Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation
A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted attorney Michael Sussman on a charge of lying to the FBI during the 2016 campaign, marking the second prosecution brought by John Durham, the special counsel tapped by former President Trump to investigate the FBI’s probe into Russian interference.
The indictment alleges that Sussman, an attorney at the firm Perkins Coie with ties to the Democratic Party, misrepresented who he was working for when he presented evidence to the FBI in 2016 of a link between the Trump Organization and the Russian financial company Alfa Bank.
Prosecutors in Durham’s office say that Sussman falsely claimed to investigators at the time that he was not acting on behalf of any client when he had actually been representing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and an unnamed tech executive.
“Sussman’s false statement misled the FBI General Counsel and other FBI personnel concerning the political nature of his work and deprived the FBI of information that might have permitted it more fully to assess and uncover the origins of the relevant data and technical analysis, including the identities and motivations of Sussman’s clients,” the indictment reads.
The FBI investigated the allegations and determined that there was insufficient evidence to link Trump’s business with Alfa Bank, and the former special counsel Robert Mueller did not address the issue in the report on his investigation.
According to the indictment, the unnamed tech executive provided nonpublic data obtained from internet companies as evidence to present to the FBI’s top lawyer. Prosecutors also allege that the Clinton campaign had hired Sussman to find links between Trump and Russia.
Sussman has denied working for the Clinton campaign and told congressional investigators in 2017 that he was representing an unnamed cybersecurity researcher in the meeting with the FBI.
Two attorneys representing Sussman said on Thursday that the charges are politically-motivated and without merit.
“Michael Sussmann was indicted today because of politics, not facts,” attorneys Michael Bosworth and Sean Berkowitz 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.”
Sussman, who appears to have been scrubbed from the Perkins Coie’s website, is a former Justice Department official who held several different posts during his time with the agency, including in its cybersecurity office and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
According to a Perkins Coie spokesman, Sussman resigned from the firm because of the indictment.
In 2019, then-Attorney General William Barr tasked Durham, who had been the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut, with investigating allegations that the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign had been improper. The move was widely seen as supporting Trump’s claims of a politically-motivated “witch hunt” against him.
But the indictment on Thursday did not suggest any wrongdoing at the bureau, only that it had been provided with unreliable information.
The Justice Department said on Thursday that Durham’s investigation is ongoing.
Earlier this year, in a case brought by Durham’s office, former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith was sentenced to 12 months probation after admitting to falsifying a document in internal emails over surveilling former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
Updated at 7:22 p.m.