The trial of Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann is coming to an end but rather than provide definitive answers to the origins of the Russiagate hoax, the trial has thrown up many new mysteries and unanswered questions.
Durham’s overarching trial narrative was that the FBI was duped by Sussmann when he presented them with data purportedly tying Trump to the Kremlin via the Russian Alfa Bank. It may have been Durham’s only viable strategy given the fact he was facing a jury of twelve Washington D.C. residents, a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 20 to 1.
This strategy did give Sussmann’s team the opportunity to highlight serious misconduct by the FBI, with a flurry of new information about FBI malfeasance and abuses coming to light.
What does this all mean for Durham? Can he now do a U-turn and go after the FBI that he spent the past two weeks calling a victim? Can he go after Sussmann’s associates like tech executive Rodney Joffe? And what about Hillary Clinton, who we learned greenlighted the plan to vilify Trump?
The Danchenko Case
Durham’s most immediate concern will be his second big case—that being against Christopher Steele’s primary sub-source, Igor Danchenko.
Danchenko was indicted in November 2021 for lying to the FBI, the same type of charge that Sussmann faced. Specifically, Danchenko is alleged to have lied about his own sources, making up a conversation with Sergei Millian, a man he never met, and concealing from the FBI his conversations with Clinton operative Charles Dolan.
There are a number of crucial differences between Sussmann’s and Danchenko’s situations. Perhaps most importantly, Danchenko was charged in Virginia, not in Washington D.C. That means the jury pool will be more favorable to Durham.
Like Sussmann, Danchenko talked to the FBI in Washington but, unlike Sussmann, he later repeated his lies at his home in Virginia when the FBI came for follow-up interviews. That Durham chose to charge Danchenko in Virginia where the lies were repeated instead of in Washington where they were first told, gives us an insight into how Durham views the Washington jury pool.
The second big difference is that Danchenko is charged with five lies, not just one. In fact, an analysis of the only publicly available Danchenko interview transcript appears to show other lies. However, Durham charged just five, perhaps because he has audio recordings of those lies, which would be another difference between the Sussmann and Danchenko cases.
Lastly, Danchenko does not enjoy Democratic Party privilege. Sussmann is a high-powered, well-connected Democratic Party lawyer who represented Clinton and who himself is represented by a high-powered team of top lawyers.
Whether by design or coincidence, most decisions from Obama-appointed Judge Christopher Cooper went Sussmann’s way. Such is the way of Washington that Cooper is married to Amy Jeffress, a former senior official with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and lawyer for Lisa Page. Page was front and center of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation. Cooper’s marriage was officiated by Obama’s Attorney General Merrick Garland, the man who overlooks Durham.
Danchenko’s situation is very different. He’s a Russian national with few connections. There will be no special privileges and he will likely be convicted.
Danchenko’s trial will be held in October and Durham is facing a number of discovery obligations this coming month. But once he has those matters under control, he will probably move on to bigger fish.
Will Durham Pursue Private Operatives?
The looming question is whether those bigger fish will involve anyone bigger than Sussmann, who was, after all, a leading campaign lawyer for Clinton. There are two broad categories of people who may be in Durham’s sights.
First, there are private actors—people from outside the government who pushed the Clinton campaign’s smears against Trump. A number of Clinton operatives were implicated as part of the case against Sussmann, including Joffe, Clinton lead campaign lawyer Marc Elias, and Fusion GPS co-founders Peter Fritsch and Glenn Simpson. Fusion GPS is the political consulting firm that coordinated with Sussmann to push false stories about Trump into the media.
We also heard testimony that Clinton herself greenlighted the scheme to use the press to vilify Trump with false accusations of Russia collusion. But will any of these people face consequences?
The person most likely in Durham’s crosshairs is Joffe, who was remarkably offered a top government job in the case of a Clinton election victory, which may have been what motivated him to get involved in the scheme. Joffe was also the person who brought the false Alfa Bank data to his attorney, Sussmann, who later brought it to the FBI.
During the past two weeks we learned that after setting things in motion with Sussmann, Joffe took things into his own hands by taking the same fake Alfa data that Sussmann brought to FBI general counsel Baker to FBI agent Tom Grasso. Joffe told Grasso that he got the info from a reporter and that Grasso should keep Joffe’s name secret.
In essence, with Sussmann’s help, Joffe was creating the appearance of two separate information streams into the FBI when in fact all the fake data was coming from Joffe himself. The scheme was simple, effective, and devious. First, Sussmann would get the FBI to investigate Trump, and then Joffe would come in “independently” to back Sussmann’s fake story.
During Grasso’s testimony it was also revealed that Joffe was a confidential human source for the FBI and that he worked on “Russian-related cyber matters.” There was at least a suggestion that Joffe might have had a role in analyzing the alleged Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee in May 2016. If Joffe was involved in shaping the narrative of the alleged hacking, it would cast yet more doubt on the flimsy yet prevailing conclusion that the Russian government was responsible.
Joffe has thus far not been charged with any offense. However, in court last week it emerged Joffe misled the FBI on where he got the Alfa data from. Second, he concealed his connections to Sussmann and the Clinton campaign from the FBI. But those two alleged lie…