The trial of Michael Sussmann, indicted for making a false statement to the FBI, is set to begin in May of this year and Special Counsel John Durham has now cast his shadow over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). As he continues to broaden his accumulation of evidence against the former Perkins Coie attorney who worked for Clinton’s presidential election team, Durham has issued trial subpoenas for members of the campaign and the DNC. While the special counsel has played his cards very close to his chest and predictions about where he may be looking next would be nothing more than speculation, this latest move is the strongest indication, yet, that Durham is inching closer to Clinton herself.
It is important to remember, of course, that the former first lady, senator, and presidential candidate has not been named as a subject of any investigation. One should not assume that Clinton is going to be indicted or that she personally will even be accused, at some point, of a crime. That said, her campaign is now directly caught up in the Sussmann indictment because Durham contends that Sussmann, the campaign, and a tech executive identified as Rodney Joffe, were involved in a “joint venture” to smear Clinton’s 2016 opponent, then-candidate Donald Trump.
Attempting to discredit one’s election opponent is not a crime, obviously, but when that attempt includes nudging the FBI into an investigation of the said opponent, a whole new set of implications arise.
The ‘Joint Venture’ That Targeted Trump
Durham has already established that Sussmann, Joffe, and Marc Elias, who worked on Clinton’s campaign, met on Aug. 12, 2016, in Elias’ office. The prosecutor contends the men were there to discuss “the same Russian Bank-1 allegations that [Sussmann] would later bring to the FBI.” The allegations mentioned concern communications between a Trump Organization computer server and a Russian Bank. Neither Joffe nor Elias are accused of any crime, though Durham has declined a request from Sussmann’s defense to offer immunity to Joffe in exchange for his testimony.
Even though Sussmann – who, it is known, was on the Clinton campaign’s payroll – allegedly told the FBI he was acting alone and not on behalf of any client, the Clinton campaign has refused to turn over to Durham its communications with Sussmann, citing attorney-client privilege.
It seems to be quite the contradiction. When Sussmann approached the FBI, he apparently claimed to be acting as a dutiful concerned citizen who wanted to tip off the Bureau, so to speak, that a presidential candidate had a secret channel of communication with the Russian government. If he was not acting on behalf of a client, the Clinton campaign’s insistence that its communications with Sussmann are protected by attorney-client privilege do not appear to hold up.
And so, the legal maneuvering continues. Durham wants the Clinton campaign to explain why it has invoked attorney-client privilege. The special counsel argues that communications and meetings with Sussmann are directly relevant to the upcoming trial:
“[T]hat venture was far from collateral to the charged crime. Indeed, the above-described joint venture was the very project that led Tech Executive-1 [Joffe] to rely upon the defendant’s services; the very project that gave rise to the Russian Bank-1 allegations; the very project that prompted agents of the Clinton Campaign to meet with Tech Executive-1; and the very project that caused [Sussmann] to meet with the FBI General Counsel and lie to him about the clients who were behind all of this work.”
Just the News, which has also carefully followed Durham’s investigation, reports that legal experts say, “Clinton’s former team and its allies are attempting to prevent damaging evidence that could potentially implicate them in wrongdoing in the Trump-Russia saga from coming to light.”
It certainly seems curious that the very people who first exposed the alleged connections between Trump and Russia – and who to this day claim those connections were real – would seek to conceal their own memos about what they had supposedly unearthed. One would have thought they would eagerly submit to Durham what he has requested, in order to finally expose the Trump-Russia conspiracy that all other investigations have now debunked.
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