John Durham, the special prosecutor appointed by the Trump administration to investigate the probe into Russia’s alleged election interference, has indicted former Hillary Clinton attorney Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI in 2016.
According to Politico, a grand jury indicted Michael Sussmann on Thursday of a “single felony count of making a false statement during a September 2016 meeting with FBI General Counsel James Baker.”
The indictment follows a report in the New York Times on Wednesday announcing that Durham would seek an indictment by a grand jury over a meeting between Michael Sussmann and the FBI in 2016 when Sussmann claimed to not have been working on behalf of a client while raising suspicions about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
Michael Sussmann is now a partner at Perkins Coie – a prominent law firm often employed by Democrat politicians – and previously “represented the Democratic National Committee on issues related to Russia’s 2016 hacking of its servers,” per the Times.
Sussmann denies that he was working on behalf of the Clinton campaign. In a statement prior to the indictment, Sussmann’s lawyers, Sean M. Berkowitz and Michael S. Bosworth, said their client had “committed no crime.”
“Any prosecution here would be baseless, unprecedented and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work,” the attorneys said. “We are confident that if Mr. Sussmann is charged, he will prevail at trial and vindicate his good name.”
Durham brought the charges on Thursday due to the five-year statute of limitations for the crime Sussmann is alleged to have committed on September 19, 2016. From CNN:
According to the indictment, Sussmann — a prominent cybersecurity lawyer whose law firm Perkins Coie worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign — lied at a September 2016 meeting with then-FBI General Counsel James Baker in which Sussmann shared information about possible connections between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank.
Sussmann told Baker he wasn’t working on behalf of any client, yet prosecutors allege he was representing the Clinton campaign as well as a tech industry professional who had provided the server data, according to the indictment.
An FBI investigation didn’t find evidence of surreptitious communications between the Russian Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report. And the bank and the Trump Organization have denied the claims.
According to Durham, Baker told investigators that Sussmann said he was not raising suspicions about the Trump campaign on behalf of any client. However, during a deposition before Congress in 2017, Sussmann said that he “sought the meeting on behalf of an unnamed client who was a cybersecurity expert and had helped analyze the data,” per the New York Times.
Furthermore, billing records that Durham obtained from Perkins Coie allegedly show that when Sussmann “logged certain hours as working on the Alfa Bank matter,” he billed the time to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. At the time, Marc Elias, another partner at Perkins Coie, was serving as general counsel for the Clinton campaign.
Sussmann’s lawyers have claimed that their client was not working on behalf of the Clinton campaign, insisting that he was “representing the cybersecurity expert he mentioned to Congress.”
“They are also said to have argued that the billing records are misleading because Mr. Sussmann was not charging his client for work on the Alfa Bank matter, but needed to show internally that he was working on something,” noted the Times. “He was discussing the matter with Mr. Elias and the campaign paid a flat monthly retainer to the firm, so Mr. Sussmann’s hours did not result in any additional charges.”
Based on questions that John Durham has asked witnesses in recent months, the Times concluded his team is “pursuing a theory that the Clinton campaign used Perkins Coie to submit dubious information to the FBI about Russia and Mr. Trump in an effort to gin up investigative activity to hurt his 2016 campaign.”