Special Counsel John Durham has alleged that the Justice Department’s internal watchdog withheld information relevant to Durham’s investigation of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.
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Durham claimed that the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) failed to inform him that Inspector General Michael Horowitz met with Sussmann in March 2017, in a court filing filed last week that updated the discovery process and requested more time to produce evidence in his case against Democratic attorney Michael Sussmann.
Durham was notified of the meeting on Jan. 20 by Sussmann’s team and it was confirmed the next day by Horowitz’s office, according to the documents.
“The OIG had not previously informed the Special Counsel’s Office of this meeting with the defendant,” says the filing, which reveals Sussmann and Horowitz met to discuss allegations by a client of Sussmann’s that an OIG employee had connected their computer to a foreign private network.
Durham said the OIG submitted a forensic report last December. The report stated “it had ‘no other file or other documentation relating’” to the case.
The filing cites the Sussmann-Horowitz meeting as having “potential relevance to the charges,” but doesn’t elaborate further.
The Gazette reports that:
The indictment against Sussmann centers on a Sept. 19, 2016, meeting between him and FBI general counsel James Baker in which Sussmann pushed debunked allegations of a secret backchannel between Russia’s Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. Durham contends that while Sussmann told Baker he was not working for any particular client, he was secretly doing the bidding of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and billing his services to her — as well as working on behalf of technology executive Rodney Joffe, then a senior vice president at Neustar.
Sussmann denies misleading the FBI and pleaded not guilty.
In the latest filing, Durham revealed that Elias, Hillary Clinton’s top campaign lawyer in 2016 and known as “Campaign Lawyer-1” in the Sussmann indictment, is one of many who has testified before the grand jury.
Elias, who launched his own Elias Law Group last year, hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which in turn hired Steele in 2016. Elias testified he was aware of Fusion’s plans to have Steele brief reporters about his anti-Trump research during the 2016 contest, met with Steele during the 2016 contest, and periodically briefed the campaign about the findings from Fusion and Steele. Elias coordinated closely with Sussmann on anti-Trump research in 2016.
Elias was punished by a federal appeals court panel in March for a deceptive duplicative court filing, and the judges shot down his effort to wriggle out of the sanctions earlier this month.
A charge of making false statements to the FBI’s then-general counsel was filed against Sussmann in September 2021. Sussmann allegedly lied to Baker when he said he was not advising Hillary Clinton’s campaign and raised concerns about purported connections between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank.
Durham’s office disclosed in a filing last week that it discovered in early January that the OIG had two of Baker’s cellphones, along with forensic reports that examined them.
“Since learning of the OIG’s possession of these cellphones, the Government has been working diligently to review their contents for discoverable materials. The Government expects to make those materials available to the [Sussmann] defense later this week,” according to the document.
Durham’s office later in the day filed a filing stating that in 2018 the OIG had requested custody of “a number of FBI cellphones,” among them two owned by Baker.
The OIG supplemental filing added that Durham and OIG had spoken about cellphones during a conference call.
“Special Counsel Durham has no current recollection of that conference call, nor does Special Counsel Durham currently recall knowing of the OIG’s possession of the former FBI General Counsel’s cellphones before January 2022,” the filing states.
Furthermore, the initial court filing revealed that the OIG advised Durham’s office in July that “it would be extremely burdensome, if not impossible” to satisfy a discovery request for “all documents, records, and information” related to the allegations made by Sussmann against the Trump Organization.
Upon receiving the new information, Durham asked the court to allow his team to “produce limited, residual discovery on or before March 18, 2022.” Durham had to submit unclassified discovery information by January 28, and he faced a Feb. 11 deadline for classified discovery. In a decision last Friday, the request was granted.
“The Government will nevertheless endeavor to produce such materials well in advance of that date,” he declared. “The Government also will consent to the filing by the defense of any additional or supplemental motions that are based on, or prompted by, the Government’s residual discovery.”
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Durham was appointed by former Attorney General William Barr in 2019 to oversee the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election – which began with the now-debunked Steele dossier.
Igor Danchenko, a dossier source arrested in November, told the FBI that his information was based on “rumor and speculation.”
There is a high possibility that Sussmann will be tried later this spring.