Does John Durham actually exist? That's a question many on the right have pondered for years after the career DOJ official was appointed as special counsel regarding the Trump-Russia investigation. I'm not even sure he's been seen in public since his first appointment by then-Attorney General Bill Barr.
That's what makes this new report from The New York Times so surprising. Durham is apparently readying an indictment of Perkins Coie lawyer Michael Sussman, a key player in spreading uncorroborated accusations of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump.
NEW: Prosecutor John Durham has told a cyber lawyer — who works for the firm that repped Clinton campaign — that he wants to indict him on suspicion of lying about who he repped when he told F.B.I. in '16 about potential ties b/w Trump and Russia. https://t.co/KiSUIeGuzh
— Michael S. Schmidt (@nytmike) September 15, 2021
WASHINGTON — John H. Durham, the special counsel appointed by the Trump administration to scrutinize the Russia investigation, has told the Justice Department that he will ask a grand jury to indict a prominent cybersecurity lawyer on a charge of making a false statement to the F.B.I., people familiar with the matter said.
Any indictment of the lawyer — Michael Sussmann, a former federal prosecutor and now a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm, and who represented the Democratic National Committee on issues related to Russia's 2016 hacking of its servers — is likely to attract significant political attention.
Sussmann was behind the spread of a conspiracy theory involving Trump and Alfa Bank in which some genius thought servers at the bank were being used as a secret communications link between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. That turned out to be completely unsubstantiated like essentially everything else related to the Russia collusion hoax.
But what Durham apparently has on Sussmann is a lie he told to the FBI about who he was working for. Initially, Sussmann told James Baker, the FBI's top lawyer at the time, that he wasn't representing anyone. Later, he admitted to Congress that he was working on behalf of an unnamed client. Later still, billing invoices revealed that he had charged his time to Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.
But Mr. Durham did apparently find an inconsistency: Mr. Baker, the former F.B.I. lawyer, is said to have told investigators that he recalled Mr. Sussmann saying that he was not meeting him on behalf of any client. But in a deposition before Congress in 2017, Mr. Sussmann testified that he sought the meeting on behalf of an unnamed client who was a cybersecurity expert and had helped analyze the data.
Moreover, internal billing records Mr. Durham is said to have obtained from Perkins Coie are said to show that when Mr. Sussmann logged certain hours as working on the Alfa Bank matter — though not the meeting with Mr. Baker — he billed the time to Mrs. Clinton's 2016 campaign.
For his part, Sussmann is denying lying about who he was working for, insisting that he was working for a cybersecurity expert and that the bills to the Clinton campaign are not indicative of what he was actually doing. Yet, it's long been known that Sussmann was meeting with Christopher Steele during that time, who was working for the Clinton campaign. It's quite obvious what he was doing and that his pursuit of the Alfa Bank story was not independent.
In short, his denials don't add up, and that's likely apparent to Durham, who would not be moving forward if he didn't feel as if he had a good case. As the Times also notes, Durham may be looking further than just Sussmann, possibly pursuing a broader theory that the Clinton campaign used proxy organizations (i.e. Perkins Coie) to submit bad information to the FBI. By doing so, they could effectively kneecap Trump's campaign (and his future presidency) from behind closed doors under the guise of a legitimate government investigation. That likely means that Marc Elias, who has moved on to grifting donors by attacking Republican voting reform bills, is probably in the crosshairs as well.
Of course, a healthy dose of skepticism about all this is warranted. Obviously, Hillary Clinton is the big fish here given it was her campaign orchestrating all this, but it's unlikely she'll ever be touched. America's royalty is never held accountable for anything, after all. Regardless, even regarding Sussmann, I'll believe it when I see it.
Lastly, Democrat apparatchik and current AG Merrick Garland can nuke any indictment and we'd never even know. I fully expect that to be the end result here, at least if Durham tries to move past just the lower levels of Perkins Coie.