Former Hillary Clinton Cyber Adviser Indicted for Lying to FBI About Trump
WASHINGTON — A prominent Washington, D.C. attorney pleaded not guilty Friday to lying to the FBI after he allegedly said he had possible evidence of the Trump campaign’s communications with a Russian bank.
The FBI was investigating accusations that former President Donald Trump’s 2016 election was influenced by the Russian government when attorney Michael A. Sussman contacted the agency.
He portrayed himself as an unaffiliated concerned citizen but failed to disclose he represented the campaign of Trump opponent Hillary Clinton and several corporations, according to prosecutors.
He reported to the FBI’s general counsel in 2016 that cybersecurity researchers discovered suspicious communications between Russia-based Alfa Bank and a Trump Organization computer server, the FBI says.
Although a Justice Department investigation found widespread efforts by the Russian government to help Trump get elected, the FBI discredited Sussman’s allegations.
The FBI then investigated Sussman, finding that he failed to disclose his affiliation with Clinton and multiple technology firms.
Until he resigned this week, Sussman was a partner at the international law firm of Perkins Coie specializing in cybersecurity. He is also a former federal prosecutor.
The firm has extensive ties to the Democratic Party. It represented the Democratic National Committee after Russian agents hacked its servers and republished its emails in public forums.
Sussman made his accusations to the FBI not long after a former Perkins Coie partner hired the Fusion GPS research firm to check into Trump’s business ties to Russia.
The FBI’s indictment says, “During the meeting [with the FBI’s general counsel], Sussmann lied about the capacity in which he was providing the allegations to the FBI. Specifically, Sussmann stated falsely that he was not doing his work on the aforementioned allegations ‘for any client,’ which led the FBI General Counsel to understand that Sussmann was acting as a good citizen merely passing along information, not as a paid advocate or political operative.
“In fact, Sussmann acted on behalf of specific clients, namely a U.S. technology industry executive, a U.S. internet company and the Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign.”
Sussman was hired by the Clinton campaign to advise them on cybersecurity. Clinton promoted the Alfa Bank claims against Trump during her failed presidential campaign.
FBI agents were misled “about the political nature of his work,” the indictment says.
Sussman testified about Russian hacking into Democratic National Committee servers on Dec. 18, 2017 to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. At that time, he acknowledged his representation for the Democratic Party.
The Alfa Bank connection to Trump was ruled out in a bipartisan Senate report on the Trump-Russia affair.
Sussman’s attorneys from the law firm of Latham & Watkins say their client is the victim of political reprisal, not the criminal portrayed in the indictment.
“Michael Sussmann was indicted today because of politics, not facts,” a Latham & Watkins statement on Thursday said. “This case represents the opposite of everything the Department of Justice is supposed to stand for.”
It adds, “Stripped of its political bluster, innuendo, and irrelevant details, what is striking about the allegations in the indictment is how few of them actually relate to the charge the special counsel chose to bring. At its core, the special counsel is bringing a false statement charge based on an oral statement allegedly made five years ago to a single witness that is unrecorded and unobserved by anyone else. The Department of Justice would ordinarily never bring such a baseless case.”
The lead prosecutor overseeing the charges against Sussman is John Durham, a special counsel appointed by Trump to investigate Russian interference into his election.
The Trump-appointed investigators concluded that any Russian influence in the election was insignificant, which was different from the Justice Department’s Mueller investigation.
Its report described a widespread Russian campaign to use social media to spread misinformation about Clinton. The Russians also were suspected of trying to hack state election computers, although no alteration of vote tallies was found.
Durham asked for and received the indictment against Sussman from a grand jury.
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