Danchenko not guilty on four counts of lying to the FBI, on four occasions.  (1) Danchenko told FBI agents he received a phone call in late July 2016 Sergei Millian. However, Danchenko knew he had never received a call from Millian. (2) Danchenko gave a false statement to FBI agents that he “was under the impression” that the late July 2016 call was from Millian. (3) Danchenko falsely stated to FBI agents that he believed he spoke to Millian on the phone on more than one occasion. And (4) Danchenko lied that he “believed he has spoken to [Millian] on the telephone,” when Danchenko well knew he had never spoken to Millian.

The FBI didn’t care about the details of the lies that were told to them; the lies served a purpose.  The FBI purpose was to use the Steele Dossier as the foundation for a fraudulent all-encompassing search warrant against the Trump campaign and presidency, using Carter Page.  That construct was always the motive of the DOJ/FBI use of Danchenko, Chris Steele and the infamous dossier that gave the DOJ the patina they needed for the FISA application.

The trial itself showed how corrupt the FBI and DOJ were in this scheme by: A) offering Chris Steele $1 million for proof of the dossier content.  B) By making Danchenko a confidential human source for two years to shield him, “sources and methods”, from investigative inquiry. C) By paying Danchenko $200,000 for his time as a useful tool and confidential human source.

As noted in the summary of the trial by Technofog:

[…] “What is more important is that which informs our understanding of the Trump/Russia investigation and the FBI/DOJ/Mueller misconduct that sparked Crossfire Hurricane and continued through the Mueller investigation. That information was revelatory. The institutions were on trial alongside Danchenko, with Durham recognizing in closing arguments that “the FBI mishandled the investigation at issue.” And the institutions rightly suffered. Danchenko might have been spared, but is there any reasonable doubt as to the FBI’s incompetence – and guilt?  (read more)

As CTH has stated from the outset of the entire scheme, the problem is institutional corruption.  The personnel, administration, leadership and participants, within the DOJ, DOJ-NSD and FBI are corrupt.

Institutions do not become corrupt by themselves.  People within the institutions are the cause of the corruption, and every person attached to the Trump-Russia investigation – including Robert Mueller, are corrupt.  It was a scheme in 2016, which became a coverup operation in 2017, which became an explosive institutional problem in 2019 which Bill Barr was trying to manage.

Institutional Preservation – Bill Barr applied the Bondo to the rusted framework of the DOJ and FBI, and John Durham applied the spray paint by not targeting anyone inside the justice department.

John Durham only focused, perhaps because he was only allowed to focus, on the external participants to the originating schemes.  One thing is clear, John Durham never once mentioned the corrupt nature of the Robert Mueller and Andrew Weissmann coverup operation.

Danchenko was represented by the same lawyers representing Hillary Clinton because at the heart of Danchenko’s intent was an effort to support Hillary Clinton in the 2016 October surprise they were constructing using fabricated claims of Trump colluding with Russia to win the election.

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — A jury has found Russian national Igor Danchenko not guilty on four false statements charges, declining to convict him for the allegations that the main source of British ex-spy Christopher Steele had lied to the FBI about his sourcing for the discredited anti-Trump dossier.

The jury reached their decision on Tuesday after less than two days of deliberations, delivering John Durham another defeat in his long-running investigation of the Trump-Russia investigators, after the special counsel lost another false statements case against a Clinton campaign lawyer in May. (more)

Washington DC protects itself.


Jury Deliberating in Danchenko Trial, Hillary Clinton Lawyers Defending Danchenko Blast the Prosecution in Closing

Closing arguments wrapped up on the trial of Igor Danchenko, the primary source who delivered fraudulent information to Christopher Steele for transmission to the FBI.  The jury now has the case and it’s likely they will not convict.

When you accept the FBI knew the Steele Dossier was a fabricated assembly of political dirt against Trump, the trial of Danchenko becomes more about the FBI corruption than lies by the defendant.   How can the same DOJ who willingly and willfully benefitted from the lies, now turn around and prosecute the liar.   Hillary Clinton lawyers providing the defense for Danchenko used this angle to criticize the prosecution in closing arguments.

(Via CNN) […] Danchenko lawyer Stuart Sears said prosecutors brazenly cast aside information that “doesn’t support their narrative that he’s a liar.” Sears pointed out how Durham turned on his own witnesses after they provided evidence that helped the defense.

“The special counsel attacked them mercilessly,” Sears said. “They attacked the credibility of the very witnesses they called in here, because they didn’t say what they wanted them to say.”  Sears added: “The government’s own evidence in this case proves that the defendant is not guilty.”

Durham’s team urged jurors to convict Danchenko on Monday, telling them to “look at his own words” in emails from 2016 that they believe prove that he later misled the FBI about his ties to a possible dossier source.  “You didn’t check your common sense at the courthouse door,” prosecutor Michael Keilty said. “You need to use it.”

Keilty said Danchenko gave a “shifting story” to the FBI agents who interviewed him in 2017, while they were trying to corroborate the explosive allegations in the dossier that Trump’s campaign was colluding with the Russian government to win the presidency.

“The FBI surveilled a US citizen for nearly a year based on those lies,” Keilty said, referring to the wiretaps of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The FBI affidavits used to secure those surveillance warrants included material that came from the Trump-Russia dossier.

Danchenko’s lawyer also blasted the Trump-era Justice Department for “exposing” him as an FBI informant and for launching the probe that led to his prosecution.

“He was trying to help the FBI, and now they’re indicting him for it,” Sears said.

As a paid informant, Danchenko significantly assisted multiple FBI probes between 2017 and 2020. But the FBI was forced to cut ties with Danchenko in late 2020, after the Justice Department indirectly outed him as a dossier source.

“He deserved more than to be exposed because a bunch of politicians put politics over national security,” Sears said. (read more)


Senior FBI Analyst: Bureau Offered Christopher Steele $1 Million to Corroborate Dossier 

Senior FBI Analyst: Bureau Offered Christopher Steele $1 Million to Corroborate Dossier 

The FBI offered former British spy Christopher Steele “up to $1 million” if he could prove the claims in his infamous dossier, according to a senior FBI analyst’s testimony on Tuesday in Special Counsel John Durham’s criminal probe into the origins of Russiagate.

FBI supervisory counterintelligence analyst Brian Auten’s testimony came during the first day of Durham’s criminal trial against Igor Danchenko.

Danchenko, a paid FBI informant and Steele’s primary source for the dossier, is accused of lying to the FBI.

As Breitbart News reported:

Durham is accusing Danchenko of lying to the FBI to protect Charles Dolan Jr., a communications consultant with close ties to the Clintons. He is also accusing Danchenko of lying to the FBI about communications with Sergei Millian, who was then president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, and whose supposed evidence helped convince the FBI to seek a surveillance warrant against Carter Page.

Auten interviewed Danchenko and Steele as part of the bureau’s Crossfire Hurricane team investigating an alleged connection between former President Donald Trump and Russia.

Auten testified the FBI offered Steele “up to $1 million,” which was ultimately never paid because Steele could not substantiate the claims made in his dossier.

“Yes, it did,” Auten reportedly told Durham when asked if the FBI offered Steele any incentive to provide corroborating evidence.

“Mr. Steele was offered anywhere up to a million dollars” for information “which could help prove the allegations,” CNN reported.

In addition to not providing corroborating evidence, Auten also testified that Steele refused to give the FBI the identity of his sources during their October 2016 meeting.

“No,” Auten said under oath when Durham asked if the FBI had any corroborating evidence for the Steele Dossier on the date the agency applied for a FISA warrant to spy on Trump adviser Carter Page.

Auten reportedly testified that the FBI sought corroborating evidence for the dossier from other U.S. intelligence agencies, to no avail.

Auten and other FBI agents met with Steele on October 3, 2016, after the FBI received Steele’s dossier on September 19, 2016. Despite the FBI not having corroborating evidence, Auten confirmed the agency relied on the dossier in its initial FISA application less than twenty days after the meeting with Steele.

Steele’s dossier “was commissioned by opposition research firm Fusion GPS and paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee through law firm Perkins Coie,” Fox News reported.

Durham’s criminal probe has already resulted in one guilty plea by former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted to doctoring an email to obtain a FISA warrant against Page.

Jordan Dixon-Hamilton is a reporter for Breitbart News. Write to him at or follow him on Twitter. 


The FBI Paid For Russian Disinformation To Frame Trump—And 7 Other Takeaways From Durham’s Latest Court Filing

The FBI Paid For Russian Disinformation To Frame Trump—And 7 Other Takeaways From Durham’s Latest Court Filing

The FBI put a contributor to the Hillary Clinton campaign’s Donald Trump smear dossier on FBI payroll as a confidential human source after investigating Igor Danchenko for allegedly spying for the Russian government, revealed Special Counsel John Durham in a court filing unsealed by a Virginia federal court yesterday. The filing contains this bombshell and seven other significant details about the Democrat-led plot to use U.S. intelligence agencies to deny Americans the results of their choice for president in 2016.

The FBI made Danchenko a confidential human source, providing him and the FBI’s use of him “national security” cover, in March 2017 and terminated that designation in October 2020, according to the court filing unsealed on Sept. 13. Danchenko is the originator of the false claim trumpeted all over global media that Donald Trump told prostitutes to pee on beds the Obamas had slept in in a Russian hotel.

The FBI had previously targeted Danchenko, Christopher Steele’s primary source, as a possible Russian agent. But after discovering Danchenko’s identity as Steele’s Sub-Source No. 1, rather than investigate whether Danchenko had been feeding Steele Russian disinformation, the FBI paid Danchenko as a CHS.

Trial for Lying to the FBI to Take Down a President

Danchenko faces trial next month on five counts of lying to the FBI related to his role as Steele’s primary sub-source. One count of the indictment concerned Danchenko’s denial during an FBI interview on June 15, 2017, of having spoken with “PR Executive-1” about any material contained in the Steele dossier. “PR Executive-1” has since been identified as the Clinton and Democratic National Committee-connected Charles Dolan, Jr. Also according to the special counsel’s office, Danchenko fed Steele at least two false claims about Trump that originated in part from Dolan.

The four other counts of the indictment concerned Danchenko’s allegedly false claims that he had spoken with a source whom he believed was the then-president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, Sergei Millian. Danchenko repeated that assertion during several different FBI interviews.

Danchenko’s trial begins next month, but two weeks ago, as part of the pre-trial process, the government filed a “Motion in Limine,” which seeks a ruling from the court on the admissibility of various evidence. While originally filed under seal, the court ordered the docket entry unsealed on Tuesday, making public more details about the case against the Russian national.

Here’s an overview of what we learned yesterday.

Witness: Danchenko Sought to Broker Putin’s Purchase of Classified Intel

While it has previously been reported that Danchenko was a subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011, the special counsel’s motion revealed more specifics. Specifically, the prosecution explained that “in late 2008, while the defendant was employed by a prominent think tank in Washington, D.C., the defendant engaged two fellow employees about whether one of the employees might be willing or able in the future to provide classified information in exchange for money.”

“According to one employee,” the court filing continued, Danchenko thought the employee “might be in a position to enter the incoming Obama administration and have access to classified information.” Danchenko allegedly then told the employee “he had access to people who would be willing to pay money in exchange for classified information.”

The think-tank employee relayed the information to a government contact, who passed it on to the FBI. The FBI then initiated a “preliminary investigation” into Danchenko but converted it to a “full investigation” after learning Danchenko “had been identified as an associate of two FBI counterintelligence subjects” and “had previous contact with the Russian Embassy and known Russian intelligence officers.” Durham also noted that Danchenko “had also informed one Russian intelligence officer that he had interest in entering the Russian diplomatic service.”

The special counsel further revealed the FBI closed its investigation in 2010 after incorrectly concluding Danchenko had left the country.

In its motion in limine, Durham’s team argues this evidence is important to its case because it will establish that Danchenko’s lies to the FBI were “material.” Specifically, the FBI argues that had Danchenko truthfully told the FBI that he had discussed some of the content in the dossier with Dolan, the FBI might have interviewed Dolan or obtained Dolan’s emails.

That line of inquiry would have revealed the possibility that Danchenko was a Russian asset, the special counsel’s motion argues, noting that “Dolan, on two separate occasions, stated in emails dated June 10, 2016, and January 13, 2017, that he believed the defendant was ‘former FSB’ and a Russian ‘agent.’”

Had the FBI learned from Dolan that Danchenko was connected to the Russian intelligence services, “this naturally would have (or should have) caused investigators to revisit the prior counterintelligence investigation,” Durham argues, and “raise[d] the prospect that the defendant might have in fact been under the control or guidance of the Russian intelligence services.”

While this revelation is spicy, Danchenko’s attorneys will quickly dispatch this argument by pointing out that if the FBI’s own counterintelligence investigation into Danchenko that included the details noted above didn’t “raise the prospect” that Danchenko was “under the control or guidance of the Russian intelligence services,” surely Dolan’s beliefs would not alter the trajectory of the investigation.

Further, because this evidence consists of “character” or “bad acts” evidence, even if it helps the government build its materiality argument, the court will likely rule it inadmissible as “unfairly prejudicial” to Danchenko, meaning that it may cause a jury to wrongly convict Danchenko because of his past conduct, not because of his current alleged crime.

The FBI Paid for Russian Disinformation to Target a U.S. President

A second shocker from the Sept. 13 court filing concerned Danchenko’s hiring as a paid CHS.

“In March 2017, the FBI signed the defendant up as a paid confidential human source of the FBI,” the special counsel revealed in the motion. It was not until October 2020 that “the FBI terminated its source relationship with” Danchenko.

Simply put: Our federal government paid for Russian disinformation to frame the president of the United States for colluding with Russia.

The FBI did this knowing that Danchenko “was associate of two FBI counterintelligence subjects”; “had previous contact with the Russian Embassy and known Russian intelligence officers”; “had also informed one Russian intelligence officer that he had interest in entering the Russian diplomatic service”; and, according to a think-tank employee, suggested he had contacts willing to purchase classified information.

Also, the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team continued to use Danchenko as a paid CHS even knowing his stories were fabrications. In fact, Mueller’s team was so focused on getting Trump, it completely ignored whether the Steele dossier included Russian disinformation.

Hillary Paid for Russian Disinformation Too

Not only did the FBI pay for Russian disinformation, so did Clinton, and she did so to interfere in the 2016 election. The public already knew from Durham’s (failed) prosecution of Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann that the campaign paid Fusion GPS for opposition research. Fusion in turn hired Steele to dig up dirt on Trump.

That trial also revealed that Clinton personally approved pushing a smaller aspect of the Russia-collusion hoax, namely the Alfa-Bank secret communications hoax.

From yesterday’s filing we now know the primary sub-source for the Steele dossier paid for by Clinton was not merely a Russian national who fabricated the “intel,” but also a suspected Russian agent. Tuesday’s motion also highlighted the fact that longtime Clinton backer “Dolan maintained a relationship with several high-ranking Russian government officials who appear in the Steele Reports.”

So, for all her vapors over Trump’s connections with Russia and his supposed collusion with Russia to interfere in the election, the evidence shows Clinton holds that dishonor.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Sources

Durham’s motion also revealed what appears to be the “tradecraft” of the spooks for hire, in the form of a February 24, 2016 email Danchenko sent his former boss, Cenk Sidar. Sidar, who ran the business intelligence firm Sidar Globak, asked Danchenko to review a report he had prepared.

After reviewing the draft, Danchenko emailed Sidar recommendations on how to improve the report, including the following suggestion: “Emphasize sources. Make them bold or CAPITALISED. The more sources the better. If you lack them, use oneself as a source (‘Istanbul-Washington-based businessman’ or whatever) to save the situation and make it look a bit better.”

The government seeks to admit this email to show that Danchenko followed a similar or “common plan” when working for Steele by creating sources “to save the situation,” such as what the prosecution maintains Danchenko did with Millian. This argument holds merit, and the trial court accordingly will likely allow Durham’s team to tell the jury about the email.

The FBI’s ‘Investigation’ Makes Maxwell Smart Look Like Jack Ryan

While corruption may be a better explanation than incompetence, either way the special counsel’s brief leaves the FBI looking like fools. First, the bureau closed an investigation on a suspected Russian asset after wrongly thinking Danchenko had left the country. Then the FBI paid that suspected Russian agent to serve as a confidential human source, with Danchenko then telling agents a litany of lies, including ones that should have been obvious.

For example, as the motion highlights, Danchenko claimed to agents that Millian might be the source for the “pee-tape” info. But those allegations appeared in Steele’s report dated June 20, 2016, and Danchenko “repeatedly informed the FBI that the first and only time he allegedly communicated with Millian was late July 2016.”

“Put bluntly,” the special counsel wrote, “these facts demonstrate that the defendant could not keep his lies straight, and that the defendant engaged in a concerted effort to deceive the FBI about the sourcing (or lack thereof) of the Steele Reports.” Unless they were corrupt, this indicates the FBI agents investigating Trump were a bunch of incompetent boobs.

The special counsel’s team further exposed the incompetence (or corruption) of the FBI when it introduced the public to Bemd Kuhlen, a German citizen who served as the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Moscow in June 2016, when the pee-tape tale was purportedly sourced. The Steele dossier described the source as “a senior (western) member of staff at the hotel.”

According to Durham, Kuhlen is prepared to testify at Danchenko’s trial that at the time he was the only “western” member of management at the hotel. Kuhlen will also testify that he never heard any story resembling Steele’s reporting until it became public and never discussed those claims with Danchenko.

If six years after the fact prosecutors could locate and question Kuhlen, the Crossfire Hurricane team could have done the same for Steele’s reporting, quickly disproving the dossier. If they wanted to, that is.

Steele Was Duped—That’s Our Story and We’re Sticking to It

Yesterday’s motion revealed another unsettling fact: Prosecutors appear poised to continue with the company storyline that Steele and in turn the FBI were duped. In its motion, the government notes that Danchenko “informed Steele that he met in person with Sergei Millian on two or three occasions,” and that Danchenko “subsequently informed the FBI that he had not in fact met with Millian on any occasion.”

So, how does the special counsel address this discrepancy? Danchenko “further stated to the FBI that Steele incorrectly believed the defendant had met in-person with Millian” and that “Danchenko had not corrected Steele in that misimpression.” It was all just a big misunderstanding, folks, until Danchenko lied to the FBI.

This short section of the motion shows Durham does not intend to expose the FBI’s complicity at Danchenko’s trial. While Durham may not want to put the FBI on trial, Danchenko has made clear that he intends to. Unless the special counsel’s team acknowledges the FBI’s role in the Russia collusion hoax, Danchenko will likely score the second acquittal.

Star Witness Says, ‘No, Thanks’ To Testifying

Four of the five counts against Danchenko concern Danchenko’s allegedly false statements to the FBI about a telephone conversation Danchenko claimed he had with an individual he thought was Millian. Under these circumstances, Millian would seem to be a star witness for Durham. But in the motion in limine, the special counsel revealed that Millian refuses to testify because of “concerns for his and his family’s safety (who reside abroad)” and because “he does not trust the FBI and fears being arrested if he returns to the United States.”

While “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,” Millian remains firm in his refusal. And who can blame him? Even if Durham can provide physical security for Millian, Durham doesn’t run the Department of Justice. As the recent raid on Trump’s home shows, the deep state will go to great lengths to get its enemies.

After establishing that it used its best efforts to arrange for Millian to testify at Danchenko’s trial, the government argues that because he is “unavailable,” as that term is legally understood, three emails Millian wrote to a friend are admissible, even if they are hearsay. Those emails show that a mutual acquaintance attempted to connect Millian and Danchenko and that Millian later figured out Danchenko was Steele’s source who invented the story of the phone call.

The government presents a persuasive argument that these emails should be admitted at trial, and the court will likely agree, meaning Millian’s prudent absence from the trial is unlikely to prompt an acquittal.

Strange Cyprus Things

A final takeaway from yesterday’s filing stems from the special counsel’s mention of Cyprus.

“On June 10, 2016, Dolan, while in Cyprus meeting with Olga Galkina (another source for the defendant), emailed a U.S.-based acquaintance regarding efforts to assist the defendant in obtaining a U.S. visa,” the motion says. It quotes the email: “Monday night I fly to Moscow and will meet with a Russian guy who is working with me on a couple of projects. He also works for a group of former MI 6 guys in London who do intelligence for business …. [H]e owes me as his Visa is being held up and I am having a word with the Ambassador.”

The special counsel’s office included these details to establish that Danchenko had lied to the FBI about facts beyond those contained in the indictment. This helps Durham’s case by showing Danchenko’s allegedly false statements were not mere mistakes. The reference to Cyprus, however, also raises an entirely new set of questions.

In addition to Dolan’s presence in Cyprus on June 10, 2016, where he met with another of Danchenko’s sources, we have a June 1, 2016 email to President Obama’s undersecretary for State Victoria Nuland noting that “Kathleen [Kavalec] is recommending [she] look at the first 10 days of July for a Cyprus trip.” Nuland made the trip on July 12, 2016.

On July 1, 2016, Steele emailed the DOJ’s Bruce Ohr, noting that Steele was traveling to Cyprus with his family on holiday from July 9 to 16, 2016.

Nuland’s presence in Cyprus at the same time as Steele seems a tad too coincidental to ignore. After all, Nuland, who “served as Kavalec’s boss at the bureau of European and Eurasian affairs, was the government official who approved an FBI agent in Rome meeting Steele in early July 2016.” Steele would later also meet with Kavalec in D.C. in October 2016 about his Trump reporting. Jonathan Winer, who knew Steele since 2009 and reportedly met with Steele in the Summer of 2016, appears to have arranged the Steele-Kavalec meeting.

The overlapping players and timeframe demand answers. Did Steele meet with Nuland in Cyprus? If so, was Steele alerted to Nuland’s travel plans? What did the duo discuss? Did Steele or Nuland meet with Dolan or the Cyprus sub-source?

While Cyprus may well be a nothingburger, the FBI launched a full investigation into Trump’s presidential campaign on less.

It’s extremely unlikely that Danchenko’s trial will answer any of these Cyprus questions. But future filings and the anticipated week-plus trial may fill in some of the other Spygate blanks.

Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and, 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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Justice Won’t Be Served In SpyGate Without John Durham Investigating More Confidential Human Sources

The Crossfire Hurricane and Robert Mueller Special Counsel teams undisputedly had a problem with confidential human sources, or “CHS.” The question remains whether John Durham’s team also has a problem — with double-standards.

Yesterday, The Federalist reported that on Friday a federal judge concluded, “[D]ocuments suggest that Stefan Halper ‘may have made clear misstatements to the FBI’ and may be responsible for ‘some falsehoods’ about Michael Flynn and Svetlana Lokhova…” The judge’s comments came during proceedings in Lokhova’s defamation case against Halper, with the potential “misstatements” and “falsehoods” concerning Halper’s interviews with FBI agents in August of 2016. 

According to electronic communications documenting the agents’ interview with Halper on August 11, 2016, Halper claimed to have witnessed Lokhova leave a dinner with Flynn, after which she “surprised everyone and got into [Flynn’s] cab and joined [Flynn] on the train ride to London.” Halper further “recalled that LOKHOVA ‘latched’ onto Flynn when he was at the [dinner.].”

The FBI’s summary of Halper’s comments added that he claimed to be “somewhat suspicious of LOKHOVA” and that he “believes that LOKHOVA’S father may be a Russian Oligarch living in London.” Halper repeated the story of Lokhova joining Flynn in a cab the next day during a second interview. But contrary to Halper’s claims, he did not attend the dinner at which Flynn spoke, Lokhova did not leave the dinner with Flynn, and she did not jump into a cab with him nor accompany him to London on the train.

In addition to Halper’s alleged lies to the FBI, Lokhova claims he repeated his false allegations about her and “General Flynn to various members of the media who, upon information and belief, include, among others, journalists working for the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.” In turn, according to Lokhova’s lawsuit, “many commentators, from national television hosts to ordinary citizens on social media, credited the false allegations that Plaintiff was a Russian spy who had ensnared General Flynn in a sexual or romantic imbroglio at the behest of the Kremlin.” Further, Lokhova’s complaint alleged, Halper’s claims to the FBI were “a key reason why the FBI opened a subpart of [the Crossfire Hurricane] investigation that specifically focused on General Flynn,” with the FBI targeting Flynn within days of Halper framing Lokhova as a honeypot.

The Federalist further revealed on Wednesday that the same electronic communications indicate Halper had lied to the FBI about former Trump adviser Carter Page. Specifically, the summary of the FBI’s debriefing with Halper documented Halper telling agents that he met privately with Page around July 18, 2016, and that “the purpose of the meeting was to ask the CHS if s/he would want to join the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser.”

In an exclusive interview with The Federalist in 2020, however, Page, who had not yet seen the electronic communications, unequivocally denied asking Halper “to be a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign.” “It is possible,” Page acknowledged at the time, “that they explored some ways Halper might get involved indirectly at some point down the road,” but it is “an extraordinary mischaracterization,” to say that he had asked Halper “to be a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign.”

Halper, however, was not the only problematic CHS involved in the investigation into Donald Trump’s supposed collusion with Russia. Christopher Steele, who had served as a CHS since 2013, reached out to his handler, Michael Gaeta, about Steele’s supposed “intel” on Trump. On July 5, 2016, Steele met with Gaeta, the later of whom was stationed in Rome at the time, telling Gaeta about Trump’s supposed concerning connections with Russia. Steele would later provide Gaeta with various memos that have since became known as the Steele dossier, with Gaeta in late July sending multiple memos to the New York Field Office.

The Christopher Steele Problem

Special Counsel John Durham’s November 2021 indictment of Igor Danchenko on charges that Danchenko lied to the FBI during questioning “related to his role as Steele’s ‘Primary Sub-Source’ for the notorious dossier that enabled Obama administration surveillance of the Trump campaign,” reveals one major problem with Steele serving as a CHS: Steele’s reporting was contrived. 

But the inaccuracy of Steele’s reporting forms but one problem with this second CHS. Steele, in conflict with bureau policies, “began meeting with journalists regarding information from his dossier in September 2016. Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Steele on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC, arranged the briefings with reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, Mother Jones and Yahoo! News.” Gaeta would later testify before Congress that he confronted Steele about the Mother Jones article and then cut him off as a CHS, explaining that by going to the media, “It told [him] that Steele was completely untrustworthy at that point as a source and could not be handled and would not be reliable.” 

Yet after terminating Steele as a CHS, the FBI continued to use Steele’s “intel,” with the fired CHS — instead of providing his reports to his handler — giving updates to Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr, who in turned shared Steele’s information with the FBI in a series of more than 12 interviews, including ones that post-dated both the election and the appointment of Mueller as a special counsel.

But it wasn’t merely that Steele peddled the dossier to the media in violation of FBI policy. “One FBI agent told the Justice Department inspector general that Steele ‘clearly’ hadn’t been truthful with FBI agents regarding his contacts with journalists.” The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act application submitted to the FISA court to obtain an order to surveil Page suggests the same, with the DOJ telling the FISA court that Steele “told the FBI that he/she only provided this information to the business associate and the FBI.”

Then after noting the consistency between the Steele dossier and a Yahoo! News article from September 23, 2016, the FISA application stated the FBI assessed that Steele’s “business associate or the law firm that hired the business associate likely provided this information to the press,” and that the FBI did not believe that Steele “directly provided this information to the press.”

However, as Jason Beale reported at The Federalist, “It is now public knowledge that Christopher Steele was the ‘well-placed Western intelligence’ source of Michael Isikoff’s September 2016 Yahoo News article. He admitted as much in a deposition to a United Kingdom court in May 2017.”

This apparent contradiction between what the FISA applications represented and what Steele testified to in his deposition led Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham to refer “Steele to the FBI and Justice Department in January 2018 for possible criminal investigation into whether he made false statements to the FBI regarding his contacts with journalists.” Nothing known, however, has come of the request for the DOJ and FBI to launch a criminal investigation into whether Steele lied to agents.

Conversely, Durham’s prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis revealed during the unsuccessful prosecution of former Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann that another former CHS connected to the Russia-collusion hoax, Rodney Joffe, remains the “subject” of an “ongoing” investigation. 

Joffe’s name first made headlines in September of 2016, when Durham indicted Sussmann with “one count of lying to FBI General Counsel James Baker when Sussmann provided Baker information purporting to show a secret communication channel between the Trump organization and the Russian-based Alfa Bank. Specifically, the indictment charged that ‘Sussmann lied about the capacity in which he was providing the allegations to the FBI,’ with Sussmann falsely stating ‘he was not doing his work on the aforementioned allegations for any client.’” 

The indictment charged that when Sussmann shared the Alfa Bank data with Baker, he really represented both the Hillary Clinton campaign and “Tech Executive-1,” with an internet sleuth later fingering Joffe as the unnamed tech executive and Joffe’s attorney then confirming that fact. While a jury acquitted Sussmann, the trial revealed that Joffe, beyond being behind the peddling of the Alfa Bank hoax, had served as a CHS for the FBI. Yet rather than providing his handler with the supposed Alfa Bank data, Joffe gave it to both Sussmann and another FBI agent, Tom Grasso. 

Grasso testified at Sussmann’s trial that while he was not Joffe’s handler, he “knew Joffe was a CHS,” and “had a long working relationship with Joffe and believed Joffe had provided credible information in the past.” Grasso further explained that he passed on Joffe’s Alfa Bank “tip” to the agents working the case in Chicago, but without informing them that Joffe had provided the data. Consequently, Joffe’s same Alfa Bank “intel” ended up coming to the FBI from two apparently different sources. 

Circular Reporting

Fusion GPS also peddled the Alfa Bank hoax formulated by Joffe to the media — with Clinton “personally okay[ing] her campaign minions [to give] the press the fake story about a Trump-Russia secret communication network.” Thus, as was the case with Steele, the Alfa Bank allegations spun from the media to the FBI and around to the media again. The press then interpreted the FBI’s investigation as confirming their sources, while the FBI thought (or pretended to believe), that the press’s reporting confirmed its sources’ intel. 

This circular reporting even found its way into the Carter Page FISA application, with the DOJ relying on two media reports to falsely represent Page as responsible for a supposedly more-conciliatory-to-Russia change in the Republican platform. In fact, so dizzying was the circular reporting related to Steele that the FBI even appeared confused by whether the “intel” came from the media or from Steele, as recently released notes show former FBI agent Peter Strzok telling the acting attorney general “that, based on ‘CROWN reporting,’ the FBI had ‘looked at [the Republican convention]’ and allegations that the Trump campaign had caused the convention to ‘soften [its] stance on Crimea and NATO’ in exchange for ‘Russian energy stocks.’”

However, Steele, whose code name was CROWN, had not included these accusations — which were false — in his dossier. So, either Strzok lied to the acting attorney general, or the FBI agent had wrongly attributed “intel” to Steele that had come from reporting by media outlets. 

More Confidential Human Sources

Not only did Joffe replicate Steele’s approach in serving as a CHS, by providing supposed intel to both the media and the FBI, but Joffe went further by using his well-connected swamp lawyer, Sussmann, to sidestep both his handler and the FBI in order to feed the CIA purportedly damaging information on Trump.

Specifically, in February of 2017, Sussmann used his connections to score a meeting with the CIA on behalf of Joffe. During that sit-down, in addition to giving the CIA agents updated information pertaining to the Alfa Bank hoax, “Sussmann provided the agency thumb drives with separate data files for the YotaPhone by the location of the ‘domain name system’ or DNS lookups, including one for Trump’s Central Park apartment, one for the [Executive Office of the President], one for Spectrum Health Care, and one for the Trump Tower.”

According to court documents, Sussmann told the CIA that the DNS data “indicat[ed] that a Russian-made Yota-phone had been seen by [Sussmann’s contacts] connecting to the WiFi from the Trump Tower in New York, as well as from a location in Michigan, at the same time that then-candidate Trump was believed to be at these locations.” A later investigation by Durham’s office “revealed that Joffe and his crew had obtained more complete data about the Yota phones and that data showed ‘the DNS lookups involving the EOP began at least as early as 2014,’ meaning before Trump came on the scene.” Yet, “the data provided to the CIA, however, omitted those DNS lookups from the material given to the CIA, misleading the agency.”

Joffe sidestepped his handler and the FBI again in March of 2017, “when he used Sussmann to provide the Department of Justice’s Inspector General information that ‘a specific OIG employee’s computer was “seen publicly” in “Internet traffic” and was connecting to a Virtual Private Network in a foreign country.”’” Nothing else is known about this “tip” from Joffe — other than the fact that the Office of Inspector General remained mum about it until Sussmann’s legal team alerted the Special Counsel’s office of the meeting, revealing the “DOJ’s OIG is not a team player.”

As of three months ago, special counsel prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis maintained that Durham’s team is still “looking closely” at Joffe, insisting there continue to be “ongoing investigative matters.” But Joffe is not the only CHS deserving a close look. And to date, it appears that Halper and Steele received, as most, a glance in their directions by the Special Counsel’s team.

If that proves to be the extent of Durham’s scrutiny of these other confidential human sources, the problem Americans will see will extend beyond the government’s use of CHS to target Trump: The public will see a double-standard of justice.

Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and, 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 Handwritten FBI And DOJ Notes The Special Counsel Just Released Are Huge

Why Handwritten FBI And DOJ Notes The Special Counsel Just Released Are Huge

Recently released handwritten notes from a briefing of the acting attorney general on the status of Crossfire Hurricane reveal the FBI either lied about the source of intel or the British intelligence community fed information to the U.S. agents investigating Donald Trump and his associates.

As part of the pre-trial discovery in the government’s prosecution of former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, the special counsel provided defense lawyers notes taken on March 6, 2017, during a high-level briefing of acting Attorney General Dana Boente about the then-ongoing investigation into supposed Russia collusion.

Boente, who held oversight of the DOJ and FBI related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation because of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s recusal, received an update during the meeting from the FBI’s then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, then-assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division Bill Priestap, and Counterintelligence Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. DOJ officials Tashina Gauhar, Mary McCord, and Scott Schools took notes during the briefing, and those notes became public during the Sussmann trial that ended in an acquittal last week.

Soon after the release of the notes, Hans Mahncke and Stephen McIntyre detailed for The Federalist, several passages that indicated the FBI had lied to the DOJ during the March 6, 2017 meeting in numerous ways. From the cryptic notes, Mahncke and McIntyre deciphered and exposed several significant false storylines sold to the acting attorney general, making their article a must-read.

While any lies, misrepresentations, or material omissions matter—or should, especially when told to the acting attorney general related to an investigation connected to the president of the United States, the note’s references to “CROWN reporting” prove particularly significant because of the FISA court’s insistence that the DOJ included Christopher Steele’s background as an MI6 agent in the FISA application prior to the secret surveillance court issuing an order to surveil Carter Page.

The phrase “CROWN Reporting” appeared multiple times in one set of handwritten notes taken during McCabe, Priestap, and Strzok’s March 6, 2017, FBI briefing of the DOJ and Acting Attorney General Boente. Next to “CROWN Reporting,” the notes referenced “convention,” Crimea” and “NATO” and “soften stance for exchange of Russian energy stocks.” These notations fell under the header of points related to Manafort.

A second reference to “CROWN source reporting” came during the FBI’s briefing of Boente concerning the investigation of Carter Page, with the notation following the general discussion of Page.

Huge Implications No Matter the Source

The notes do not elaborate on the “CROWN source” or who provided the “CROWN source reporting.” There are two possibilities, both of which have huge implications for the ongoing special counsel investigation.

First, the claimed “CROWN source” could be former MI6 spy Steele. To date, Steele remains the only person with a connection to British intelligence publicly known to have provided the FBI with information related to Trump and individuals connected to Trump during the Russia collusion investigation.

But if by “CROWN source” the FBI meant Steele, the individual briefing Boente lied to him in several ways, did so in a material way, and there is likely a paper trail that can confirm an earlier, similar lie by FBI agents.

While Steele had at one time served in the British intelligence service, his MI6 status ended long ago, when he retired in 2009 to start the private intelligence service Orbis Business Intelligence. Further, as the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported more than two years ago, Steele told the OIG that the source network he used to compile the memoranda, referred to colloquially as the Steele dossier, did not involve sources from his time as an MI6 agent. On the contrary, his sources were “developed entirely in the period after he retired from government service.”

So not only was Steele not a “CROWN source,” his supposed “intel” also lacked any connection to “Crown Source Reporting.” Accordingly, unless the FBI had a still publicly unknown “CROWN source” who provided the information on which agents briefed the DOJ during the March 6, 2017 meeting, they lied to the DOJ.

If They Lied, It Really Matters

Falsely attributing “intel” to a “CROWN source” proves significant, and not merely for Boente’s oversight of Crossfire Hurricane, but also for Boente’s decision to approve the third application to surveil Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). And the DOJ’s representation of a connection between Steele and British intelligence in the FISA applications appeared dispositive to the FISA court’s decision to authorize surveillance of Page.

Two little-noticed passages, separated by some 50 pages in the OIG’s 478-page report on FISA abuse, revealed the importance the FISA court put on Steele’s connection to British intelligence in ordering surveillance of Page. According to the OIG, before filing its official FISA application, the DOJ submitted a “read copy” to the FISA court to obtain feedback from the FISA court’s legal advisor on whether the application met the statutory requirements and on any issues of concern raised by the legal advisor or the FISA judge handling the application.

In the first read copy submitted to the FISA court related to Page, the application “contained a description of the source network that included the fact that Steele relied upon a Primary Sub-source who used a network of sub-sources, and that neither Steele nor the Primary Sub-source had direct access to the information being reported.” The draft application “also contained a separate footnote on each sub-source with a brief description of his/her position or access to the information he/she was reporting.”

After reviewing the read copy, the FISA court’s “legal advisor asked how it was that Steele had a network of sub-sources.” In response, the government’s Office of Intelligence (OI) attorney “provided additional information to him regarding Steele’s past employment history.”

The FISA court’s legal advisor then requested that additional information be included in the final application, resulting in the final version of the October 2016 FISA application including a footnote detailing Steele’s prior work for British intelligence. The FISA court granted the revised FISA application, ordering surveillance of Page to begin in October 2016. The FISA court renewed the surveillance order three additional times, once in December, again in March, when Boente signed the application, and finally on June 29, 2022, when Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein signed the final FISA application.

All of the applications referenced Steele’s past service in British intelligence, but, as noted above, Steele’s source network was unrelated to his government work and came entirely from his private work. Given that the FISA court’s legal advisor questioned “how it was that Steele had a network of sub-sources,” and that the advisor directed the OI attorney to expressly include Steele’s previous work as an MI6 agent in the application, the FISA court clearly believed Steele’s network of sources came from his time as a British agent.

Further, given the significance the FISA court placed on that fact, it seems likely the FISA court would have denied the surveillance order had it been told the truth—that Steele’s network of sources had been privately acquired.

FBI Liars Could Still Be Held Accountable

The FBI’s representation during the March 6, 2017 meeting that the supposed intel related to Manafort and Page came from “CROWN sources,”—again, assuming the agent meant Steele—suggests the Crossfire Hurricane team deceived the DOJ from the beginning, resulting in the OI attorney representing to the FISA court that Steele’s network of sources were sources used by British intelligence. That deception also likely affected Boente’s decision to sign the second renewal application.

While these events occurred more than five years ago, and a five-year statute of limitations governs false statement offenses, the D.C. Circuit has held that if a defendant engages in a scheme “to falisf[y], conceal[], or cover[]up” material facts, the limitations period does not begin to run until the scheme ends.

In this case, then, any FBI agents involved in concealing from the DOJ during the final preparation and review of the June 29, 2017, FISA application that Steele’s sources were not “CROWN sources” or connected to his work in British intelligence could still face criminal liability.

Go Get ‘Em, Durham

Further, while the Sussmann trial proved memories fail—sometimes conveniently—uncovering the individuals responsible for representing Steele’s source network as connected to his past life as an MI6 agent seems a relatively straightforward venture given what we learned from the special counsel’s conviction of Kevin Clinesmith.

Clinesmith pleaded guilty nearly two years ago to altering an email related to Page to make it appear that Page “was not a source” for the CIA. Clinesmith’s undoing came from the fact that in preparing the FISA application and renewals, the various government actors used email to confirm details, including with Clinesmith.

The OIG report on FISA abuse detailed that process, noting there were many “back-and-forth exchange[s]” “between the OI Attorney and the FBI, during which the OI Attorney asked many questions about Page, as well as about Steele’s reporting and the structure and access of his source network.” “To further address reliability, the OI Attorney sought information from the FBI to describe the source network in the FISA application,” according to the OIG report. And that information-gathering process included email exchanges and written summaries of briefings.

Either that briefing left the OI attorney with the impression that Steele’s source network came from his MI6 work, or after the FISA court legal advisor asked, “how it was that Steele had a network of sub-sources,” the OI attorney pushed the FBI for more information. If the latter, emails likely memorialize the exchanges.

Whether the FBI agents affirmatively misrepresented Steele’s source network as connected to his British intelligence work in their communiques with the OI attorney, and in turn the OI attorney relayed that information to the FISA court, is unknown to us, but hopefully not to Special Counsel Durham.

Even if no one lied to the OI attorney and he merely assumed Steele’s source network carried over from his time with MI6, a misrepresentation to Boente during the March 6, 2017, briefing that Steele was a “CROWN source” still matters because the FISA surveillance orders were renewed two more times after that meeting.

That, of course, is assuming the FBI meant Steele when they referenced a “CROWN source”—something not entirely clear. More on that shortly.

Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and, 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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