John Durham obtained hundreds of emails from the opposition research firm Fusion GPS showing it was pushing unverified Trump-Russia collusion claims to the media throughout 2016.
Unfortunately for Durham, during his battle against Democratic claims of attorney-client privilege, he appears to have released accidentally some of the emails he meant to file under seal.
Fusion, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the Perkins Coie law firm are fighting Durham’s efforts to compel the submission of withheld documents, arguing their claims of attorney-client privilege should keep the records concealed.
Durham is insisting those groups played a coordinated role in pushing false collusion claims.
One of Durham’s Monday evening motions said it was requesting the court for “Leave to File Under Seal Exhibit A” and asked that “Exhibit A remain SEALED until further order of this Court, in order to protect privacy of those individuals whose names appear in the Exhibit.”
Durham also said it was being filed under seal “due to personally-identifiable information contained within the referenced emails.”
But the exhibit appeared to be included on the court docket and was unredacted. By Tuesday morning, Durham corrected his error, and the emails are once again sealed.
The special counsel made demands for 38 records to be reviewed by the judge earlier this month in the case of Democratic cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann, who has been indicted on charges of concealing his clients, the Clinton campaign and tech executive Rodney Joffe, from FBI general counsel James Baker when he pushed claims of a secret back channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank.
Ex-spy Christopher Steele created the anti-Trump dossier after being hired by Fusion, which was itself hired by Perkins and Marc Elias, the general counsel for Clinton’s campaign.
Durham wrote in his other Monday motion: “If the purpose of Fusion GPS’s retention was — as Mr. Elias implies — to determine the bounds of what could (and could not) be said publicly without committing libel or defamation, then the record would reflect genuine efforts to remain within those bounds.”
But, he wrote: “The facts and documents available to the Government tell a different story.”
The special counsel said: “The documents produced by Fusion GPS to date reflect hundreds of emails in which Fusion GPS employees shared raw, unverified, and uncorroborated information — including their own draft research and work product — with reporters … as part of a (largely successful) effort to trigger negative news stories about one of the Presidential candidates.”
DURHAM ISSUES TRIAL SUBPOENAS TO CLINTON CAMPAIGN AND DNC
The accidentally released emails are largely from Fusion co-founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, as well as Fusion’s Jake Berkowitz, to a variety of reporters in 2016. The emails largely focus on Fusion pushing claims related to Alfa Bank, Carter Page, and Sergei Millian.
Page was targeted with flawed FISA surveillance that relied upon Steele's dossier. Millian is a Belarus-born U.S. businessman who has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Fusion pushed a variety of research papers, including a lengthy one focused on Alfa Bank, to reporters too.
Berkowitz sent an email to Franklin Foer of Slate about Page in May 2016, and Foer sent a “draft” of a “Manchurian Candidate” document to Fritsch in June 2016 asking for suggestions, with Fritsch praising what he sent. Fritsch also pushed claims about Millian to Foer that month.
Fritsch also sent claims about Millian and Alfa Bank to Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times in September 2016 and sent Lichtblau a zip file in an email with the subject line “Alfa and Trump” in early October 2016. Fritsch told Lichtblau that Fusion’s “tech maven” said it was “first posted via Reddit.” Durham plans to call Fusion’s “tech maven” — Laura Seago — at trial.
Foer reported in October 2016 that researchers found “a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.” Lichtblau then published a report stating, “The FBI ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam.”
On Halloween 2016, Clinton tweeted, “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.” She was sharing the Slate story.
She also shared a statement by then-Clinton campaign adviser and current Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who said, “We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia.”
The FBI, CIA, special counsel Robert Mueller, a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, and Durham’s team have all cast doubt on or shot down the Alfa Bank claims.
Emails show Simpson also pushed Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post to look into Millian in June 2016. Hamburger emailed Simpson in July 2016 that one of the outlet's Moscow sources called Page meeting Russians named Igor Sechin and Sergei Ivanov “bulls***” and “impossible.”
Mark Hosenball of Reuters emailed Simpson requesting information about “Millianaire” and Page in June 2016. Fritsch sent an “Alfa Group Overview” to Hosenball in early October 2016.
Hosenball forwarded a denial about the Alfa Bank claims from Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks to Fritsch in early October 2016 and asked Fusion how to “get behind” the explanation from the “Trumpies.”
He emailed Fritsch later that month to ask if there was “anything new Russkie/Donald wise.” Fritsch replied that Hosenball should “do the f***ing Alfa bank secret comms story." Hosenball said “my cyber expert colleagues cannot satisfy themselves about the authenticity of some of the key data, which they say from what they can tell is NOT public data.”
Fritsch also emailed Hosenball on Halloween 2016: “Big story on the Trump Alfa server moving early PM. OTR [off the record]. USG [U.S. government] absolutely investigating.”
Fritsch pushed for Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal to look into Page in July 2016. Solomon told Fusion that “your thesis of Trump being a Manchurian Candidate is worse than originally presented.” Fritsch emailed that “WSJ not interested in hack story or Russia angle,” saying that made the outlet a “club of one” because “everyone wants s*** on this.”
Fritsch sent Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News an “Alfa Group Overview” in early October 2016 and gave him a heads up on Halloween about the Slate story.
Hillary for America moved to intervene last week, saying it was “asserting attorney-client privilege and work protection" related to Perkins and Fusion. The filing included declarations from Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta, Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook, and Elias.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
Durham said Monday: “These parties are advancing a highly novel, and seemingly broad, theory of attorney-client privilege, namely, that Fusion GPS’s political opposition research — which triggered a sizeable outflow of unverified derogatory information into the media, the government, and the public — was, in reality, confidential expert work intended to support legal advice regarding libel and defamation.”
The judge granted on Tuesday morning the motions to intervene filed by the Clinton campaign, the DNC, Fusion, Perkins, and Joffe and said they were directed to file their briefs by Friday.