Lawyer indicted in Trump-Russia inquiry

The prosecutor reviewing the US government’s investigation into Russian election interference on Thursday accused a prominent cybersecurity lawyer of making a false statement to the FBI.

The case against attorney, Michael Sussmann of law firm Perkins Coie, is just the second lawsuit brought by Special Counsel John Durham in two and a half years on the job. Yet none of the cases brought by Durham undo the main finding of an earlier Robert Mueller investigation that Russia had drastically interfered in the name of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and that the Trump campaign had. welcomed this help.

It lays bare the vast and evolving nature of the Durham Inquiry. In addition to scrutinizing the activities of FBI and CIA officials during the early days of the Russia investigation, he also examined the behavior of individuals like Sussman who provided information to the US government as he was trying to determine whether Trump’s associates were coordinating with Russia to tip the scales of the election outcome.

The indictment accuses Sussmann of concealing that he was working with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign during a conversation he had in September 2016 with the FBI’s general counsel, when he made shares concerns of cybersecurity researchers about potentially suspicious contacts between Russian bank Alfa and a server of the Trump organization. . The FBI investigated the matter but found no connection. Sussmann is a former federal prosecutor specializing in cybersecurity.

Sussmann’s attorneys Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth said their client is a well-respected national security attorney who had previously worked in the Department of Justice under the Republican and Democratic administrations and said they were confident that he would win at trial and “justify his good reputation.”

“Sir. Sussmann did not commit any crime,” they said in a statement. “Any lawsuit here would be groundless, unprecedented, and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way the Justice Department is supposed to do its job. “

The Alfa Bank case was not a central part of the Russia investigation and was not even mentioned in Mueller’s 448-page report in 2019. Yet the indictment may provide fodder to critics of the Russian inquiry who see it as politically tainted and designed by Democrats.

Sussmann’s cabinet, Perkins Coie, has deep Democratic ties. Marc Elias, then a partner of the company, made a deal with research firm Fusion GPS to study Trump’s trade ties with Russia. This work, carried out by former British spy Christopher Steele, produced a research brief that helped form the basis of flawed surveillance applications targeting former Trump campaign official Carter Page.

The Durham investigation has already gone on for months longer than the Special Adviser’s previous investigation into Russian election interference led by Mueller, the former FBI director, and his team. The investigation has been slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic and has seen a leadership uproar following the abrupt departure last fall of a senior deputy from the Durham team.

While Trump eagerly anticipated the Durham findings in the hopes that they would be a boon to his re-election campaign, any political impact the finding might have once had have been mitigated by the fact that Trump is no longer in office. to be able to.

The appointment to Durham by then Attorney General William Barr in 2019 was intended to examine potential errors or faults in the U.S. government’s investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was conspiring with Russia to influence the outcome of the elections.

A two-year investigation by Mueller established that the Trump campaign was eager to receive and benefit from the Kremlin’s help, and documented multiple interactions between Russians and Trump associates. Investigators said they had not found enough evidence to charge a campaign official with conspiring with Russia, although a half-dozen of Trump’s aides have been charged with various offenses, including understood false statements.

So far, Durham has only brought one criminal case – a misrepresentation charge against an FBI attorney who altered an email related to Page’s surveillance to disguise the nature of Page’s pre-existing relationship. with the CIA. This lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation.