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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4 Takeaways From Spygate Colluders’ Mad Rush To Hide Their Tracks In Court

4 Takeaways From Spygate Colluders’ Mad Rush To Hide Their Tracks In Court

On April 19, a bunch of panicked participants in the Spygate scandal rushed the courthouse to intervene in the special counsel’s criminal case against former Hillary Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann. They hope to prevent prosecutors from accessing a few dozen documents that might further reveal their role in peddling the Alfa Bank hoax.

The motions to intervene came just one day after Sussmann also sought to keep the documents away from prosecutors. The special counsel has requested the trial court review the documents in camera to assess whether they are in fact protected by attorney-client privilege.

Here are the top takeaways from these filings.

1. Sussmann Seeks to Keep the Documents Secret Based on Procedure

Two weeks ago, Special Counsel John Durham filed a motion to compel third parties to produce 38 documents withheld from prosecutors in response to grand jury subpoenas based on claims of attorney-client privilege. In his motion, Durham argued that the communications between tech executive Rodney Joffe and employees of the investigative firm Fusion GPS were not privileged, and that documents the Clinton campaign refused to turn over were not protected by attorney-client privilege.

Sussmann faces trial next month on the charge that he lied to then-FBI General Counsel James Baker when he provided Baker “intel” supposedly showing that Donald Trump had established a back-door communication channel with the Russia-based Alfa Bank. Sussmann responded to Durham’s motion on Monday. In his response, Sussmann attacked the special counsel’s motion mainly on procedural grounds, claiming Durham “moved at the wrong time, in the wrong forum, using the wrong process, and seeking the wrong documents.”

The special counsel waited too long to litigate the privilege, Sussmann first argued, claiming that prosecutors knew, in some cases, for as much as one year that Clinton and Joffe were asserting attorney-client privilege. Now, with trial just weeks away, it is too late to allow the special counsel to obtain access to these documents.

Further, because the documents at issue were sought pursuant to grand jury subpoenas, Sussmann argues the special counsel was required to seek to enforce the subpoenas with separate proceedings before the chief judge of the district, not as part of its criminal case against him. According to Sussmann, the special counsel also improperly used the grand jury subpoena in the first instance to obtain what was clearly intended to be trial evidence. Lastly, Sussmann claims the documents are irrelevant to the limited criminal charge against him.

The special counsel has until Monday, April 25, 2022, to respond to these arguments. In the meantime, it will also need to respond to the flurry of third-party motions filed yesterday.

2. Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie Doth Protest Too Much

Yesterday saw four separate sets of motions to intervene, from would-be-intervenors Fusion GPS, Perkins Coie, Hillary for America, and Joffe. As of publication, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which together with Hillary for America had hired Perkins Coie, has not filed a motion to intervene.

While there is nothing surprising about Hillary for America and Joffe seeking to intervene to protect their communications, Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie’s involvement seems strange because it is blackletter law that the attorney-client privilege “belongs solely to the client.” In other words, it is Hillary for America (and the DNC) holding the privilege, not the law firm of Perkins Coie, nor the investigative firm, Fusion GPS, that Perkins Coie hired. Similarly, it is Joffe who holds the privilege and not Sussmann or Fusion GPS.

Watch for the special counsel’s office to oppose intervention by both Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie. Also, given that Hillary for America and Joffe both filed motions to intervene, the court may well deny Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie’s attempts to jump into the case and leave the dispute to the clients to litigate.

Of course, Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie have already filed their proposed briefs in support of maintaining the secrecy of the 38 documents, so denying their motions to intervene will have little practical consequence. One unforeseen consequence, however, may be that the special counsel’s office points to inconsistencies in Fusion GPS’s brief and prior statements made by its founders to counter Hillary for America’s claims of attorney-client privilege.

3. Joffe Seemingly Confirms the False Statement Part of the Crime

While Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie hold no right to attorney-client privilege, as Sussmann’s claimed client, Joffe will likely be allowed to intervene to assert his claim of privilege. In seeking to intervene, Joffe filed with the court his proposed response to the special counsel’s motion to compel the filing with the court of various documents concerning Joffe. In his response, Joffe seemingly confirms that Sussmann lied, just as the special counsel’s office alleged.

Joffe “engaged Mr. 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,” according to Joffe’s brief.

This acknowledgment tracks precisely what the special counsel alleged Sussmann did: Sussmann allegedly told the FBI and the CIA that he was not representing a client when, in fact, he represented Joffe in meeting with the agencies. During those meetings, Sussmann shared with federal agents the supposed Alfa-Bank “intel,” and in the case of the CIA, the Yotaphone material.

Sussmann’s lines of defense seem to be shrinking by the day, with the text he sent to Baker the day before their meeting providing strong evidence that Sussmann told Baker he was not representing any client in sharing the Alfa-Bank material. Now Joffe seemingly confirms that he hired Sussmann to determine how to achieve that end, i.e., handing off the Alfa Bank data without revealing his identity.

But just hiring Sussmann is not enough to protect Joffe from the special counsel’s subpoena, because Durham is not demanding Joffe’s communications with Sussmann. Rather, the special counsel’s office is seeking four emails (and attachments) between Joffe and an employee of Fusion GPS.

While Joffe claims that Fusion GPS served as “an intermediary” to Sussmann to assist Sussmann in providing legal advice to Joffe, that argument is likely to fail because there is no evidence that Sussmann retained Fusion GPS on behalf of Joffe—as opposed to on behalf of the Clinton campaign. And if Fusion GPS was not an intermediary between Sussmann and Joffe, then there is no attorney-client privilege for Joffe’s communications with Fusion GPS.

4. Hillary’s Chutzpah

Not too long ago, news broke the Federal Election Commission had fined the DNC and Hillary for America in the six digits after finding probable cause that they violated federal election law by misreporting the purpose of certain disbursements. The disbursements concerned payments made between July 15, 2016 and August 26, 2016 to Perkins Coie and were described in disclosure reports as “legal services.” That money instead went to Fusion GPS for purported “opposition research.”

While Hillary for America and the DNC entered into a conciliation agreement to resolve the issue without conceding the violations, they also agreed not to further contest the commission’s finding of probable cause. Yet yesterday Hillary for America filed a motion to intervene to prevent the disclosure of materials in the possession of Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie that are supposedly protected by attorney-client privilege, supporting its motion with, among other things, a declaration by former campaign manager Robby Mook.

In his declaration, Mook states that he believed “throughout the campaign that whatever work Perkins Coie performed, either through its own professionals or through any contractors it may have engaged to assist, the work was done for the purpose of providing legal services and legal advice to [Hillary for America.]”

Of course, what Mook believes and what he “believes” are likely two different things, given that Mook launched the Russia collusion hoax on behalf of the Clinton campaign live on CNN based on what he “believed” Russia was doing. But, in any event, what Mook believes is irrelevant—what matters is what the district court concludes in the weeks to come.


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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Will The Court Allow Special Counsel John Durham To See Clinton Campaign Documents?

Will The Court Allow Special Counsel John Durham To See Clinton Campaign Documents?

Late Wednesday, Special Counsel John Durham filed a motion to compel the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee, Fusion GPS, and Perkins Coie to provide the judge presiding over the Michael Sussmann criminal case copies of unredacted documents previously withheld from the government. The Clinton campaign and DNC have claimed the withheld or redacted documents are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Here’s what you need to know about yesterday’s filing.

First, the Background

Durham charged former Clinton campaign attorney Sussmann in September of last year in a one-count criminal indictment, alleging Sussmann lied to former FBI General Counsel James Baker when Sussmann shared data and white papers purporting to connect Trump to the Russia-based Alfa Bank. Sussmann allegedly told Baker he was sharing this “intel” on his own and not on behalf of any client. The indictment, however, charged that Sussmann in fact was acting on behalf of both the Clinton campaign and tech executive Rodney Joffe.

Following Sussmann’s indictment, the special counsel’s office served various subpoenas on those connected to the Alfa Bank hoax, including on the Clinton campaign; the DNC; Perkins Coie, the law firm representing the Clinton campaign; Fusion GPS, the investigative firm Perkins Coie hired; Joffe; and various tech companies Joffe is or was connected to.

Joffe refused to provide the subpoenaed documents, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The Clinton campaign, the DNC, Perkins Coie, and Fusion GPS withheld or redacted numerous documents, claiming these are protected by attorney-client or work product privilege.

Next, the Law

As Durham’s motion explains, attorney-client privilege protects communications “that a client conveys to his attorney for the purpose of security for an opinion on law, legal services, or assistance in a legal proceeding.” Such communications cannot be subpoenaed; the government also cannot question a witness about the content of such discussions. However, the party asserting the privilege has the burden of establishing that the communications are, in fact, privileged, and merely claiming they are is not enough.

While the attorney-client privilege applies generally only to communications between an attorney and a client, the privilege can extend to third parties under some circumstances. For instance, communications with non-lawyers hired to assist lawyers in the provision of legal services are privileged. But the key here is the communication must be “for the purpose of obtaining legal advice from the lawyer.”

In addition to the attorney-client privilege, the work product doctrine protects documents that were “prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial” by third parties on behalf of the client.

Communications protected by attorney-client privilege can lose their protected status through waiver, where the information is shared with a third party. Additionally, the privilege is destroyed when the communication falls within the “crime-fraud exception,” although in this case, the special counsel’s motion does not rely on that theory to seek access to the documents. Instead, yesterday’s motion argues the communications withheld were not created, shared, or related to the provision of legal advice to either the Clinton campaign or the DNC.

Durham Wants the Documents, But Not Quite Yet

While Durham argues in Wednesday’s motion to compel that the redacted documents are not protected by attorney-client privilege, he acknowledges that without reviewing the content of the material, that assessment cannot be fully made. Thus, at this point, the government first seeks a court order compelling the third parties to provide the unredacted documents to the court for an “in camera” review, meaning a confidential review by the court.

In total, the third parties withheld and redacted more than 1,000 documents, but the government’s request seems focused on a much smaller population of documents, listed in Exhibit A filed in tandem with the motion. That exhibit, however, was filed under seal.

The motion instead provides a summary of the material Durham seeks. It fits within two categories. First, Durham’s team asks the court to review documents related to what the prosecution calls Fusion GPS’s “provision of opposition research and media strategy-related services” to the Clinton campaign, the DNC, and Perkins Coie. More specifically, the government requests the court review the unredacted version of the contract between Perkins Coie and Fusion GPS and 38 emails and attachments exchanged “between and among” Perkins Coie, Joffe, and Fusion GPS employees.

Second, the prosecution seeks a review of “certain communications” between Fusion GPS and Joffe related to the Alfa Bank theory, and related emails. Those communications include emails between Joffe and an unnamed Fusion GPS employee the government subpoenaed for Sussmann’s trial.

Clinton and the DNC in the Hot Seat

As noted above, the party advancing a claim of privilege bears the burden of establishing the communications are protected. That means that if they wish to preserve their privilege, the now-defunct Clinton campaign and the DNC will need to show why those communications are privileged.

The wrinkle in this case, of course, is that neither the Clinton campaign nor the DNC are parties to the criminal case. Most likely, presiding Judge Christopher Cooper will issue an order directing the third parties who possess the documents to file them under seal for an in camera review and provide the Clinton campaign and the DNC an opportunity to argue their claim of privilege.

Making that argument will be tough for several reasons. First, while Joffe and Sussmann had an attorney-client relationship, Joffe had no contractual relationship with the Clinton campaign, DNC, or Fusion GPS. Yet the Clinton campaign and the DNC asserted attorney-client privilege and work product protection, including over communications exchanged solely between Joffe and a Fusion GPS employee.

But there is no basis in law to withhold emails to, from, or copied to Joffe, since by including him in the emails, the communications would no longer be “in confidence,” even if they were arguably for “the purpose of obtaining legal advice from the lawyer.” In other words, any privilege would be waived.

The communications to, from, or copied to Fusion GPS likewise will not be protected unless they were “for the purpose of obtaining legal advice from the lawyer.” In its motion, the special counsel’s office acknowledges that Fusion GPS “conduct[ed] opposition research regarding Trump’s purported ties to Russia at the behest of the Clinton Campaign and the DNC” pursuant to a contract Fusion GPS entered with the law firm of Perkins Coie.

Durham also acknowledges that Marc Elias claims he provided legal advice to the Clinton Campaign about the Alfa Bank allegations. But that does not translate to Fusion GPS supporting Perkins Coie “related to legal advice.”

It Was a Hit Job, Not a Legal One

To the contrary, Durham argues that Fusion GPS’s “primary, if not sole, function” appears to be “to generate opposition research materials that the firm then shared widely with members of the media, the U.S. State Department, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and members of Congress.” The government adds that while Perkins Coie hired Fusion GPS purportedly to “support” Perkins Coie’s legal advice to its clients on “defamation, libel and similar laws in which accuracy is an essential legal element,” Fusion GPS’s actions were unrelated to any such advice.

Rather, as the motion notes, the “evidence makes clear that the primary purpose” “was to assemble and publicize allegations that would aid the campaign’s public relations goals.” And, as Durham adds, the D.C. Circuit has previously held that advice from “a medial, journalistic [or] political’ consultant that is not used in providing legal advice is not privileged.”

Yesterday’s motion highlighted many of those public relation outreaches, arguing that Fusion GPS’ “role in promoting the wide dissemination of its own and others’ research would appear to contravene any notion that the primary purpose of their work was to aid confidential legal advice from [Perkins Coie] about potential libel and defamation litigation. “If anything,” the motion continued, Fusion GPS’s push for reporters to “hurry” to publish the Alfa Bank tale before resolving questions about its “authenticity” “would itself arguably create significant libel and defamation litigation risk,” the special counsel’s office quipped.

Based on these facts, Durham submits that the claims of attorney-client privilege and work product protections “deserve careful scrutiny.” After that review, the special counsel requests the court order the production of the documents in unredacted form. 

Sussmann Might Have Something to Say Too

While the motion to compel filed last night speaks only to the third parties who hold the privilege and the unredacted documents, Sussmann’s attorneys will likely weigh in too, repeating the complaint they made during last week’s status conference that followed the hearing on Sussmann’s motion to dismiss. At that time, Sussmann’s attorney complained that the special counsel’s office has been discussing privilege “for well over a year,” and that “to only now bring it up six weeks before trials” is unfair and raises due process concerns.

Sussmann, of course, could always agree to a continuance of the trial, but then he wouldn’t have the due process argument for a possible appeal in the event he is convicted—an insurance plan, so to speak.


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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Prosecutor unveils smoking gun FBI text message — smear Trump

Prosecutor unveils smoking gun FBI text message — smear Trump


Durham: Prosecutor unveils smoking gun FBI text message, ‘joint venture’ to smear Trump

Special Counsel John Durham revealed he has unearthed a text message showing Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann falsely told the FBI he was not working on behalf of any client when he delivered anti-Trump research.

By John Solomon

Special Counsel John Durham is revealing new smoking gun evidence, a text message  that shows a Clinton campaign lawyer lied to the FBI, while putting the courts on notice he is prepared to show the effort to smear Donald Trump with now-disproven Russia collusion allegations  was a “conspiracy.”

John Durham Probe Charges Washington Lawyer With Lying To FBI : NPR

In a bombshell court filing late Monday night, Durham for the first time suggested Hillary Clinton’s campaign, her researchers and others formed a “joint venture or conspiracy” for the purpose of weaving the collusion story to harm Trump’s election chances and then the start of his presidency. (Durham photo: Department of Justice via AP)

“These parties acted as ‘joint venturer[s]’ and therefore should be ‘considered as co-conspirator[s],’” he wrote.

Durham also revealed he has unearthed a text message showing Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann falsely told the FBI he was not working on behalf of any client when he delivered now-discredited anti-Trump research in the lead-up to the 2016 election. In fact, he was working for the Clinton campaign and another client, prosecutors say.

The existence of the text message between Sussmann and then-FBI General Counsel James Baker was revealed in a court filing late Monday night by Durham’s team. Prosecutors said they intend to show Sussmann gave a false story to the FBI but then told the truth about working on behalf of the Clinton campaign when he later testified to Congress.

“Jim – it’s Michael Sussmann. I have something time-sensitive (and sensitive) I need to discuss,” Sussmann texted Baker on Sept. 18, 2016, according to the new court filing. “Do you have availability for a short meeting tomorrow? I’m coming on my own – not on behalf of a client or company – want to help the Bureau. Thanks.”

Prosecutors said the text message will become essential evidence at trial to show Sussmann lied to the FBI.

You can read the court filing.

“The defendant lied in that meeting, falsely stating to the General Counsel that he was not providing the allegations to the FBI on behalf of any client,” Durham’s motion said. “In fact, the defendant had assembled and conveyed the allegations to the FBI on behalf of at least two specific clients, including (i) a technology executive (“Tech Executive-1”) at a U.S.-based Internet company (“Internet Company-1″), and (ii) the Clinton Campaign.”

The prosecutor noted that in House testimony a year later Sussmann admitted he made the FBI approach at the instruction of his client.

“We had a conversation, as lawyers do with their clients, about client 1 needs and objectives and the best course to take for a client,” Sussmann testified in a deposition taken by then-House Intelligence Committee Republican investigative counsel Kash Patel. “And so it may have been a decision that we came to together. I mean, I don’t want to imply that I was sort of directed to do something against my better judgment, or that we were in any sort of conflict.”

Durham also told the court he plans to present evidence that Sussmann worked with the Clinton campaign, tech executive Rodney Joffe, identified as Tech Executive-1, and others in a “joint venture” to promote a now-disproven story that Donald Trump had a secret computer channel at the Moscow-based Alfa Bank with the Kremlin to hijack the election.

“As an initial matter, the Government expects that the evidence at trial will show that beginning in late July/early August 2016, the defendant, Tech Executive-1, and agents of the Clinton Campaign were ‘acting in concert toward a common goal,’ … namely, the goal of assembling and disseminating the Russian Bank-1 allegations and other derogatory information about Trump and his associates to the media and the U.S. government,” Durham’s team said.

“The evidence of a joint venture or conspiracy will establish,” according to the prosecutors, “that in November 2016, soon after the Presidential election, Tech Executive-1 emailed a colleague, stating, “I was tentatively offered the top [cybersecurity] job by the Democrats when it looked like they’d win.’”

“In sum,” the special counsel concludes, “the above evidence, public information, and expected testimony clearly establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant and Tech Executive-1 worked in concert with each other and with agents of the Clinton Campaign to research and disseminate the Russian Bank-1 allegations.”

Patel, who helped unravel the false Russia collusion narrative with former Rep. Devin Nunes, said the new filing by Durham is one of the most significant in the entire investigation to date.

“Durham has just shown the whole world what major pieces of our Russiagate investigation revealed,” Patel said. “Hard evidence, emails and text messages, showing the Clinton Campaign, Fusion GPS, Perkins Coie, Joffe, and the media were all synced in August of 2016 pushing the false Alfa Bank server story, while also all working on the Steele Dossier matter. Durham submits all this evidence as ‘joint venture conspiracy’ under the rules of evidence.”

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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

Some emphasis and pictorial content added by (TLB)

Header featured image (edited) credit: John Durham and Donald Trump/ Associated Press; Getty Images

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SpyGate 101: A Primer On The Russia Collusion Hoax’s Years-long Plot To Take Down Trump

SpyGate 101: A Primer On The Russia Collusion Hoax’s Years-long Plot To Take Down Trump

As Special Counsel John Durham continues to expose more details of the “SpyGate” or “Russia collusion” scandal, it can be difficult for any apolitical, non-news-junkie member of the public to grasp the ongoing developments.

After all, for more than five years, the corrupt legacy media has refused to report on scandal or done so with a slanted portrayal of the facts. So most Americans remain unaware of the Democrats’ years-long duplicity that sought to destroy first candidate and then President Donald Trump. Add to that reality the overlapping conspiracies and sprawling cast of characters involved, and it can be difficult to follow the story.

That the scandal is dense, however, does not mean it should be ignored. To the contrary, the duplicity must not be disregarded because what Trump’s political enemies tried to accomplish over the course of five years represents the biggest threat our constitutional republic has seen in the last century.

So for those who care about our country and her future but don’t want to be buried in the minutia of the scandal, here is your big-picture primer.

DNC Emails Are Hacked

While every thread of SpyGate could be unraveled more, April 30, 2016, marks the cleanest point to pin the start of the intrigue. It was then, amid the contested presidential primaries, that the Democratic National Committee learned that its computer network had been breached. The DNC then hired a company called CrowdStrike to investigate the hack, and by mid-May, CrowdStrike concluded that Russian actors were responsible for the hack, which the DNC then reported to the FBI.

The public first learned about the DNC server hack on June 14, 2016, when The Washington Post broke the story. Then, on July 22, 2016, after Trump and Hillary Clinton had been declared the presidential nominees, WikiLeaks released a trove of documents, purportedly obtained through the DNC hack.

These documents included emails in which then-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other party officials disparaged Clinton’s primary opponent, Bernie Sanders. The behind-the-scenes communiques also revealed that the DNC, which should maintain neutrality between primary candidates, favored Clinton, with top officials plotting ways to harm the Sanders campaign.

Clinton Campaign Plots to Convert DNC Scandal into Trump Scandal

The timing of WikiLeaks’ release of the DNC emails couldn’t have been worse, with delegates poised in Pennsylvania to officially nominate Clinton the Democratic candidate for president. But by Sunday evening, the Clinton campaign had devised a strategy to respond to the scandal: blame it on Trump.

“I’m Jake Tapper at the Democratic Convention in beautiful Philadelphia, where the state of our union is exposed emails just published by WikiLeaks showing Democratic Party officials actively discussing possible ways to sabotage Bernie Sanders, even as they were insisting publicly that they were staying neutral during the primaries,” the CNN host opened the video segment that launched the Russia collusion hoax.

Tapper introduced Clinton’s then-campaign manager Robby Mook, asking him the campaign’s reaction to the leaked emails. After responding that the DNC needed to “look into this and take appropriate action,” Mook pivoted to Trump, premiering the Russia conspiracy theory that would consume the country for the next five years.

“What’s disturbing to us,” Mook began, is that “experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails, and other experts are now saying that the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump.”

Mook continued:

“I don’t think it’s coincidental that these emails were released on the eve of our convention here, and that’s disturbing. And I think we need to be concerned about that. I think we need to be concerned that we also saw last week at the Republican Convention that Trump and his allies made changes to the Republican platform to make it more pro-Russian. And we saw him talking about how NATO shouldn’t intervene to defend — necessarily should intervene to defend our Eastern European allies if they are attacked by Russia. So I think, when you put all this together, it’s a disturbing picture. And I think voters need to reflect on that.”

When Tapper asked Mook for evidence to support his claims, Mook cited unnamed experts and press reports “that the hackers that got into the DNC are very likely by to be working in coordination with Russia.”

“If the Russians in fact had these emails, again, I don’t think it’s very coincidental that they are being released at this time to create maximum damage on Hillary Clinton and to help Donald Trump,” Mook reiterated.

“It is a very, very strong charge that you’re leveling here,” Tapper interjected. “You’re basically suggesting that Russians hacked into the DNC and now are releasing these files through WikiLeaks to help elect Donald Trump.”

Again, Mook deflected to “a number of experts,” saying, “Experts have said that it is the Russians that, in fact, went in and took these emails. And then, if they are the ones who took them, we have to infer that they are the ones then releasing them.”

Clinton Campaign Co-Opts the Russia Collusion Hoax

While the Clinton campaign introduced the Russia collusion hoax on the eve of the DNC convention to convert the Sanders’ scandal into one about Trump, the strategy also proved a perfect response to the second Clinton scandal — this one involving Clinton’s illegal use of a private server during her time as secretary of state.

The New York Times first broke the news on March 2, 2015, that Clinton had used a private email server to communicate as secretary of state under President Barack Obama. Two days later, the Select Committee on Benghazi subpoenaed any Benghazi-related emails contained on the private server. Upon learning of the document request, a technician for Clinton’s computer service provider deleted approximately 30,000 of Clinton’s emails, which she claimed were personal emails.

By May of 2016, the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General had released an 83-page report condemning Clinton’s use of the server. Coverage of this report stressed that the State Department had “deemed more than 2,000 of Clinton’s messages as classified, including 22 that were upgraded to the most sensitive national security classification, ‘top secret.’” At the time, the media also noted that “the FBI is still probing whether any laws were broken laws by putting classified information at risk — or whether her staff improperly sent sensitive information knowing it wasn’t on a classified system.”

The Clinton campaign tried to downplay the FBI’s involvement in the private-server scandal by framing it as “a security inquiry,” but in response to questions about that characterization, then-FBI Director James Comey said he was “not familiar with the term ‘security inquiry,’” stressing “the word investigation” is “in our name.”

“We’re conducting an investigation. … That’s what we do. That’s probably all I can say about it,” Comey concluded.

At a press conference two months later, on July 5, 2016, Comey announced that the FBI had completed its investigation and that while Clinton’s handling of classified information was “extremely careless,” he had referred the matter to the Department of Justice with a recommendation that no charges be filed. Comey took this same position when he testified before Congress, there calling Clinton’s conduct related to the server “sloppy.”

Although Comey publicly declared the investigation into Clinton’s private server closed, when Democrats gathered for their convention in Philadelphia, her campaign continued to face questions about the scandal, with Tapper drilling Mook about Comey’s conclusion that Clinton’s use of the private server had been “sloppy.” Mook quickly changed the conversation to “this election” and what “voters are looking for and asking about in this election.”

Two days later, though, the media took Mook’s lead and converted the Clinton server scandal into a scandal about Trump. A July 26, 2016, opinion article for USA Today, titled “Putin for President 2016,” opened with an acknowledgment that Clinton’s “secret private-server emails are almost certainly already in the hands of Russian intelligence,” and concluded, “Putin can embarrass Hillary — or worse — whenever he wants.”

“We’re getting a small foretaste of that in the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails,” the piece continued, speaking of the DNC officials engaged in “dirty tricks aimed at Bernie Sanders” and “getting awfully chummy with some allegedly professional journalists.” And with that, the media converted Clinton’s use of a private server to a story about Trump and Russia’s supposed backing of his candidacy.

From then on, the Clinton campaign and a complicit media framed any concern over her use of a home-brew server and any questions about the details buried in the DNC emails not as a scandal about Clinton but as a conspiracy between Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Clinton Campaign Pays for and Peddles Fake Trump-Russia Evidence

By the last week of July 2016, the Russia collusion diversion controlled the narrative, and Democrats repurposed every question about the DNC hack or the sever scandal as an opportunity to peddle it.

Similarly, Clinton’s team converted every comment by Trump, even tangentially related to Russia, as further evidence of a conspiracy. Likewise, her campaign framed every Russia connection, past or present, between Trump, his business, his family, or members of his campaign as concrete proof of collusion.

While the Clinton campaign had not gone public with the Russia-collusion angle until July 24, 2016, when Mook marketed that theme on CNN, it had been collecting supposed intel on Trump’s connections to Russia for some time.

In the first half of 2016, Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented the Clinton campaign, had hired private investigation firm Fusion GPS to collect opposition research on Trump. In turn, Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele in May or June of 2016 to focus on Trump’s connections to Russia, and by June 20, 2016, Steele had drafted the first of some 17 memoranda that would eventually compose what is now known colloquially as the Steele dossier.

Steele shared his initial memorandum — which contained claims that the Kremlin had blackmail material on Trump, including the salacious and false “golden showers” accusation — with an FBI contact on July 5, 2016. Over the next six months, Steele continued to craft the dossier, relying primarily on an unnamed “Primary Sub-Source,” now known to be Russian national Igor Danchenko.

Danchenko, who has since been indicted for lying to the FBI, is also alleged to have invented some of the supposed intel contained in the dossier. Danchenko also fed Steele false information about the Trump campaign, which a Clinton booster had invented and then passed on to Danchenko.

The bottom line some five-plus years later is that the dossier consisted of a few publicly known accurate facts and a litany of false claims concocted by Danchenko and others and then sold by Steele and the Clinton campaign as the work of a former MI6 Russian expert.

The Steele dossier represented but one aspect of the invented evidence of collusion. The Clinton campaign also paid Perkins Coie lawyer Michael Sussmann for his work in crafting, with the assistance of various tech experts, a report purporting to show that the Trump organization had established a secret-communication network with the powerful Russian Alfa Bank.

Additionally, computer scientists who had worked with the Clinton campaign’s attorney “surveilled the internet traffic at Trump Tower, at his New York City apartment building, and later at the executive office of the president of the United States, then fed disinformation about that traffic to intelligence agencies hoping to frame Trump as a Russia-connected stooge.”

As Steele, Fusion GPS, and other Clinton backers created fraudulent reports, they, along with the Clinton campaign and her lawyers, exploited their relationships with reporters and government officials.

Steele and/or Fusion GPS’s founder Glenn Simpson shared Steele’s memoranda with various news outlets. They also fed the supposed intel to members of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, including representatives in the Departments of Justice and State. After the FBI fired Steele as a source because he had spoken with the media, it arranged for him to continue providing his reports to the FBI by having him meet with a Justice Department attorney instead.

This dual-prong approach resulted in a public saturated with circular confirmation of Trump-Russia collusion. Outlets parroted the false details fed to reporters by Steele and then referenced the FBI’s investigations into the same matters to create the appearance that the investigations confirmed the validity of the leaks. Simultaneously, the FBI used media reports as a basis to confirm Steele’s supposed intel.

Obama Admin Spies on Trump Campaign Under Knowingly False Pretenses

On July 31, 2016, the Obama administration and the FBI launched an investigation into the Trump campaign, branded “Crossfire Hurricane.” While to this day, the FBI maintains it opened Crossfire Hurricane after U.S. officials learned from an Australian diplomat that young Trump adviser George Papadopoulos had bragged “that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton,” former Attorney General William Barr and Special Counsel John Durham have both questioned that account.

The Obama administration’s targeting of the opposition party’s presidential campaign came just as the Clinton campaign began publicly pushing the narrative that Trump was colluding with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And the opening of Crossfire Hurricane came three days after then-CIA Director John Brennan briefed President Barack Obama and other senior national security officials on intelligence alleging “that U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee.”

Brennan’s briefing also noted that intelligence agencies had obtained intel indicating that on July 26, 2016, Clinton approved “a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.” In early September 2016, a U.S. intelligence official would forward an investigative referral to the FBI regarding “Clinton’s approval of a plan” about “Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server.”

Even with this foreknowledge of the Clinton campaign’s plot to frame Trump, and even while watching the execution of the plan in real time, the FBI moved forward with Crossfire Hurricane. The FBI would also later use Steele’s fraudulent reporting to obtain four court orders from the secret FISA court to surveil a former Trump campaign volunteer named Carter Page.

While Page was no longer connected to the campaign when the FBI obtained the FISA surveillance orders, the warrant allowed the FBI to access prior correspondence between Page and the Trump campaign, as well as any communications Page continued to have with individual campaign members. Further, while FISA proceedings are secret, media leaks about the targeting of Page gave the press more material to further the Russia-collusion spin.

Accessing private campaign emails, however, represented but one aspect of the spying that took place under the auspices of Crossfire Hurricane. The FBI also tasked a Confidential Human Source (CHS) with questioning Page, and that CHS “sought specific details from Page related to the Trump campaign, and fed Page unsolicited (and potentially illegal) advice concerning campaign strategy.”

The FBI used the same CHS to question Sam Clovis, a senior member of the Trump campaign. In a recorded conversation, the CHS posed several questions about sensitive campaign strategies and concerns.

The spying on Trump’s campaign also included the FBI using a private Trump security briefing as a possible opportunity to collect information for the investigation.

Investigation into Trump Continues During His Administration

Significantly, Crossfire Hurricane did not end with the 2016 election. Instead, after Trump defeated Clinton, the investigation continued and so did the leaks, with Comey giving Trump a briefing on the Steele dossier — a fact then leaked to give CNN a pretext to report on the Steele dossier.

After Trump’s inauguration, the FBI hatched a plot to oust the president’s national security adviser, again with the help of the media. Comey also began writing secret memoranda of conversations he had with now-President Trump. And after Trump fired Comey, the latter leaked those memoranda to the media through a law professor friend, triggering the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Mueller continued Crossfire Hurricane, retaining many of the original FBI agents. The country would later learn that many of those investigating the Trump campaign held rabid anti-Trump sentiments, when text messages exchanged by members of the Crossfire Hurricane team were made public. Other text messages went missing when several agents wiped their cell phones.

The public learned of even more malfeasance by the Crossfire Hurricane team when the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General released a 400-plus-page report concluding that the DOJ included 17 significant inaccuracies and omissions in the FISA application and renewals related to Carter Page.

These problems and others led then-AG William Barr to appoint U.S. Attorney John Durham to lead an investigation into Crossfire Hurricane, later naming him a special prosecutor.

As part of his investigation, Durham revealed additional misconduct in Crossfire Hurricane when he obtained a guilty plea from a former FBI attorney for altering an email related to the FISA case against Page.

Durham’s team also obtained a statement from another FBI agent involved in the investigation named William Barnett. Barnett told DOJ investigators that there was never any basis for the bizarre “collusion” theory and that Mueller’s office pushed prosecutions with a “get Trump” mentality. But even then, Mueller found no evidence of Trump colluding with Russia.

There are thousands more details already known and many more players involved — and that’s before whatever else Durham may reveal. But just these basics provide all the information you need to understand SpyGate — and to see why it far surpasses the Watergate scandal.


Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. 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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4 Special Counsel Revelations Tying Spygate To Hillary Clinton’s Campaign

4 Special Counsel Revelations Tying Spygate To Hillary Clinton’s Campaign

Last week saw the corrupt media spinning explosive revelations from Special Counsel John Durham’s office as a big ol’ nothingburger. Yet, as I explained on Friday, none of the narratives pushed by the Durham deniers countered the evidence in court filings showing that “enemies of Donald Trump surveilled the internet traffic at Trump Tower, at his New York City apartment building, and later at the executive office of the president of the United States, then fed disinformation about that traffic to intelligence agencies hoping to frame Trump as a Russia-connected stooge.”

Although The New York Times, CNN, and other legacy media outlets failed to refute the significance of the details revealed in Durham’s latest filing, their concerted efforts highlighted their previous lack of coverage of the investigation and the many stunning revelations that have come from Durham’s team to date.

One of the most significant aspects of the ongoing investigation ignored or downplayed by the supposed standard-bearers of journalism concerns the extensive role the Hillary Clinton campaign played in the Russia collusion hoax. “Russia, Russia, Russia” was a Hillary Clinton enterprise. Here are four revelations demonstrating that from the recent special counsel filings.

It has long been known that the law firm representing the Clinton campaign, Perkins Coie, hired Fusion GPS to provide opposition research on Donald Trump, and that in return Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson’s company, Orbit Business Intelligence, to compile negative information on Trump.

In charging Russian national Igor Danchenko in November 2021 with five counts of lying to the FBI related to his role as Steele’s “Primary Sub-Source,” Durham publicly elaborated on those connections in a 39-page speaking indictment. The indictment did more than confirm the Clinton campaign’s responsibility for funding the Steele dossier: It alleged the Russian national fed Steele false “intel” that Steele then provided to FBI, as well as several other agencies in the Obama administration.

One category of false intel Danchenko, as Steele’s Primary Sub-Source, provided concerned Sergei Millian, a New York-based real estate broker who in 2016 had served as the president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce. Millian “had occasion to work on real estate projects with Trump and staff at the Trump Organization,” the indictment explained.

Danchenko reported to Steele purported conversations he had with Millian, which Steele then included in his dossier. The dossier then maintained that Millian, “an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between them and the Russian leadership.” The dossier asserted this conspiracy “was managed on the Trump side” by his then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, who used Carter Page as an intermediary.

According to the indictment, when questioned about these claims, Danchenko falsely stated to the FBI that in “the summer of 2016, he received a phone call from an anonymous Russian male who did not identify himself to Danchenko but who Danchenko claimed to believe was” Millian. Danchenko also falsely claimed, Durham alleged, to have arranged to meet Millian in New York, and that Millian never showed. Danchenko would later repeat those lies on multiple occasions.

Millian denied ever speaking with Danchenko. The indictment included excerpts from emails indicating Danchenko never spoke with or intended to meet Millian. Nonetheless, according to Steele, Danchenko claimed he met Millian in person on two or three separate occasions. Steele also claimed Danchenko sourced, in part, the claims about “Trump’s purported salacious sexual activity” to Millian.

Danchenko’s alleged lies to the FBI about Millian served as the basis for four of the five false statement charges leveled against the “Primary Sub-Source.” But more significant than the criminal charges pending against Danchenko is the bottom line of what those charges mean about the Clinton campaign’s role in Spygate.

In addition to allegedly lying to the FBI, the indictment asserts that Danchenko also fed Steele similar falsehoods about Millian—which Steele then included in the dossier. In other words, the Clinton campaign paid for negative and false information about Trump that was sourced primarily to a Russian national.

The Clinton campaign then paid for those false claims to be seeded in the media. Steele also provided the Clinton campaign-funded dossier to the FBI, which then sought and obtained four FISA court orders to surveil former Trump campaign advisor Page—and as a result of that surveillance, the Crossfire Hurricane team obtained Trump campaign communications.

The Clinton Campaign Paid for Fake Intel Supplied by a Clinton Crony and Long-Time Democrat to Feed to the FBI and Press

Not only did the Clinton campaign pay for a report primarily sourced to a Russian national who allegedly lied about Trump and his associates, the Steele dossier also included fake intel supplied by long-time Clinton associate and faithful Democrat, Charles Dolan, Jr., called PR Executive-1 in the Danchenko indictment.

Dolan’s connection to the Steele dossier became public when Durham charged Danchenko with lying to FBI agents about his conversations with the long-time Democrat. Specifically, the indictment charged that Danchenko claimed he had not spoken with Dolan about any material contained in the Steele dossier, when in fact Danchenko used Dolan as a source for a portion of the dossier related to Manafort’s departure from the Trump campaign.

According to the indictment, Danchenko, telling Dolan that he was working “on a project against Trump,” asked if he had “any thought, rumor, allegation” about Manafort’s resignation. Dolan later emailed Danchenko that a “GOP friend of mine who knows some of the players” told him that a campaign staff member who hates Manafort played a role in Manafort’s firing. “I think the bottom line is that in addition to the Ukraine revelations, a number of people wanted [Manafort] gone.”

What Dolan told Danchenko about Manafort’s termination ended up in the Steele dossier. But, as Dolan would later admit to the FBI, Dolan invented the entire conversation and merely repeated details he had read about in the news.

The indictment also alleged Danchenko fed Steele details about Trump’s stay at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton that also originated with Dolan. Dolan, who had extensive connections in Russia, had traveled to Russia in June 2016. Hotel staff members gave Dolan a tour of the Presidential Suite, telling him Trump had stayed there. None of the hotel staff suggested Trump had engaged in any sexual or salacious activities there, however.

According to Durham’s team, several other aspects of Steele’s reporting included details that “bore substantial similarities to information that [Dolan] received during the 2016 time period.”

Danchenko’s allegedly false statement to the FBI—that he had not discussed any of the material he had provided Steele with Dolan—served as the basis for the final count on which the special counsel indicted Dolan. But, again, the significance of these new revelations is much broader: The public now knows “a Clinton crony in the person of Dolan fed Danchenko false information that Danchenko then presented to Steele as intel. Steele then regurgitated Danchenko’s claims in the Clinton campaign-funded dossier the former MI6 agent provided the FBI.”

The Clinton Campaign Peddled More than the Steele Dossier

The revelation that the Clinton campaign financed the Steele dossier and the false “intel” sourced to a Russian national and a Clinton crony with extensive Russian connections is shocking enough, but there is more. The special counsel’s indictment of attorney Michael Sussmann revealed allegations connecting the Clinton campaign to the peddling of a second fake scandal about Trump—this one involving the Russian-connected Alfa Bank.

Sussmann, a lawyer for Perkins Coie, served as an attorney for both the Clinton campaign and tech executive Rodney Joffe. In September 2021, the special counsel’s office charged Sussmann with making a materially false statement to the FBI. Specifically, the indictment alleged that on September 19, 2016—less than two months before the 2016 U.S. presidential election—Sussmann met with the FBI General Counsel James Baker.

During that meeting, Sussmann provided Baker “purported data and ‘white papers’ that allegedly demonstrated a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and a Russia-based bank [Alfa Bank].” The indictment further alleged that Sussman lied in that meeting, falsely telling Baker “that he was not providing the allegations to the FBI on behalf of any client.” In fact, though, Sussmann “had assembled and conveyed the allegations to the FBI on behalf of at least two specific clients,” namely Joffe and the Clinton campaign.

The details of Sussmann’s work for the Clinton campaign on this second Russia hoax related to Alfa Bank prove just as appalling as the Clinton campaign’s financing of the Steele dossier. Here’s what we know from the indictment.

In July 2016, Joffe, whose tech company had hired Sussmann for other legal work, informed Sussmann of data purporting to show a secret communication network existed between the Trump organization and Russia. According to the indictment, over the next few weeks, Joffe and Sussmann worked with the Clinton campaign’s general counsel, Marc Elias, “and individuals acting on behalf of the Clinton Campaign to share information about the Russian Bank Data with the media and others, claiming that it demonstrated the existence of a secret communications channel between the Trump Organization and [Alfa Bank].”

The indictment then detailed several of the meetings between Sussmann, Joffe, and Elias that occurred from late July to about mid-August 2016, during which they discussed how to coordinate and communicate the Alfa Bank allegations.

According to the indictment, the Clinton campaign was billed for the time Sussmann spent working with others to draft, review, and revise a paper that summarized the Alfa Bank allegations, which Sussmann later provided to the FBI and reporters. The Clinton campaign was likewise billed for the time Sussmann spent meeting with Fusion GPS and with the media about the Alfa-Bank allegations. Sussmann also charged the Clinton campaign for time he spent coordinating with a Georgia Tech researcher about speaking to a reporter about the Alfa Bank allegations.

In indicting Sussmann, Durham stated that Sussman, Joffe, and Perkins Coie “had coordinated, and were continuing to coordinate, with representatives and agents of the Clinton Campaign with regard to the data and written materials that Sussmann gave to the FBI and the media related to the Alfa-Bank allegations.”

Elias likewise billed the campaign for time spent discussing the Alfa-Bank allegations and Sussmann’s efforts to seed the story to the media. Elias later exchanged emails with “the Clinton Campaign’s campaign manager, communications director, and foreign policy advisor” concerning the Alfa-Bank allegations Sussmann had fed to the reporter.

Additionally, Fusion GPS, also a paid agent of the Clinton campaign, drafted a second white paper related to the supposed secret communication network, which Sussmann also provided to the FBI, again while indicating he was not working on behalf of any client.

The indictment makes all these points clear. In total, they translate to the Clinton campaign paying for the entirety of the Alfa Bank hoax, from crafting the theory, to drafting the “white papers,” to peddling of the papers to both the FBI and the media.

Even Sussmann saw the story in these revelations, with him seeking “to conceal the Clinton Campaign’s ties to the [Alfa Bank] allegations from the FBI and others,” according to Durham’s team, going back to October 2018. That month Sussmann reviewed and acquiesced in his former law firm, Perkins Coie, issuing a statement professing that when he met with Baker, “it was not connected to the firm’s representation of the Hillary Clinton Campaign, the DNC or any Political Law Group client.” The then-Managing Partner at Perkins Coie likewise declared the same in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in October 2018, with Sussmann’s apparent approval of the PR move.

Yet the media provided scant coverage of the Clinton campaign’s responsibility for the Alfa Bank hoax.

Joffe’s Pro Bono Support of Clinton

To downplay the Clinton campaign’s responsibility for the Alfa Bank hoax, the press both limited its discussion of the evidence showing Sussmann was acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign and focused its attention on Tech Executive-1, Joffe.

Here, the Clinton defenders note that while the special counsel’s filings show the Clinton Campaign hired Perkins Coie and Joffe hired Perkins Coie, there is nothing to suggest that the Clinton campaign paid Joffe to work on its behalf. That aims to absolve the Clinton campaign from the scandal. But while the Clinton campaign did not pay Joffe, the evidence Durham uncovered indicates the tech guru was nonetheless acting for her benefit.

For instance, the Sussmann indictment alleged that Joffe told individuals working at one of his tech companies “that he was working with someone who had close ties to the Democratic Party and to Hillary Clinton.” “They’re looking for a true story that could be used as the basis for closer examination,” Joffe explained in discussing what was needed for the Alfa Bank angle.

Then, when Joffe obtained the data he believed would benefit Clinton, he provided the information to Sussmann so Sussmann could draft and disseminate the materials to the media and the FBI. Joffe also assisted Sussmann and others as they drafted, reviewed, and revised a paper summarizing the Alfa Bank allegations. While Joffe didn’t bill the time to the Clinton campaign, Sussmann billed the campaign for the time he spent with Joffe on these tasks.

The special counsel’s investigation also revealed evidence suggesting Joffe assisted with the Alfa Bank canard to please Clinton: Joffe allegedly told the two Georgia Tech researchers assisting him that his goal in obtaining internet data showing potential ties between Trump and Russia was to support an “inference” and “narrative” regarding Trump that would please certain “VIPs.”

Joffe also “claimed to have been previously offered a position in the government in the event Hillary Clinton won the Presidency, stating in an email days after the U.S. Presidential election: ‘I was tentatively offered the top [cybersecurity] job by the Democrats when it looked like they’d win.’”

In short, Joffe may not have been on the Clinton campaign payroll, but he was acting as if he were—with the full knowledge of the Clinton campaign lawyers with whom he was working hand-in-hand. So, rather than exonerate the Clinton campaign in the Alfa Bank scam, Joffe’s pro bono assist to the campaign’s lawyers provides another layer of responsibility.

More Clinton Revelations to Come

As the special counsel investigation continues, and the Danchenko and Sussmann criminal cases proceed to trial, Americans can expect the reveal of more evidence connecting the Clinton campaign to the Russia collusion hoax. The special counsel’s office has already gone public with the fact that Durham’s team has subpoenaed the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign, and Perkins Coie, as well as “an investigative firm” that translates to Fusion GPS, and obtained tens of thousands of relevant documents. Government investigators have also prepared reports of approximately 100 interviews conducted by the special counsel’s office, including with a person identified as “a former employee of the Clinton Campaign.”

But sadly, when the details of those aspects of the investigation become known, the public can also expect the legacy media to bury or downplay any news that hurts the Clintons or Democrats—or that vindicates Trump.


Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. 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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