Monday, January 25, 2021

Paul Sperry: Whither John Durham?

Paul Sperry today has a very thorough review of where the John Durham investigation stands and where it may be headed. The article naturally focuses on Kevin Clinesmith, the disgraced former FBI lawyer who has pled guilty to making false statements to the FISA court (FISC) with regard to the final application for FISA coverage of Carter Page. Clinesmith is due to be sentenced later this week:

New Evidence Implicates FBI Higher-Ups in Dishonesty of Anti-Trump Lawyer

Sperry begins by noting that "defenders of the FBI" [sic] claim that Clinesmith's false statement--he altered a CIA document that was submitted to the FISC, causing the document to say the opposite of what it originally said--was a "lapse of judgment" or some such thing. Clinesmith himself has maintained that he never intended to mislead anyone. He'd also like to offer you a deal on a famous bridge in New York. 

However, says Sperry, there is new information that may portend a reinvigorated Durham investigation:

"But such explanations are challenged by new revelations from court papers filed in the case, which some civil libertarians call the most egregious violation and abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) since it was enacted more than 40 years ago.

"The little-noticed documents, which include never-before-seen exhibits, were submitted by Special Counsel John Durham and lawyers for Page, who has been granted time to address the court as a victim when it sentences Clinesmith Jan. 29 as part of a plea agreement. Page and his attorneys argue that the FBI obtained his electronic communications, both written and oral, based on fraudulent warrants in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. He is suing Clinesmith and the FBI for $75 million in damages.

"The court filings reveal, among other things, that Clinesmith knew much earlier than has been reported about Page’s cooperation with the U.S. government, and was not alone in knowing that he had provided information on the Russians to the CIA -- or in covering up that knowledge.

"Several officials within his tightly compartmentalized chain-of-command — including former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, his counselor Lisa Page and counterintelligence chief Peter Strzok — learned of Page’s role with the CIA before they first sought to wiretap him during the 2016 presidential campaign. The CIA had confirmed his role two months earlier in an August 2016 memo it sent to the FBI. And Page’s status as a CIA contact had been documented in the FBI's own electronic files going back to 2009."

Carter Page's legal team is now headed by Leslie McAdoo Gordon. Based on her experience I expect her to make a very effective presentation to the court. It seems to me unlikely that McAdoo Gordon would seek this opportunity to address the FISC unless she intended to argue that Clinesmith was part of a bigger picture conspiracy involving Carter Page. The shape of that conspiracy against Carter Page can be determined from the list of individual defendants in Carter Page's $75 million dollar lawsuit for violation of his "Constitutional and other legal rights." (Highly recommended reading.) Here's that list. I wasn't aware that Pientka was included in the lawsuit, but I'm not surprised--as I remarked not long ago, despite the fact that Pientka asked to be off the Crossfire Hurricane team, I doubted that his hands could possibly be clean in all this:









The question that interests us is, where is John Durham in all this? Is the Clinesmith sentencing going to be the end of the road for him, or will he try to leverage that into prosecutions of former FBI officials named in the Carter Page lawsuit (and possibly others, such as James Baker and Bill Priestap, as well DoJ officials like David Laufman)?

Sperry, in my opinion, makes a strong argument that that should be the case. Whether it will be the case is, of course, perhaps more dependent on political considerations than legal ones. Sperry's best argument uses information that I was not aware of, but which I find extremely telling--that McCabe approved Clinesmith as the lead FBI lawyer working on the Crossfire Hurricane team. (I would add in that regard that Clinesmith was probably recommended to McCabe, likely by Lisa Page and Peter Strzok):

"Some observers speculate that McCabe is a key target in Durham's ongoing investigation, which was initially based in Connecticut, where Durham serves as U.S. attorney, but is now operating primarily out of Washington.

"They point out that McCabe hand-picked Clinesmith, barely in his 30s, for his investigative team and gave him unusual authority over the highly sensitive case, compartmentalizing him within his office and making him the point man on all four FISA warrant requests. Clinesmith was involved from the start, and McCabe gave his efforts to surveil Page a high-level push through the Justice Department, where it initially met with resistance from skeptical lawyers who asked questions about Page’s prior relationship with the CIA.

"Moreover, McCabe was the FBI official who signed the FISA application tainted by Clinesmith’s crime. It was McCabe who certified that the controversial June 2017 application to renew the wiretap on Page was accurate, even though it omitted what the CIA had told Clinesmith and others at the FBI — that Page had been acting on behalf of the U.S. government in engaging with certain Russians. The application Clinesmith and McCabe shepherded through misled the court by citing his contacts with those Russians as evidence he was working on behalf of Moscow, not Washington, and a key reason the FBI claimed it was suspicious of him."

In support of this line of thinking, Sperry cites the view of former FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker--and this is the type of prosecutive theory that would be presented to a jury if Durham seeks further prosecutions:

“It’s a very brazen move, doctoring an email from another agency; it’s unlikely Clinesmith would have been so brazen if he didn’t know he had protection from above ... It makes perfect sense from Clinesmith’s guilty plea that McCabe is in legal jeopardy.”

“It was my belief that McCabe skated on the false statements indictment because Durham had bigger and better things to run against him.”

Swecker's argument is totally persuasive as far as I'm concerned. However, the key to Sperry's contention that Durham may actually be intending further prosecutions lies in statements that Durham has made to the court with regard to the knowledge that other members of the Crossfire Hurricane team were aware that Carter Page was a US intelligence asset, and not a Russian agent at all. All of these Crossfire Hurricane team members worked closely with Clinesmith as well as reporting to McCabe:

"The special prosecutor makes a point of noting in court records that in addition to Clinesmith, the CIA had provided “certain members” of the Crossfire Hurricane team a detailed memo verifying that Page was acting on behalf of the CIA and had cooperated with the U.S. government on numerous occasions.

"Delivered on Aug. 17, 2016, as the FBI was opening investigations into Page and three other Trump campaign officials and discussing the first application for a FISA warrant on Page, the CIA memo stated that Page had been approved for "operational contact" from 2008 to 2013 and described Page’s interactions with Russian intelligence officers, including some cited nefariously in the FISA applications. It further informed Crossfire investigators that Page briefed the CIA about these contacts, and the CIA determined that Page was “candid" in his reporting.


"The memo was entered in the FBI’s system of record known as “Sentinel,” and everybody on the Crossfire team had access to it -- including Strzok and McCabe’s legal counsel Page -- and yet nobody told the FISA court about it. (Text messages and emails reveal that Strzok and Page were directly involved in the FISA process and worked closely with Clinesmith.)


"Durham notes in his sentencing motion that “instant messages and emails suggest that the SSA [supervisory special agent Joseph Pientka] and case agent [Somma] may have read those [CIA] documents in the past.” In a Sept. 29, 2016, email, in fact, Somma discussed the contents of the CIA memo with other members of the Crossfire team. There are also text messages between Clinesmith and Strzok discussing Carter Page’s status around the same time."

In the remainder of the article Sperry argues--citing my own views fairly extensively--that there are additional reasons for believing that the closely compartmentalized Crossfire Hurricane team was well aware of Carter Page's past cooperation with the US intelligence community--with the CIA but also with the FBI itself. Rather than quote from the article, I'll try to briefly summarize my views on this, as presented previously.

As Sperry emphasizes, the CIA informed the FBI at the beginning of Crossfire Hurricane, in August 2016, that Carter Page had been a trusted and reliable asset for the CIA for some five odd years: 2008 - 2013. In fact, however, as we have also just seen, the FBI had become aware of the CIA's relationship with Carter Page as early as 2009. How did that work?

The simple explanation is that both agencies were aware of Carter Page's contacts with Russians and both agencies were interested in those contacts--albeit from somewhat different perspectives. The FBI's awareness most likely came through routine FISA coverage on Russian officials (think: Flynn - Kislyak). The FBI, having learned of the CIA's relationship with Carter Page, was content to monitor Carter Page's contacts with Russian officials for some years. 

However, something changed in 2013. In 2013 the FBI realized that Carter Page was in contact with three Russian officials against whom the FBI hoped to develop a prosecutable case. In point of fact, the FBI realized that Carter Page could be used as a key witness in such a prosecution. I suggest, therefore, that it was by mutual agreement between the two agencies that the CIA terminated their relationship with Carter Page in 2013 and the FBI formally opened Carter Page as a cooperating witness. Presumably the two agencies agreed that the benefits of using Carter Page in a prosecution of Russian officials outweighed--in the bigger national security picture--whatever limited benefit the CIA may have been deriving from him.

Now, this case against the three Russian officials, which took place in New York, was a very big deal for the FBI. Prosecuted cases against foreign officials are few and far between. The arrest and prosecution of officials of a foreign power--especially a foreign power like Russia--has a major impact on international relations and would never have been approved simply at the local New York level. For that reason this case would have been closely monitored in Washington DC by both FBI and DoJ national security officials as well as by top DoS officials. And, of course, everything that occurred would be documented to multiple files--informant files and investigative files. In fact, this case would have been so important--such a feather in their cap for the FBI--that nothing would surprise me less than to learn that it had been briefed by disgraced former FBI Director Comey to the Obama White House at a very high level.

With all that in mind, it's simply unthinkable that the Crossfire Hurricane team could possibly have been unaware of who Carter Page was before Crossfire Hurricane was actually ginned up. Actually, we know for a fact that Peter Strzok was consulting with the FBI's New York office about Carter Page before Carter Page was officially part of the Trump campaign. In other words, well before Crossfire Hurricane was opened as an investigation, the FBI officials who became the key members of the Crossfire Hurricane team already knew about Carter Page and knew that he was a long time US intelligence asset--not a Russian agent. But they went ahead and misrepresented all of this to the FISC. Not once, but four times.

None of this is news to John Durham. Will he pursue the logical implications of all this, and seek to prosecute the full complement of persons responsible for what, as Sperry justly calls it, was "the most egregious violation and abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) since it was enacted more than 40 years ago"? Or will politics intervene?

Obviously I'd like to see Durham forging ahead, as Sperry suggests may be in the cards. My caution is that any prosecution of people at the level of McCabe and Comey gets uncomfortably close to the Clinton and Obama organizations. This same cast of characters--certainly Comey, McCabe, Lisa Page, and Strzok--were central to the Hillary email investigation and coverup. Any prosecution of them for their bad behavior in the Russia Hoax could lead them to implicate higher ups. Will Durham dare to attempt to tread on that politically fraught terrain? Will the Biden Inc. regime--or the Joebama regime--allow Durham to do that? Those are some of the big questions that will ultimately be answered. And perhaps sooner rather than later.


  1. LOL; that I just sent you the link in the earlier blog. You should be compensated for your name reference and quote don't you think? Or are you?

    1. I posted a link to it a while ago…should have known you’d do an blog post on it.

      Coming out now in connection with Clinesmith’s sentencing, which was expected to be no more than a light slap on the wrist, and really zeroing in on McCabe…one wonders what is coming next from Mr. Durham.

  2. Or just pardon them

    Perhaps he will:

    “Our long national nightmare is over,”

  3. well, to quote a "great" American: "what difference, at this point, does it make?" Pardons for everyone! Who cares? An Orange man took a charitable deduction 30 years ago for some used clothing that was "way outa line", so let's go after him! SMDH...

  4. And if Hillary had won, we would have never heard of any of this - ever.

    I am not about cancellation and censorship, but somehow these people need to pay a price. Brennan has know the truth since day one, and yet allowed this hoax conspiracy - which was in fact a true coup attempt- to continue for over 4 years. Allowed it to split our country apart. Hard to believe he is still walking around, getting paid, talking on tv and flaunting his security clearance. He must have files on people that even Hoover never dreamed of. We'll probably never know what Obama, or Rice or Comey, Yates, Rosenstein or Biden et al knew, but I think they were all in on it. Tearing our country apart. I know the fish rots from the head on down, and in this case, the entire senior management at the DOJ, the IC, State and the rest of Obama's hierarchy across all the relevant agencies smell like week old sardines. What a mess.

    1. @Rich; you have a good point. If Brennan has known the truth since Day 1, WHY didn't he prevent this? To your point Brennan allowed the country to be ripped apart. The costs were so great. I can only imagine someone instructed him to stay quiet. Wonder who?

    2. It was a conspiracy.

      I would say Durham has his hands full.

  5. The question is, why didn't Durham do all this during Trump administration, and why would he attempt it now when it is much more difficult?

    I think it will be memory holed.

    1. William Barr, thats 'why'.

    2. After 5.5 days of JoeBama, I think it's safe to say that the water is over the gunwales and about to douse the boiler. I don't see how we make through four years of this without the CCP eating our lunch. I spent the weekend with two old liberal friends. They were actually nativist in their comments about the illegal and East Asian immigrants that have become so prevalent in our neck of the CA woods. Furthermore, they said that China has to be watched like a hawk and punished for Covid. I raised my hand and asked whether they thought Biden or Trump would be more likely to promulgate such policies and they snapped at me like I had just crapped on the dinner table. "We HATE Trump!" No further conversation was possible.

      The USA is SO screwed.

    3. And, if not memory holed, I can't see jurors voting to convict any DS perps, now that it's clear, that the DS will have WH blessing to torment any such jurors (e.g. as "shills for white supremacism".

    4. @PD; in your 5.5 days don't count Saturday's "lid".

  6. YES! YES! YES!

    (I had forgotten that Durham had submitted a motion to submit material in the CP lawsuit case.)

    I agree Sperry seems to have pulled all the little pieces together in a nice coherent manner.

  7. I read the first three paragraphs and started the excerpt, then stopped.


    Really? So? The time for revelation, indictments, etc has passed.

    It. Just. Does. Not. Matter. Now.

    This is politics and the Dems won and the public at large does not care.

    1. Yes. I had assiduously been bookmarking links for years in a folder that started out with the name "RussiaGate" and later was renamed to "ObamaGate." I deleted the folder over the weekend. There is nobody left who can be convinced or who cares.

    2. Respectfully, I disagree Tex; it does matter.

      The shredding of 4th Amendment rights through abuse of FISA has to come to an end, and Congress MUST act. To me, this patently unlawful abuse that Obama kicked has to be decapitated, and in this next 2 years. It's the seed to all the potential evil we see coming.

      IMO, this is the single issue that could (should) unite the American People. The problem is, not many really understand what is happening, every single hour of every single day. What's remarkable about that is we now have Big Tech openly colluding with Government, providing digital and physical profiles based on our personal accounts and device tracking.

      Get the indictments or not.

      I say push your representatives HARD to get rid of the US Governments corrupt use of FISA.

    3. Agree. There are two systems of justice in America. We are witnessing it now as we watch the farce of an impeachment being presented to the Senate at this moment.

    4. Yes, Dave, it actually does matter, but anything now revealed will not matter.

      Thusly, it does not matter.

      Politics screamed that Trump/Barr get scalps. All we got was an election with an asterisk.

    5. Well I just hope Carter Page gets his $75 million

  8. This whole line of thinking ends up in Fantasyland. The FBI has all the integrity of the Mafia and all the legitimacy of the KGB. The Do“J” works for the Party — the UniParty — to wage Lawfare on unbelievers. And the judiciary has checked out of the process, and Durham is not far behind.

    It’s important for us to stop being delusional. Help is not coming from counsel, from a special counsel, or from any governmental body. Remember that the minority Party seeded and spread the Russian and other hoaxes under cover of Mueller. Yet the current crop of investigators can’t reach a conclusion after four years of work, and the Stupid Party (and the Cowardly Barr-Lion) couldn’t say boo, especially before the election. After all, they didn’t want to be successful like Schiff and Nadler.

    I say this as a retired legal practitioner. The system can handle suits on notes and mortgages, so long as a bank or a tech company is not putting its thumb on the scale. But any politically sensitive dispute? The fix is in.

    1. We all know the rule of law is dead. We don't have to stop deluding ourselves. Everybody knows it intuitively. We are long past conditioned to our new oligarchic reality. Brennan and Weismann and the gang over at Lawfare are our new masters and we're going to like it. What they say goes...

      Mark A

  9. Remember that time President Reagan pardoned Deep Throat in one of his very first acts in office?

    Andrew McCabe is to Mark Felt as Crossfire Hurricane is to Cointelpro.

    Granted, the Reagan analogy doesn't quite hold up given that he had never held federal office before 1981, and therefore had no complicity in any acts by any FBI officials prior to that time--he merely wanted to avoid a precedent that executive branch officials could be convicted for spying on Americans under the President's orders.

    But no one could have known when the Church Committee was out for blood in the mid 1970's that Reagan would come in and pardon anyone. The FBI had to offer up someone to go to jail, and that was their former number 2 man (who they didn't know was Deep Throat yet).

    Biden wants the FBI to do what they did under McCabe's management and more than likely took part in their shenanigans. I expect Clinesmith and/or McCabe to be pardoned before Durham can "finish his work."

  10. Hans Mahncke
    Remember when Huber was going to drain the FBI swamp?
    Quote Tweet

    U.S. Attorney Huber
    · Jan 15
    FBI to rioters: “Every FBI field office in the country is looking for you ... even your friends and family are tipping us off. So you might want to consider turning yourself in instead of wondering when we’re going to come knocking on your door—because we will.”…

  11. I'm afraid my outrage meter is pegged. I'll step back in when I see some frogmarching happening.

  12. Great writing Mark. That is an incredibly difficult story to keep pieced together and have to come off as fluid in the end.

    Everyone within the CF circle knew what they were doing. However, there is no way in hell either of the John's will ever put anyone involved into a courtroom.

    Too much gray-mail involved, the political hit it would cause to the Clinton/ O-Biden clans would be unspeakable. But most of all it would justify Trump, and they can not allow that to happen on any level.

  13. If you haven't read it yet, grab a cup of covfefe or tea, settle in and read the Carter Page complaint via Lesley Mcadoo Gordon - link above in Marks article.

    As we've said from the beginning, this entire sordid thing was spawned by Hillary Clinton.

    EVERYthing we're seeing now is the downstream result of Hillary Clinton's spiteful, vile smear of Donald Trump - and anyone associated with him.

    According to the CIA, all of it was done in the attempt to cover her illegal use of her personal server for Government emails.

    If you believe the CIA...?

    Who knows.

    But from Whitewater to Benghazi to the Clinton 'foundation' to this, her abject disdain for America, Americans and the US Constitution, there isn't a better Poster Child of the two sets of 'laws' we have in this country.

    1. How about poster CHILDREN? You could put Bluto Barr on the same poster with Hillary.

  14. Related:

    >> <<

    Solomon has the Carter Page/Halper transcript, and memos related to it, that were part of the missing declassification.

    Good quotes from Kevin Brock indicating if it were his investigation he'd have shut it down and cancelled the FISA.

    Elsewhere, it is being reported that Kash Patel says the declassified docs were held up by somebody at DOJ, despite Trump's order to declassify and release.