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Latest Durham Drop Reveals Startling Emails From Fusion GPS To Media Figures
U.S. Attorney John Durham, center, outside federal court in New Haven, Conn., after the sentencing of former Gov. John Rowland. Durham will continue as special counsel in the investigation of the origins of the Trump-Russia inquiry, but is being asked to resign as U.S. attorney. (Bob MacDonnell/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Bob MacDonnell/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Special counsel John Durham released a cache of emails between Fusion GPS operatives and journalists in a court filing earlier this week, giving a first-hand look at how the investigative firm pushed unverified claims of Trump-Russia collusion to a willing media.

Durham said in a Monday filing that he had obtained hundreds of emails from Fusion GPS and wanted to submit them to the court under seal, or barred from public view, ahead of attorney Michael Sussmann’s trial in May. Durham appeared to accidentally release a batch of those emails publicly on the court docket Monday before the mistake was corrected on Tuesday morning, according to The Washington Examiner.

Fusion GPS along with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the Perkins Coie law firm are fighting Durham’s attempts to convince the court to compel the release of withheld documents and communications related to the Sussmann case. Fusion GPS and the others have claimed that their records are protected under attorney-client privilege.

Durham’s team argues that the records are material to Sussmann trial over whether the former Perkins Coie attorney lied to the FBI in meetings about former President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. “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,” Durham wrote in a Monday filing.

In the emails released on Monday, Fusion GPS co-founders Peter Fritsch and Glenn Simpson and Fusion employee Jake Berkowitz pass opposition research on the Trump campaign to journalists from Slate, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others.

In one June 28, 2016, exchange, then-Slate journalist Franklin Foer shared a file titled “Manchuriancandidate.foer,” which Foer said was a “draft” he had already given to an editor, with Fritsch for the Fusion operatives to “scan it for omissions and errors.” “Obviously keep it to yourselves,” Foer told Fritsch, adding “promise me you won’t use it as a prod to the competition, whoever they are now.”

Fritsch responded positively and said “jake (sic) and i (sic) will read more closely and make some suggestions.”

In other emails, Fusion GPS pushed research and information about Carter Page and Sergei Millian. Former Trump campaign advisor Page was targeted by the FBI and his communications tapped under flawed FISA court warrants, but he was never convicted of any crime. Millian, a U.S. businessman from Belarus, is not accused of any wrongdoing, and reporting connecting him to the infamous Steele dossier later fell apart.

The day before Foer sent Fritsch the “draft,” Fritsch sent Foer an email stating that Millian was “clearly kgb [sic].”

In a July 2016 email, Reuters’ Mark Hosenball sent Simpson an email asking for research on Millian and Page. “Pls (sic) remember to send me stuff on Sergei the Millian-aire. Also if you have stuff on the Carter Page guy, including his most recent Russia excursions, pls (sic) send.”

In another July 2016 exchange, The Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger went to Fusion GPS looking for information on Page. “you (sic) guys have any of the underlying docs for Page companies in Oklahoma and elsewhere?” Hamburger wrote in an email to Simpson and Berkowitz.

Fritsch made several contacts with Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times. In September 2016, the Fusion founder sent Lichtblau information on the Russian bank Alfa Bank and Millian. Then in October, Fritsch sent Lichtblau a zip file named “Alfa and Trump.”

Allegations of collusion between Trump and Russian agents were never substantiated. The allegations hounded the former president for years before former special counsel Robert Mueller concluded his investigation.

In 2016 when the claims were gaining traction in the media, Fusion GPS’s office in Washington’s Dupont Circle was “something of a public reading room” for information and opposition research on Trump and his allies’ supposed ties to Russia, Simpson and Fritsch wrote in their 2019 book on their work investigating the Trump campaign.

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