By Marshall Cohen, CNN
The trial of Hillary Clinton’s campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann begins Monday in Washington, DC, and will feature a cast of figures linked to the 2016 election.
Sussmann was indicted last year by Special Counsel John Durham, the Trump-era prosecutor who has spent the past three years reviewing the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.
Here’s a breakdown of the key figures who will figure prominently during Sussmann’s trial.
Durham is the Justice Department’s special counsel who charged Sussmann. In early 2019, former Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham to review the Trump-Russia investigation.
He had a reputation as an apolitical investigator who handled difficult cases. But some legal experts have criticized his handling of the ongoing investigation, which has become a cause celebre in right-wing circles. Former President Donald Trump has repeatedly hyped up the Durham investigation, suggesting without evidence that it could lead to the indictment of top Democrats, even Clinton herself.
Sussmann is an attorney specializing in cybersecurity and privacy matters. During the 2016 campaign, he worked for the law firm Perkins Coie and represented the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. He helped the DNC after Russian hackers hacked into its servers, stole thousands of internal emails and released the material via WikiLeaks.
The case revolves around a meeting Sussmann had with a senior FBI official in September 2016. During that meeting, Sussmann passed on a tip about strange cyber activity between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, based in Moscow. Durham says Sussmann broke the law by falsely telling the FBI official he was not there on behalf of a client. He pleaded not guilty.
Alfa Bank is Russia’s largest private bank. In 2016, data scientists uncovered information they believed suggested a communication backchannel between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank. The researchers passed the data to Sussmann, who passed it to the FBI at its September 2016 meeting. The FBI ultimately concluded that there were no inappropriate cyberlinks.
Both companies denied there was a backchannel. The Senate Intelligence Committee has looked into the matter as part of its bipartisan investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion. The final report accepted the FBI’s findings, but also noted that the explanations provided by Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization for the unusual cyber activity “were inconsistent.”
James Baker served as the FBI’s General Counsel from 2014 to 2017. He is the FBI official who met with Sussmann in September 2016, where Sussmann passed the Trump-Alfa Bank information.
He will be a major witness for the prosecution, as he was the only other person in the room when Sussmann allegedly lied about his clients. Sussmann’s attorneys attacked Baker’s credibility because he gave different accounts of their encounter over the years.
Fusion GPS is an opposition research firm that was indirectly paid by the Clinton campaign to dig up information about Trump’s ties to Russia. The company had previously been hired by anti-Trump Republicans, but the Clinton campaign regained the upper hand after the GOP primaries.
The company hired retired British spy Christopher Steele to investigate Trump’s dealings in Russia, and his work led to the infamous Steele dossier. The founders of Fusion GPS pushed journalists to publish stories linking Trump to Russia during the 2016 campaign, based on their opposition research, according to emails made public in connection with the Sussmann case.
Perkins Coie is the law firm where Sussmann worked in 2016. It was the primary firm retained by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to handle election matters.
The law firm has rebuffed attempts by Durham to obtain internal emails about its dealings with Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign. The judge in the Sussmann case has reviewed the emails privately and will decide whether they are protected by professional secrecy.
CNN previously reported that Durham subpoenaed Perkins Coie after Sussmann was charged, indicating the special counsel may be trying to mount a larger criminal case.
Marc Elias is a prominent Democratic lawyer who worked for Perkins Coie in 2016. He has worked as a leading lawyer for all Democratic presidential candidates since at least 2004. In recent years he has established his own firm and has been a figurehead for enlargement. right to vote.
He served as a key intermediary between the Clinton campaign and Fusion GPS during the 2016 election, and payments from the campaign to Fusion were routed through Elias’ company at the time.
As part of the Sussmann case, Elias submitted an affidavit to the court saying he had hired Fusion GPS to help with legal matters and to verify the accuracy of potential campaign statements about Trump’s ties to the Russia. The dispute over whether Fusion GPS was a legal consultant or a research outlet recently resulted in the Clinton campaign paying a small federal fine.
Rodney Joffe is a cybersecurity expert who recently retired as a senior executive from a technology company called Neustar. He was one of Sussmann’s clients in 2016, and Durham accused Sussmann of illegally concealing that relationship while passing the Trump-Alfa tip to the FBI.
According to Sussmann’s indictment, Joffe instructed data scientists to research potential links between Trump and Russia, which led to the discovery of the strange cyber activity between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank. The indictment also cited emails in which Joffe claimed to have been offered a senior cybersecurity position in a possible Clinton administration, if she won.
Special prosecutors said there was an active criminal investigation into Joffe and whether he defrauded the US government by misusing internet data implicated in government contracts to seek derogatory information about Trump. Joffe denies wrongdoing and his lawyers claimed Durham was pushing an “unsubstantiated political narrative through false innuendo”.
Steele is the retired British spy who authored a dossier containing unverified and explosive allegations about Trump in 2016. Since then, a series of government investigations and private prosecutions have discredited many of Steele’s central allegations regarding the supposed Trump’s collusion with Russia.
Trump denied all the allegations and said the Steele dossier was shoddy political libel.
Durham’s team have previously indicated they will raise the Steele dossier at trial – fitting the pattern that Durham is using its court cases to relaunch the 2016 election. The judge said he will control the amount of such documents that are relevant to the charge against Sussmann.
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