We previously discussed the controversial career of Marc Elias, a partner at Perkins Coie, who featured prominently in the alleged concealment of the Clinton campaign’s funding of the Steele Dossier. Elias later gathered donors in challenging elections for Democratic candidates and fighting voting reform bills, including some controversial comments. Now the role of Elias and Perkins Coie could be raised in the investigation (and expected report) of Special Counsel John Durham. However, he and the firm have finally separated. Elias is now opening a legal group that purportedly will focus on, among other areas, ethics and campaign disclosures. That irony may not be lost on Durham who is looking into the origins of the Russian investigation, including not just the dossier but another controversy linked to Perkins Coie. Durham is reportedly investigating whether individuals or groups knowingly created or passed along false information or tips to the FBI to start the Russian investigation.
I previously described news accounts linking the firm and Elias to the dossier scandal:
Throughout the campaign, the Clinton campaign denied any involvement in the creation of the so-called Steele dossier’s allegations of Trump-Russia connections. However, weeks after the election, journalists discovered that the Clinton campaign hid payments for the dossier made to a research firm, Fusion GPS, as “legal fees” among the $5.6 million paid to the campaign’s law firm. New York Times reporter Ken Vogel said at the time that Clinton lawyer Marc Elias, with the law firm of Perkins Coie, denied involvement in the anti-Trump dossier. When Vogel tried to report the story, he said, Elias “pushed back vigorously, saying ‘You (or your sources) are wrong.’” Times reporter Maggie Haberman declared, “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.”
It was not just reporters who asked the Clinton campaign about its role in the Steele dossier. John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, was questioned by Congress and denied categorically any contractual agreement with Fusion GPS. Sitting beside him was Elias, who reportedly said nothing to correct the misleading information given to Congress.
The Washington Post also reported that “Elias drew from funds that both the Clinton campaign and the DNC were paying Perkins Coie.”
Maggie Haberman, who called out the Clinton campaign for lying about the funding, was one of those who revealed the departure of Elias from Perkins Coie.
Elias’ controversial role on the alleged cover up of the dossier funding has not deterred Democratic donors who funded an Elias group called Democracy Docket. Indeed, even though many law professors and experts called for disbarments and ethical investigations of Trump lawyers for misleading or false statements, there has not been a call for even a simple inquiry into whether Elias misled Congress, the media, or others by these same academics and experts. Likewise, these allegations have had little follow up by the media despite Elias’ continued work for Democratic causes and candidates.
Neither the firm nor Elias have faced any charge of wrongdoing or ethical violations in this or related matters in the Russian investigation. Indeed, there may not have been a basis for such charges. We only have allegations because there has been no interest in any serious inquiry in Washington. Moreover, even if there was a basis for any charges, the statute of limitations would likely prove a barrier absent some new violation like lying to investigators.
That brings us to Durham. It is not known if Durham has questioned Elias or whether the denial of funding of the dossier will feature into his investigation on the dossier. What is known is that Perkins Coie may come in another matter raised by Durham investigators: Alfa Bank, a privately owned commercial bank in Russia. The Alfa Bank controversy is likely to make a number of powerful people particularly uneasy. Clinton campaign-linked figures such as Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson allegedly pushed the debunked claim that the Trump campaign had a server linked directly to the bank, which in turn was linked to Vladimir Putin and his cronies.
The Alfa Bank conspiracy reportedly was pitched to the Justice Department, including through contacts with Bruce Ohr. One figure referenced in coverage of the controversy was Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, a co-partner with Marc Elias at Perkins Coie. Indeed, according to some reports, Christopher Steele named Sussmann as the source of the Alfa Bank allegation. Carter Page unsuccessfully tried to sue Perkins Coie over its connection to the Russian investigation. (The case was tossed on jurisdictional grounds).
The question is now whether we will now learn the full story of the role played by Elias and Perkins Coie in the starting of the Russian investigation. That role could be detailed in a report by Durham though it is not clear if the establishment will allow that report to see the light of day. While most Democrats demanded the full disclosure of the Mueller Report, they are expected to oppose the release of all or parts of the Durham Report. Anticipating that move, last week 44 GOP senators demanded the public release of the report once it is completed.