The special prosecutor investigating the FBI‘s Trump-Russia probe on Thursday charged a lawyer with ties to the Democratic National Committee and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton with lying to the FBI.
The indictment said Mr. Sussmann falsely claimed he was not representing a client when he peddled allegations to the FBI that the Trump Organization was secretly communicating with Russia‘s Alfa Bank.
“Mr. Sussmann has committed no crime,” they said in a statement.
During the meeting with Mr. Baker, Mr. Sussmann relayed data and analysis from a cybersecurity researcher who claimed that odd internet data was evidence of secret communications between the Trump Organization and Alfa, according to the indictment.
Mr. Baker told investigators he recalled Mr. Sussmann telling him that the meeting was not on the behalf of a client. Mr. Sussmann later testified to Congress in December 2017 that he met with the FBI on behalf of the cybersecurity expert.
Time was running out for Mr. Durham to charge Mr. Sussmann, as the five-year statute of limitations expires this weekend.
Mr. Sussmann‘s lawyers insist they will prove their client’s innocence.
“Any prosecution would be baseless, unprecedented and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work,” the lawyers’ statement said.
However, the hours he spent with Mr. Baker were not part of those billing records, according to the report.
Lawyers for Mr. Sussmann said the billing records are misleading because he was not charging the cybersecurity expert for his work but needed to show the firm internally that he was working on something.
Initially, Mr. Durham, once the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, was reviewing the case as a federal prosecutor. Mr. Barr elevated him to special counsel in late 2020 so his work could continue uninterrupted under President Biden.
The Durham probe previously produced a single criminal charge against former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted to altering an email related to the surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Clinesmith was sentenced to 12 months probation and 400 hours of jail time.
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