Durham Investigation: Attorney charged with lying to FBI in connection with Trump-Russia investigation

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According to the indictment, Sussmann – a prominent cybersecurity attorney whose law firm Perkins Coie worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign – lied in a September 2016 meeting with then FBI General Counsel James Baker, where Sussmann provided information about possible links between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank.

Sussmann told Baker he was not working on behalf of a client, but prosecutors claim he was representing the Clinton campaign and a tech industry expert to provide the server data, the indictment said.

Sussmann’s lawyers said he would fight the charges in court, and his law firm said in a statement Thursday that he resigned “to focus on his legal defense”.

Thursday’s criminal indictment quickly became an overwhelming sign in an investigation by the Special Counsel that had tried for years to uncover failures in the FBI and intelligence services’ early investigation in Russia – only to come with a single charge against an unremarkable outside attorney to land . The information Sussmann presented to the FBI eventually turned into a verge that quickly fizzled out in the larger Russia investigation that found that the Trump campaign welcomed Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and resulted in multiple convictions of six top Trump Consultants.

“Sussmann’s lie was material,” wrote prosecutors, “because Sussmann’s false testimony misled the FBI General Counsel and other FBI staff, among others, about the political nature of his work and withheld information from the FBI that might have made it more complete To assess and uncover the origin of the relevant data and technical analyzes, including the identity and motivation of Sussmann’s customers. “

The public prosecutor accuses Sussmann of repeating the lie to other government employees.

Focus on communication data

An FBI investigation has found no evidence of clandestine communication between Russia’s Alfa Bank and the Trump organization, according to a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee. And the bank and the Trump organization have denied the claims.

The provenance of a USB stick provided by Sussmann to the FBI was a major focus of the investigation, said those briefed on the matter.

The drives contained information about possible links between Trump’s company and a Russian bank.

The FBI investigated claims that servers in Trump Tower were communicating with servers belonging to Alfa Bank, a Russian bank, as part of a broader investigation into links between Trump campaign partners and Russians.

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report did not discuss Alfa Bank’s allegations, and when asked about them during a House hearing in 2019, Mueller said he believed the allegations were not true.

Durham was getting closer to the indictment

According to the person familiar with the case, Sussmann’s legal department learned about three weeks ago that Durham investigators were bringing charges against him.

Sussmann’s team appealed this decision to the Justice Department leadership, which is possible in a case like this, but was denied this week.

His attorneys, Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth, said Thursday that his charges came out of “politics, not facts”.

Sussmann shared information about the Trump Organization’s computer data with the FBI “because he and his client believed the information raised national security concerns … all of it, none of it mattered.”

The New York Times first reported the plans to file an indictment on Wednesday.

Sussmann’s attorneys said in a statement to CNN on Wednesday night that he had not committed a crime and would be tried if charged to “justify his good name”. Lawyers found that Sussmann served in the Justice Department during both Democratic and Republican governments.

Law firm Perkins Coie, who worked for the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party in 2016, paid research firm Fusion GPS to produce a series of reports by a former British intelligence official detailing the connections between Russians and Trump and his staff.

Separately, a group of cyber experts said in 2016 that they analyzed thousands of unexplained computer connections between the servers of Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization and that the allegations had reached the FBI through various intermediaries, including Sussmann.

Trump wanted more

Durham was appointed by then Attorney General William Barr in early 2019 to investigate Trump and Barr’s suspicions that the FBI and US intelligence agencies had been guilty of misconduct in pursuing the Trump-Russia investigation. In a review now taking longer than Mueller’s investigation, Durham largely failed to deliver what Trump wanted.

The former president publicly said he wanted charges against former top FBI and intelligence officials and expected Durham to make a public report ahead of last year’s election.

After Durham first investigated the intelligence agency’s role in the Russia investigation and found no wrongdoing, Barr turned back to a re-investigation by the FBI, which had already been the subject of a scathing Inspector General’s report that revealed several missteps by the office.

Durham filed a relatively small case last year against a former FBI attorney who admitted to falsifying information used to obtain a surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign partner Carter Page, but there was no big surprise in October from Durham, as Trump expected. That failure, in Trump’s eyes, added to the tension between Barr and the then-President during the final months of the Trump presidency, former administration officials say.

As part of Durham’s appointment as a special investigator, he is expected to submit a final report to Attorney General Merrick Garland, with the intention that at least part of it will be made public.

The Durham investigation is in its final stages, said people informed of the matter, with a possible deadline looming for all charges. However, in a statement announcing the indictments against Sussmann on Thursday, the Justice Department said the investigation into Durham was ongoing.

Campaign loyalty

Thursday’s indictment outlines the links between Sussmann and the Clinton campaign when he pushed information about the Trump organization into the hands of investigators.

The statement that he did not work for a client “led the general counsel to realize that Sussmann was providing information as a good citizen rather than a paid lawyer or political worker,” the Justice Department said.

At the time, Sussmann represented both a cybersecurity expert who had provided him with the data and the Clinton campaign. He has alleged, including in his own testimony before Congress, that he met with Baker on behalf of the cybersecurity client.

The Clinton campaign did not instruct Sussmann to meet with Baker, argued Sussmann’s legal team to Durham, the confidante said.

In the indictment, however, Durham alleges that Sussmann and the tech manager, after receiving the computer data, allegedly “tried to do something with” [a Clinton campaign lawyer] and individuals acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign to share information about Russian banking details with the media and others, claiming that this demonstrates the existence of a secret communication channel between the Trump organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank.

Baker testifying before Congress

Baker also testified before Congress in October 2018 that he knew Sussmann had received the information he shared from cyber experts. Baker told Congress that he did not recall Sussmann “specifically saying that he was acting on behalf of a particular client.”

Sussmann’s attorneys Berkowitz and Bosworth said in their statement: “Any charge here would be baseless, unprecedented and an unjustified deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Justice Department is supposed to do its work.”

Durham’s investigators questioned Baker and other former FBI officials about the information Sussmann provided, people who were briefed on the matter told CNN.

Durham has presented evidence to a grand jury as part of its investigation, CNN previously reported. A witness who has testified over the past few weeks told CNN that based on the questions asked, Durham believes Durham plans to bring charges over the handling of the Alfa Bank matter.

At the time of Sussmann’s meeting with Baker, the FBI had already started investigating the connections between Russians and Trump campaign partners. It is not uncommon for outsiders to provide information to the FBI.

A Baker attorney declined to comment. Justice Department spokesmen and Durham also declined to comment.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

Paula Reid contributed to this story.


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