John Durham, the special prosecutor tasked more than a year ago with investigating the origins of the infamous Trump–Russia collusion probe, has indicted a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton for lying to the FBI.
According to Politico, Michael Sussmann, an attorney at Perkins Coie, was charged with a single felony count Thursday for making false statements during a meeting in September 2016.
Durham turns up felony charge
The lawyer told FBI General Counsel James Baker on Sept. 19, 2016 that the Trump Organization was connected with a Russian bank, Alfa Bank — a statement that turned out to be false.
At the time, the Russian collusion hoax was in its infancy and the FBI had just launched its investigation of the Trump campaign, called Crossfire Hurricane, weeks before.
Sussmann, according to the indictment, hid the “political nature of his work” from Baker by concealing the fact that he worked for the Clinton campaign. According to NBC News, he presented himself to Baker as “a good citizen merely passing along information” rather than what he was, a “paid advocate” and “political operative.”
Prior to the indictment, Sussmann’s lawyers told Fox News that their client is a “highly respected national security and cyber security lawyer” and that Durham was targeting him for political reasons.
“Mr. Sussmann has committed no crime,” Sussmann’s attorneys said, according to Fox. “Any prosecution here would be baseless, unprecedented, and unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work.”
Law firm paid for dossier
Sussmann, for his part, maintains that he was seeing Baker on behalf of a “cybersecurity expert” and insists that he did not misrepresent himself, according to the Daily Mail, but the nature of work performed by Perkins Coie at the time leaves that in doubt.
Infamously, the firm paid for a dossier of disinformation linking Trump to Russia — the notorious Christopher Steele dossier — on Clinton’s behalf, as Fox notes.
At the time Sussmann met with Baker, Clinton was attempting to link Trump with Alfa Bank, NBC News reported, and it certainly appears that Sussmann was working to further that effort with bogus information.
The Russia collusion hoax became the basis of an investigation that took up nearly half of Trump’s tenure before the then-president appointed Durham in 2019 to uncover the origins of the disinformation operation. Until recently, the probe was seen by many as having gone cold after much anticipation.
This is the closest Durham’s probe has gotten to the Clinton campaign, at least publicly. According to Politico, the only other person charged by Durham was an FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, who tampered with evidence to justify spying on a former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. Clinesmith was sentenced to probation.