WASHINGTON – A prosecutor investigating the US government’s investigation into Russian election interference on Thursday accused a prominent cybersecurity lawyer of making false statements to the FBI five years ago.
The indictment accused Michael Sussman of concealing that he was dealing with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign during a September 2016 conversation with the FBI’s general counsel when he asked cybersecurity researchers to contact Russian banks. and had relayed concerns about potentially suspicious contacts between Trump Organization servers. The FBI investigated the case but ultimately found no evidence of a covert back channel.
According to the indictment filed by the special counsel, the hoax matters because it “deprived the FBI of information that enabled it to fully assess the origins of relevant data and technical analysis, including the identities and motivations of Sussman’s clients, and allowed to be exposed.” John Durham and his team of prosecutors.
Sussman’s lawyers said her client was charged because of “politics, not facts.”
“It appears that the special counsel is using this indictment to advance a conspiracy theory that he has actually chosen not to charge. This case is contrary to everything the Justice Department has stood for. Mr Sussman will fight this baseless and politically-motivated prosecution,” attorneys Shawn Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth said in a statement.
The case against Sussman is the second prosecution brought by Durham in two-and-a-half years’ work. Both contain false statements, yet neither predates the original finding of an earlier investigation by Robert Mueller that Russia interfered in a broad fashion on behalf of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and that the Trump campaign used that aid. was welcomed.
The indictment also highlights the broad and evolving nature of Durham’s investigation. In addition to probing the activities of FBI and CIA officials in the early days of the Russia investigation, it has also looked at the behavior of private individuals such as Sussman who provided information to the US government as a way to determine whether Trump aides coordinated. Was doing. To tell the results of the election with Russia.
The indictment pertains to a September 19, 2016 meeting between Sussman and the FBI’s then-general counsel, James Baker, at FBI Headquarters. During the meeting, prosecutors say, Sussman provided Baker with three “white papers” and data files purported to show possible links between Russia-based Alpha Bank and Trump Organization servers.
According to the indictment, Sussman said he was not presenting the material on behalf of any particular client, which prosecutors say led Baker to believe Sussman was a “good citizen” rather than a “paid lawyer or political operator”. were working as
Sussman’s lawyers say he met Baker because a major news organization was about to publish a story about Alpha Bank, and wanted to give Baker a copy of the material on which the story would be based. Furthermore, he says, it didn’t matter who Sussman’s clients were because the FBI would probably have looked into the issue whether there was a political connection.
The Alfa Bank case was not a significant element of the Russia investigation and was not even mentioned in Mueller’s 448-page report in 2019. Still, the indictment may provide fodder to Russia’s investigative critics who see it as politically tainted and engineered by Democrats.
Sussmann’s former firm, Perkins Coie, has deep Democratic ties. The firm’s then partner, Mark Elias, struck a deal with the Fusion GPS research firm to study Trump’s business ties with Russia. That work by former British spy Christopher Steele produced a dossier of research that helped form the basis of flawed surveillance applications targeting former Trump campaign official Carter Page.
A spokesperson for Perkins Coe said that Sussman, “who is on leave from the firm, offered his resignation from the firm to focus on his legal defense, and the firm accepted it.”
Durham’s investigation has already lasted longer than the earlier special counsel investigation into Russian election interference by former FBI Director Mueller and his team. The investigation was slowed by the coronavirus pandemic and experienced leadership after a top deputy in Durham’s team was suddenly dropped.
Although Trump eagerly anticipated Durham’s findings in the hope that they would be a boon to his reelection campaign, the conclusion of any political influence could once be dimmed by the fact that Trump is no longer in office.
Durham’s appointment by then-Attorney General William Barr in 2019 was designed to investigate possible errors or misconduct in the US government’s investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign conspired with Russia to influence the outcome of the election. was doing.
A two-year investigation by Mueller established that the Trump campaign was eager to receive and benefit from Kremlin aid, and documented several interactions between Russians and Trump allies. Investigators said they did not find enough evidence to accuse any campaign official of conspiring with Russia, although half a dozen Trump aides were charged with various crimes, including making false statements.
So far, Durham had brought only one criminal case—a false statement charge against an FBI attorney who changed an email related to Page’s surveillance to obscure the nature of Page’s pre-existing relationship with the CIA. That lawyer, Kevin Klinesmith, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation.