Defendant in Durham case says new evidence undermines prosecution

WASHINGTON – The defense team of a cybersecurity lawyer who was indicted in september by a Trump-era special advocate on Monday asked a...


WASHINGTON – The defense team of a cybersecurity lawyer who was indicted in september by a Trump-era special advocate on Monday asked a judge to set a trial date earlier than the prosecutor wants – while disclosing recently submitted evidence that appears to contradict the prosecution.

The documents could make it harder for Special Advocate John H. Durham to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that cybersecurity attorney Michael Sussmann is guilty of the charge against him of making a false statement to the FBI at a meeting in September 2016 on possible ties between Donald J. Trump and Russia.

The newly disclosed evidence consists of tapes of two Justice Department interviews with the former FBI official to whom Mr Sussmann is accused of lying, each offering a different version of the key interaction than the version in the ‘indictment. This official is the main witness for the prosecution.

The existence of the evidence, which Mr. Durham’s team provided to Mr. Sussmann’s team last week, “only underscores the baseless and unprecedented nature of this indictment and the importance to set a speedy trial date so that Mr Sussmann can justify himself as soon as possible. as possible, ” the defense lawyers wrote.

While Mr Durham wants to wait until July 25 to start the trial, they said, the defense team urged the judge to set a start date for May 2.

A spokesperson for Mr Durham declined to comment.

The indictment centered around a meeting in September 2016 between Mr. Sussmann and James A. Baker, who was then general counsel for the FBI. Mr Sussmann relayed the analysis of cybersecurity researchers who cited strange internet data which they said appeared to reflect some sort of secret communication between computer servers associated with the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, a Russian financial institution. linked to the Kremlin. (The FBI briefly reviewed Alfa Bank’s suspicions, but dismissed them as unfounded.)

Mr. Durham’s indictment accused Mr. Sussmann of falsely stating that he was not there on behalf of any client. Through his attorneys, Mr. Sussmann denied telling Mr. Baker this.

The indictment also stated that Mr Sussmann in fact represented both a tech executive and the Hillary Clinton campaign. Mr Sussmann maintained that he was only there on behalf of the executive, not the Clinton campaign.

No one else was present at the meeting, and if the trial comes down to pitting Mr. Baker’s memory against that of Mr. Sussmann, the newly disclosed evidence will provide the defense team with the matter. to show that Mr. Baker’s accounts on this aspect of the meeting were inconsistent and to raise doubts as to the reliability of the version cited by Mr. Durham.

The newly disclosed evidence consists of partially redacted tapes of two of Mr Baker’s interviews with the Department of Justice. The court annexed copies of several pages of a transcript and interview report.

In July 2019, Mr Baker was questioned by the Inspector General of the Department of Justice about the meeting. Mr Baker said, according to a two-page transcript, that Mr Sussmann brought him information “which he said concerned strange interactions that a number of people who were his clients, who were, d ‘after my recollection, sort of cybersecurity experts, had found.

The newly disclosed evidence also includes a page from a report Mr. Durham’s team made to summarize an interview they conducted with Mr. Baker in June 2020. According to this report, Mr. Baker did not say that Mr. Sussmann told him that he was not there on behalf of any client. Rather, he said the issue was never raised and he just assumed that Sussmann was not passing Alfa Bank data and analysis to any customers.

“Baker said Sussmann did not clarify that he was representing a client regarding the matter, nor did Baker ask him if he was representing a client,” the Durham team report said. “Baker said it didn’t look like Sussmann was representing a client. “

Mr. Baker later told Bill Priestap, then the FBI’s top counterintelligence official, about the meeting. According to the indictment, Mr. Priestap’s handwritten notes list Mr. Sussmann’s name and law firm, then, after a dash, state “do not do this for any client.” (It is not clear whether such notes would be admissible at trial.)

Former Trump administration attorney general William P. Barr has appointed Mr. Durham to scour the Russia investigation for evidence of wrongdoing by government officials prosecuting it. Sussmann’s indictment, however, portrays the FBI as a victim.

Mr. Durham used the narrow indictment against Mr. Sussmann to publish, in a 27-page indictment, copious amounts of other information.

It showed that Mr Sussmann had interacted about Alfa Bank with a colleague at his law firm who represented the Clinton campaign, and that by recording his own time on the Alfa Bank affair in the billing records of the law firm, Mr. Sussmann listed the campaign as the client. (Mr. Sussmann had represented the Democratic Party over Russia’s hack of its servers.)

Mr Durham also released significant amounts of information about the chief technology officer and three other cybersecurity researchers who discovered strange internet data and developed the theory that it reflected some sort of hidden communication, including e -exploration emails in which they discussed what this might mean. .

Although Mr Durham did not accuse the researchers of any crime, he insinuated that they did not really believe what they were saying. Mr. Trump and his supporters seized of the indictment, saying this showed the Alfa Bank suspicion to be a hoax by Clinton supporters and presenting it as evidence that the set Russia investigation was unwarranted.

Lawyers for these data scientists backed down, saying their clients believed their theory was a plausible explanation for the bizarre data they discovered – and still do. They also accused Mr Durham of having presented a misleading description in his indictment by Selectively extract fragments from their customers’ emails, omitting the parts that showed their clients enthusiastically supported the final analysis.

The transcript and statement are in addition to documents already on the public record, in which Mr. Sussmann and Mr. Baker recalled this meeting during sworn testimony in a manner that does not clearly align with the charge of the indictment.

In a deposition before Congress in 2017, Mr. Sussmann testified that he requested the meeting on behalf of a client who was a cybersecurity expert and that he helped analyze the data. And in a deposition to Congress in 2018, Mr. Baker noted he did not recall Mr. Sussmann “having specifically said that he was acting on behalf of a particular client”.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Defendant in Durham case says new evidence undermines prosecution
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