There is a long game and a short game in Special Counsel John Durham’s indictment against Democratic Party lawyer Michael Sussmann on one count of misrepresentation.
In short: a misrepresentation was allegedly made by Sussmann to FBI Attorney General James Baker on September 19, 2016. Under federal law, the crime of misrepresentation has a five-year statute of limitations. , which means it had to be billed last Sunday (September 19, 2021). Therefore, even though Durham would likely have preferred to wait until his full investigation was completed before filing indictments, delaying beyond Sunday he would have lost what appears to be a highly provable felony charge. If he had to indict Sussmann for this conduct, it was now or never.
Now, more critical, the long game.
It is unusual for a count of misrepresentation, which can be alleged in a paragraph, to be presented as a 27-page indictment. But Durham wrote a very detailed account of the facts and circumstances surrounding the misrepresentation charge. It is significant in that it tells us much more about its investigation.
Here’s where the prosecutor seems to want to go: The Trump-Russia collusion narrative was essentially a fabrication of the Clinton campaign that was peddled to the FBI (among other government agencies) and the media by agents of the Clinton campaign – in particular , his attorneys for Perkins Coie – who hid the fact that they were intentionally working on behalf of the campaign and in fact didn’t think there was much, if anything, to the collusion story. It was useful as political filth but wouldn’t represent anything real for criminal or national security purposes.
Sussmann reportedly told Baker he was not working for any clients when he brought sensitive information to Baker – even though Perkins Coie client billing records obtained by Durham show Sussmann was recording his time as spent working for the The company’s Clinton campaign account. The indictment describes the information Sussmann provided to Baker in the form of expert analysis (mostly in the form of white papers), which showed an indirect link between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. The back channel would have been established by Internet communications between the servers of the Trump Tower and Alfa Bank (a major Russian bank is said to have connections with the Putin regime).
In fact, according to the indictment, Sussmann was working for the Clinton campaign and another client – an unidentified cyber expert and executive (Tech Executive-1) – who expected to secure a prominent position in the field of cybersecurity to government if Clinton was elected. (The executive made it clear that he – the indictment describes a he – has no interest in working for Trump.)
What Durham describes in the indictment will confirm many in their most cynical perceptions of a sinister Washington Deep State. Tech Executive-1 owned Internet companies that offered domain name system “resolution services”. The indictment explains that this is the lucrative business of translating recognizable Internet domain names (for example, http://www.google.com) to numeric IP addresses (for example 123.456.7.89.). These private companies have agreements with the government that give them access to a great deal of non-public information about Internet traffic.
The government provides this privileged access because companies are supposed to help with cybersecurity. But Tech Executive-1 and Perkins Coie would have exploited this access for political ends.
Tech Executive-1 was in contact with Sussmann and another attorney for Perkins Coie (who is not identified in the indictment but appears to be Marc Elias, who was the firm’s lead counsel for Clinton and the DNC ), and with what is identified as an “American investigative company”. That company appears to be Fusion GPS, Glenn Simpson’s oppo research team that was retained by Perkins Coie, on behalf of the Clinton campaign, to conduct opposition research on Donald Trump – the exercise that culminated to the ridiculous “Steele Dossier”, generated mainly by Christopher Steele, the former British spy recruited by Simpson for this purpose.
In short, then, people closely linked to the Clinton campaign are using privileged access to non-public information for political ends. They concoct it into a political narrative that they know is baseless, but which can be convincingly twisted to suggest that Trump is in cahoots with Putin.
They then simultaneously peddle this scenario to the media and to the FBI – the latter opens an investigation into Trump because the Clinton team, in this case Sussmann, is distorting his intentions. Sussmann was supposed to bring this alarming “evidence” to the FBI not for political purposes, but because he and his associates were well-meaning citizens concerned about national security.
Understandably in this comfortable world, Sussmann is a former Justice Department cybersecurity official who discussed his long-standing professional relationship with Baker, the office’s attorney.
The indictment clarifies that researchers at Tech Executive-1 companies were very uncomfortable being tasked with doing in-depth queries about Trump and his campaign in their databases, but they’ve got it. done because Tech Executive-1 was a powerful person. The researchers also highlighted significant weaknesses in the Trump-Russia narrative they were asked to weave, to the point that even Tech Executive-1 acknowledged it to be a “red herring.”
But because the goal was to create a political theme that would harm Trump, rather than prove a real danger to national security, this information was withheld from the government.
So Durham’s indictment is much more interesting than the single accusation of misrepresentation against Sussmann.
There is one last thing which I find interesting but which is not in the indictment. Among the many laughable aspects of the Steele case is the fact that Steele, the great Russian expert, clearly doesn’t know much about Alfa Bank. . . which it spells repeatedly as “Alpha” bank. One of Steele’s September 2016 “intelligence reports” makes extravagant statements about the connections and favors exchanged between Alfa Bank owners and Putin. Consequently, the owners sued Steele for libel in London.
In a UK court, Steele was deposed. He said he was not aware of any Alfa Bank-Trump connection. So why put it on file? Well, he was made aware of the alleged corrupt Alfa Bank-Trump relationship by. . . wait for it. . . Yes . . . Michel Sussmann.
So Clinton’s attorneys at Perkins Coie give information to Steele, who folds it into the grand story of collusion he’s pressing on the FBI, without telling the office he’s working for the Clinton campaign (through his cutouts, Perkins Coie and Fusion GPS).
Simultaneously, Clinton’s attorneys get suspicious information from a cyber-executive client hoping for a big job in the expected Clinton administration, and one of the attorneys – Sussmann – presses them on the FBI when he allegedly lied in order to hide that he’s actually working for both the Clinton campaign and the same cyber executive hoping for a job in the Clinton administration.
In the meantime, having orchestrated the creation of all this smoke, the Clinton campaign exploits it to tell the media and the American people, “See, Trump is a Kremlin mole!
Suddenly I think the eventual Durham report could be very interesting reading.
Andrew C. McCarthy is the author of “Collusion ball: the plot to rig an election and destroy a presidency. “Reprinted with permission from National Review.