Court Battles

Lawyer charged in Durham probe accuses prosecutors of seeking to ‘inflame media coverage’

A lawyer who was indicted in September as part of special counsel John Durham’s long-running investigation into the FBI’s probe of the 2016 Trump campaign accused Durham of using the case to fuel right-wing media narratives claiming political persecution of former President Trump.

Lawyers for Michael Sussman, an attorney facing a single charge of making a false statement to the FBI, responded late Monday night to Durham’s surprise allegations last week that Sussman’s clients had organized a conspiracy to spy on the Trump White House. In a court filing, Sussman’s lawyers said the information Durham’s office submitted to the court was misleading and unnecessary, and could only be intended to stir up media and jury bias against their client.

“Given the Special Counsel’s pattern of including unnecessary prejudicial material in public filings, there can be no doubt that the superfluous ‘Factual Background’ in the Special Counsel’s motion is intended to further politicize this case, inflame media coverage, and taint the jury pool,” they wrote in their brief Monday night.

The defense lawyers asked a federal judge to strike the portion of Durham’s Friday brief from the court record, a procedural move to rid the record of filings that are irrelevant or inappropriate. 

Durham’s prosecutors allege Sussmann lied when he told the FBI general counsel during a 2016 meeting that he was not representing any client when he presented findings from cybersecurity researchers that suggested links between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank. The special counsel’s office has accused Sussmann of hiding that he was working for the Clinton campaign when he met with the FBI.

Sussmann has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.

Durham’s court filing Friday that contained the allegations stirred up a conservative media frenzy.

Ostensibly raising issues about conflicts of interest for Sussmann’s defense counsel, the brief digressed into details that had not been raised in the indictment.

Attorneys with the special counsel’s office wrote that Rodney Joffe, a cybersecurity consultant referred to in court filings as “Tech Executive-1,” exploited nonpublic White House data from his former company’s pending government contract in order to find damning information about Trump.

“Tech Executive-1’s employer, Internet Company-1, had come to access and maintain dedicated servers for the EOP as part of a sensitive arrangement whereby it provided DNS resolution services to the EOP,” the brief reads, using an acronym to refer to the White House’s Executive Office of the President. 

“Tech Executive-1 and his associates exploited this arrangement by mining the EOP’s DNS traffic and other data for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump.”

Sussmann’s defense lawyers called the details misleading and inaccurate, pointing out that neither their client nor any other defendant has been charged with any type of conspiracy or fraud as part of the Durham investigation. 

“To make this case a partisan affair and to inflame media coverage, the Special Counsel chose to include allegations that Mr. Sussmann was part of a wide-ranging scheme involving a number of uncharged parties including the Clinton Campaign, Law Firm-1, Campaign Lawyer-1, a U.S. Investigative Firm, Tech-Executive-1, and a number of computer data researchers who all worked together to unfairly influence the 2016 election,” the defense lawyers said in their filing on Monday. “In so doing, the Special Counsel featured grossly misleading excerpts of emails among Tech-Executive-1 and other researchers, omitting statements that showed the researchers agreed with the findings and otherwise operated in good faith.”

Tags Donald Trump Durham probe John Durham Michael Sussman

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