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US: Attorney for Clinton campaign indicted in Trump-Russia probe

By Sarah N. Lynch

AN attorney who represented Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign was indicted on Thursday for lying to the FBI, as part of U.S. Special Counsel John Durham’s probe into origins of the FBI’s investigation of ties between Russia and former President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Michael Sussmann, a partner with Perkins Coie who also represented the Democratic National Committee in connection with Russia’s hack of the organization, is accused of making false statements during a Sept. 19, 2016 meeting with former FBI General Counsel James Baker.

This marks the second criminal case Durham has filed since former Attorney General William Barr tapped him in 2019 to investigate U.S. officials who probed the Trump-Russia contacts. Trump, a Republican, portrayed the 2016 FBI investigation as part of a witch hunt.

President Joe Biden’s administration has allowed Durham to continue his work as special counsel.

The indictment accuses Sussmann of falsely telling Baker he did not represent any client when he met him to give the FBI white papers and other data files containing evidence of questionable cyber links between the Trump Organization and a Russian-based bank.

The indictment alleges that Sussmann turned over this information not as a “good citizen” but as an attorney representing a U.S. technology executive, an internet company and Clinton’s presidential campaign.

An attorney for Sussmann could not be immediately reached for comment.

Sussmann, who had been on leave from Perkins Coie, resigned from the firm on Thursday “in order to focus on his legal defense,” a spokesperson for the firm said in a statement.

Sussmann is expected to deny lying, and will maintain that he did disclose he was meeting with the FBI on behalf of a cyber expert client, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The conversation between Sussmann and Baker was not recorded and Baker did not take notes, the person added, which could make it harder for the government to convince a jury that Sussmann lied.

The indictment says the technology executive client who helped assemble the data Sussmann presented to the FBI had “exploited his access to non-public data at multiple Internet companies to conduct opposition research concerning Trump.”

The FBI investigated, but ultimately concluded there was insufficient evidence of a “secret communications channel” between the Trump organization and the bank.

The bank was not named in the indictment, but the person familiar with the matter confirmed to Reuters it was Alfa Bank.

The New York Times later reported on the FBI’s investigation into the Alfa Bank-Trump connection in October 2016 – a probe that the indictment says was sparked following Sussmann’s September 2016 meeting with Baker.

The indictment alleges that some other materials Sussmann handed over to the FBI included a paper prepared by an investigative firm.

The indictment does not identify the firm, but a second source familiar with the events told Reuters it is Fusion GPS, the Washington, D.C.-based firm that hired former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to conduct opposition research on Trump on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

Steele went on to produce a controversial 35-page “dossier” purporting to outline Trump links and dealings with Russia and Russians.

A spokesman for Fusion GPS declined to comment, as did Steele. Neither have been accused of wrongdoing.

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