DOJ special counsel Durham secures indictment against DC cybersecurity lawyer in Russia review

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Justice Department special counsel John Durham, who has been examining abuses during the Russia investigation, secured an indictment Thursday against a Washington attorney accused of lying to the FBI.

The charge against Michael Sussmann, a prominent cybersecurity attorney whose firm is closely tied with Democratic Party interests, is linked to a 2016 contact with the FBI when he raised concerns about a secret channel of communications between a Russian bank and the Trump Organization.

Prosecutors claim that Sussmann had requested the Sept. 19, 2016, meeting with then-FBI general counsel James Baker to provide "data files" and other evidence of the covert communications link involving the Moscow-based Alfa Bank and did not disclose that he was acting as an advocate for other interested parties.

"In fact, Sussmann assembled and conveyed the allegations to the FBI on behalf of at least two clients, including a U.S. technology executive and the Clinton Presidential Campaign," prosecutors said.

Sussmann's firm, Perkins Coie, also has represented the Democratic National Committee.

The indictment also claims that researchers were directed "to mine this internet data to establish 'an inference' and 'narrative' that would tie then-presidential candidate Donald Trump to Russia..."

An FBI examination of the material ultimately concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support such a tie between the bank and the Trump Organization.

Sussmann's information, according to court documents, "misled the FBI concerning the political nature of his work."

The timing of the charging decision is linked to a five-year statute of limitations consideration that would expire Sunday.

John Durham is looking into the origins of the FBI's investigation into Russian election interference.
John Durham is looking into the origins of the FBI's investigation into Russian election interference.

Attorneys for Sussmann, who is expected to make his first court appearance Friday, have denied any wrongdoing by their client.

"Michael Sussmann was indicted today because of politics, not facts," his legal team said in a statement. "The Special Counsel appears to be using this indictment to advance a conspiracy theory he has chosen not to actually charge. This case represents the opposite of everything the Department of Justice is supposed to stand for. Mr. Sussmann will fight this baseless and politically-inspired prosecution."

Durham was initially tapped by former Attorney General William Barr in 2019 to examine possible surveillance abuses by the FBI during the course of the Russia investigation.

Since that appointment, the Connecticut federal prosecutor's investigation has resulted in one conviction against an FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to altering an email used to justify the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

During the course of the inquiry, Durham's team has interviewed a number of national security officials seeking information on the government's investigation of Russia's efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

More: Ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith sentenced to 1-year probation for altering Russia probe email

Former Attorney General William Barr
Former Attorney General William Barr

Before leaving office in December, Barr designated Durham as a Justice Department special counsel, a move that ensured that the inquiry would continue into Biden's administration.

Former President Donald Trump had pushed for the results of the probe to be made public during the 2020 campaign, but Barr said then that the coronavirus pandemic had slowed the pace of the inquiry, preventing its expected completion before the election.

Trump had made the inquiry a theme of his campaign, arguing the Obama administration-led FBI and Justice Department had sought to sabotage his candidacy.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Durham brings charge against DC lawyer in Russia probe

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