Trump-appointed counsel said to be seeking to indict Michael Sussmann, a lawyer with Democratic ties


Trump’s special counsel, who was appointed to investigate the administration’s relationship with Russia, has revealed he plans to ask a grand jury to indict a Democratic cybersecurity lawyer for making a false statement to the FBI.

Former federal prosecutor Michael Sussmann, 57, who now works as a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm, represented the Democratic National Committee when Russia hacked its servers back in 2016.

Special counsel John Durham told the Justice Department he is now seeking to indict the lawyer in a case questioning who Sussmann’s client was when he initially expressed suspicions to the FBI about Trump’s relationship with Russia in September 2016.

The accusation centered around a meeting Sussmann had in Russia on September 19, 2016 with James A Baker, the FBI’s top lawyer that year, according to people familiar with the matter. As reported by the New York Times they spoke on condition of anonymity.

At the meeting Sussmann allegedly gave the FBI data and analytics from cybersecurity researchers who thought the numbers might be evidence of hush-hush communications between Trump Organization’s computer servers and Alfa Bank – a Kremlin-linked Russian financial institution.

The accusation centers around a meeting Sussmann (pictured) had in Russia on September 19, 2016 with James A Baker, the FBI's top lawyer that year. At the meeting Sussmann allegedly gave the FBI data and analytics from cybersecurity researchers who thought the numbers might be evidence of hush-hush communications between Trump Organization's computer servers and Alfa Bank - a Kremlin-linked Russian financial institution

Special counsel John Durham (left) told the Justice Department he is seeking to indict Democratic cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann (right) in a case questioning who Sussmann’s client was when he initially expressed suspicions to the FBI about Trump’s relationship with Russia in September 2016

The Times reported that the FBI concluded the researchers’ concerns had no merit. The special counsel who proceeded Durham, Robert S Mueller III, ignored the matter completely in his final report.

According to The Times investigators are now examining whether Sussmann was secretly working for the Clinton campaign, although he has denied the accusations. 

Durham had a deadline of this weekend to bring the accusations to light and set the investigation in motion due to a five-year statute of limitations for such cases.  

Sussmann’s division at Perkins Coie is separate from the firm’s political law group, which represented the Democratic party and the Hillary Clinton campaign, as reported by The Times.

However, an indictment is not guaranteed and on rare occasions grand juries will decline a request such as Durham’s. 

But Sussmann’s lawyers Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth of the firm Latham & Watkins are expecting their client to be indicted, as reported by The Times, and also denied that he made any incorrect statements.

‘Mr Sussmann has committed no crime,’ they said.

Berkowitz and Bosworth insisted their client was representing the cybersecurity expert he mentioned to the FBI and he was not at the meeting with Baker for anything to do with the Clinton campaign.

The lawyers added: ‘Any prosecution 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.

‘We are confident that if Mr Sussmann is charged he will prevail at trial and vindicate his good name.’ 

Ex-President Donald Trump has long accused the democratic party and Perkins Coie of looking to find unfair suspicions about Trump's supposed ties to Russia. Trump supporters have been notoriously suspicious of Perkins Coie too

Ex-President Donald Trump has long accused the democratic party and Perkins Coie of looking to find unfair suspicions about Trump’s supposed ties to Russia. Trump supporters have been notoriously suspicious of Perkins Coie too

Sussmann’s lawyers told the Justice Department that he originally organized the 2016 meeting because he and the cybersecurity researchers believed The New York Times was about to publish an article on the Alfa Bank data. 

As reported by The Times, Sussmann wanted to give the FBI a heads-up before the paper ran the story which, in fact, they never did. The Times did, however, publish an article mentioning Alfa Bank six weeks later. 

Any indictment of the former prosecutor would attract significant political attention, according to The Times, and Durham is using a grand jury to examine Sussmann’s data from Alfa Bank.

He has allegedly been on the hunt for any evidence that the numbers were false or skewed but to date there has been no public sign that the data was fabricated.

And while Attorney General Merrick B Garland has the authority to overrule Durham, he did not, according to a spokesman. Garland and his spokesman declined to respond to The Times’s request for comment.

The only inconsistency Durham has been able to find to date is that Baker supposedly told investigators he remembered Sussmann telling him he wasn’t arranging the meeting on behalf of any client.  

Then, in a deposition before Congress in 2017 Sussmann testified otherwise, saying that he sought the meeting on behalf of an unidentified client who was a cybersecurity expert and assisted in data analyzation, as reported by The Times.

Durham later suspiciously acquired internal billing records from Perkins Coie that show Sussmann logged certain hours as working on the Alfa Bank matter and billed the time to Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Oddly enough, those working hours did not include the time he spent at the meeting with Baker, according to The Times.

But Sussmann’s lawyers argued the billing records were misleading because their client was not charging the cybersecurity expert for work on the Alfa Bank matter. According to The Times he simply needed to show internally that he was working on something. 

The Times also noted that Marc Elias, a fellow partner at Perkins Coie who served as the general counsel for the Clinton campaign, did not respond to inquiries and left the firm last month. 

Elias allegedly spoke on the Alfa Bank with Sussmann. Elias and the Clinton campaign paid a monthly retainer to Perkins Coie and therefore claimed that Sussmann’s logged hours did not result in any additional charges.

When Durham knuckled down on his attempts to indict Sussmann in October 2020, The Times reported that the cybersecurity researcher who originally brought the concerns to Sussmann hired a lawyer – Steven Tyrrell.

Tyrrell told The Times that his client thought Sussmann was representing him at the meeting with Baker. The lawyer didn’t reveal the identity of his client for fear of harassment. 

‘My client is an apolitical cybersecurity expert with a history of public service who felt duty bound to share with law enforcement sensitive information provided to him by DNS (Domain Name System) experts,’ Tyrrell told The Times.

He added: ‘He sought legal advice from Michael Sussmann who had advised him on unrelated matters in the past and Mr Sussmann shared that information with the FBI on his behalf. 

‘He did not know Mr Sussmann’s law firm had a relationship with the Clinton campaign and was simply doing the right thing.’ 

Ex-President Donald Trump has long accused the Democratic party and Perkins Coie of looking to find unfair suspicions about Trump’s supposed ties to Russia.

Trump supporters have been notoriously suspicious of Perkins Coie too, especially when Elias commissioned a research firm to look into Trump’s relationship with Russia on behalf of Democrats. 

According to The Times, Durham’s team has stirred up more skepticism in recent months after suggesting a theory that the Clinton campaign used Perkins Coie to submit unreliable information to the FBI about Russia and Trump in efforts to hurt his 2016 campaign.



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