The indictment of Michael Sussmann on a charge of lying to the FBI earlier this month was apparently just one step in a larger gameplan. Today CNN reports that Special Counsel John Durham has just issued a new round of subpoenas including some targeting the law firm where Sussmann worked.
The grand jury subpoenas for documents came earlier this month after Durham charged Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann with lying to the FBI in a September 2016 meeting…
In seeking additional documents from Sussmann’s former law firm, Perkins Coie, investigators from the special counsel’s office appear to be sharpening their focus on the Democratic political machinery during the 2016 campaign and efforts to tie Trump to Russia.
The earlier indictment of Sussmann mentioned that he shared data with the FBI that had been given to him by “Tech Executive-1.” Today, CNN identifies Tech Executive 1 by name:
While working for Perkins Coie, Sussmann also represented Rodney Joffe, a cybersecurity expert referred to in Durham’s indictment as “Tech Executive-1.” In 2016, Joffe, who has not been previously identified, worked with researchers to collect internet data about the Trump Organization that Sussmann took to the FBI.
Durham’s continued use of the federal grand jury in Washington, DC, signals that he could be interested in adding to Sussmann’s charges or bringing cases against additional defendants.
The first part of the CNN story is devoted to what Durham is doing (and what he might be planning to do) with these indictments. However, the bulk of the story shifts gears to what could best be described as partisan pushback from various Clinton cronies.
For instance, Rodney Joffe’s attorney trashed Durham’s indictment of Sussmann as “full of cherry-picked portions of emails and selective facts that gratuitously present an incomplete and misleading picture of his actions and role in the events in question.”
Another Clinton crony, John Podesta, told CNN the Sussmann indictment was an “exercise in diversion and obfuscation.” He adds that Durham is a partisan investigator who doesn’t have much to show for his two years on the case, which is basically partisan trash talk for wealthy lawyers.
The piece ends with an extended argument that Trump was already under investigation by the FBI by the time Sussmann met with the FBI and (allegedly) lied about not working for Hillary Clinton. It’s not clear to me why this section is part of the CNN story at all. As far as I’m aware, Durham hasn’t claimed Sussmann’s story about Russian collusion and Alfa Bank was key to launching the FBI investigation. Here’s a small sample:
Durham also doesn’t write into his indictment of Sussmann additional reasons why the FBI had suspicions about Trump and Russia. American intelligence was taking in tips on multiple fronts, and ultimately investigators looked at a handful of Trump advisers, including campaign chairman Paul Manafort, as well as foreign policy contacts George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, who had contacts with Russians.
To me, this entire section reads like an attempt to downplay the significance of the Alfa Bank story and claim a kind of no harm, no foul rule for Sussmann. Sure he might be a sleazy partisan lawyer who lied to the FBI, but it’s not like it changed the outcome of the Russia collusion story, so why bother with him at all?
Maybe that argument will ultimately carry the day. I guess we’ll have to wait a bit longer and see what Durham is up to with these latest subpoenas. But given how much the Democratic chickens are squawking, Durham seems to be making them pretty nervous.