“Russiagate” special counsel John H. Durham is signaling he’s not at the end of investigating the Democratic Party scandal of promoting fake allegations to ruin candidate and former President Donald Trump.
Mr. Durham’s court update on Jan. 25 says he has gained access to voluminous FBI internal affairs case files. The Inspection Division is investigating agents for misconduct in Crossfire Hurricane, as the Trump probe was dubbed. Crossfire relied on the Democratic Party’s Christopher Steele dossier, which proved to be a bundle of falsehoods.
The U.S. District Court filing also tells of an internal tug-of-war in which the Justice Department’s top watchdog, Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, has to be prodded to turn over everything related to Mr. Durham’s wide mandate. The delay is ironic. Mr. Horowitz blew the lid on FBI Crossfire misconduct in a lengthy 2019 report that detailed FBI rule breaking.
Three times in his 19-page submission Mr. Durham tells the judge that his team is conducting an “active, ongoing criminal investigation” not limited to the defendant, former Hillary Clinton campaign legal adviser Michael A. Sussmann.
This is not good news for President Biden and his designee at Justice, Merrick Garland. They want a quick end to the narrative of Democratic Party dirty tricks and political pollution.
In 2016, behind the scenes, as a Clinton campaign agent, Mr. Sussmann was a prime promoter to the press and Obama FBI of the fabled Alfa Bank storyline.
It went this way: Mr. Trump set up a secret back channel from a computer server in Pennsylvania to Alfa Bank, a huge Moscow-based commercial lender controlled by billionaire Russian oligarchs. They and Mr. Trump called it conspiracy fiction. More importantly, the FBI concluded the Alfa claim was unfounded and closed the case in February 2017.
Mr. Sussmann’s problem, according to a September indictment, is that when he briefed then-FBI general counsel James Baker on supposed Alfa-Trump crimes, he said he was not representing a client. In fact, he was there for the Clinton campaign, and thus the indictment’s single criminal charge of lying to the bureau.
Mr. Durham’s filing discloses new anecdotal material amid his principal goal of updating the judge on prosecution evidence turned over to Mr. Sussmann. Mr. Durham brags about all the stuff: over 130,000 pages with 492,000 still to come. Some papers carry the intelligence community’s highest classifications, meaning they deal with top secret sources and collection methods.
And there is the FBI’s complete Alfa Bank electronic case file. This means we should learn at some point (a trial is scheduled for May) why/how agents disproved Alfa when Democratic operatives such as Fusion GPS’ Glenn Simpson of dossier fame and Mr. Sussman himself swore by it.
It is Mr. Durham’s tidbits that make his memo so interesting.
Marc Elias was the Clinton campaign general counsel whose firm Perkins Coie obtained Democratic Party money to finance private investigator Fusion GPS who hired ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele who then produced the dossier. The momentous marriage would turn out to be one of the great modern political dirty tricks.
Mr. Elias told House investigators in December 2017 he believed the dossier had stood up to scrutiny and was accurate. Mr. Elias, who left Perkins Coie to form his own election law firm, has testified to the Durham grand jury, the Jan. 25 filing says.
Mr. Elias is not identified by name in the Sussmann indictment, but someone with a similar description is listed as “Campaign Lawyer 1.”
The indictment says that individual briefed the Clinton campaign’s upper management on Mr. Sussmann’s Alfa Bank’s conspiracy theory, coordinated with Mr. Sussmann — then a Perkins Coie colleague — as he allegedly tried to sell the story to the news media. “Campaign Lawyer 1” then communicated with the tech executive, Rodney Joffe (CNN reported on Sept. 30 that Mr. Joffe was the person identified as “Tech Executive-1” in the indictment), who allegedly rounded up the Internet spreadsheets that served as the Alfa Bank “smoking gun.”
For background, Alfa Bank has said in a separate court case that someone created false Domain Name System footprints to make it look like the bank was pinging the Trump-rented server, a spam marketing vehicle in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Elias now fights to save democracy by opposing new voting integrity laws and by promoting the Democrats’ various bills to take over state elections.
Personally, I do not believe the egregious Steele dossier and all of its Kremlin-supplied falsehoods saved or bolstered U.S. democracy.
The Durham memo also says Mr. Sussmann wants to know if he was wiretapped and otherwise spied on. The prosecutor says he provided the defense team any relevant material.
Then there is the matter of Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general. The Durham memo makes it sound as if the IG is not fully cooperating. His office declined to comment.
It turns out that Mr. Sussmann had entry into Mr. Horowitz’s world. He met with Mr. Horowitz in early March 2017, but the IG did not inform Mr. Durham even after he made a general discovery request.
“The OIG had not previously informed the Special Counsel’s Office of this meeting with the defendant,” Mr. Durham states. “Over the past few days, including over this last weekend, the OIG has been gathering and providing further documentation and information relating to that meeting to the Special Counsel’s Office.”
Mr. Sussmann represented Mr. Joffe, the tech entrepreneur who sold the Alfa story to Mr. Sussmann and to the press under a fake name.
Mr. Joffe wanted to let Mr. Horowitz know that one of his agents was seen on the internet connected to a Virtual Private Network located overseas. The Sussmann indictment stated that Mr. Joffe had access to public and nonpublic internet traffic. (Mr. Joffe’s name emerged in Alfa Bank’s civil lawsuit.) The significance of the VPN incident is not spelled out by Mr. Durham.
There’s more IG intrigue. This month, Mr. Durham found out “for the first time” that Mr. Horowitz possessed two cell phones belonging to the FBI’s Mr. Baker, the recipient of Mr. Sussmann’s alleged lie. The special counsel is now exploiting the phones.
On his exploration of FBI internal affairs files, Mr. Durham said, “There are numerous sensitivities and legal considerations surrounding these interview reports and related documents.”
Overall, he said, “The Government also maintains an active, ongoing criminal investigation of the defendant’s conduct and other matters.”
Mr. Durham has few friends in Washington outside of the conservative press and dossier-focused Republicans, who themselves have few friends among Washington’s dominant liberal establishment. It wants the dossier memory-holed. Former Trump Attorney General William Barr appointed Mr. Durham to assure that that doesn’t happen — unless Mr. Garland at some point vanquishes the prosecutor back to his home state of Connecticut.
• Rowan Scarborough is a columnist with The Washington Times.