Clinton Lawyer’s Indictment Reveals “Bag of Tricks”

Below is my column in the Hill on the Sussmann indictment by Special Counsel John Durham. The single charge under 18 U.S.C. 1001 is not as significant as the supporting narrative and facts disclosed by Durham in this prosecution. The indictment fills in a number of blanks in how the Clinton campaign pushed a false Russian collusion narrative despite the objections of its own researchers.

Here is the column:

The 26-page indictment of former cybersecurity attorney and Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann by special counsel John Durham is as detailed as it is damning on the alleged effort to push a false Russia collusion claim before the 2016 presidential campaign. One line, however, seems to reverberate for those of us who have followed this scandal for years now: “You do realize that we will have to expose every trick we have in our bag.”

That warning from an unnamed “university researcher” captures the most fascinating aspect of the indictment in describing a type of Nixonian dirty tricks operation run by — or at least billed to — the Clinton campaign. Fifty years ago, Nixon’s personal attorney and the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) paid for operatives to engage in disruptive and ultimately criminal conduct targeting his opponents. With Clinton, the indictment and prior disclosures suggest that Clinton campaign lawyers at the law firm of Perkins Coie helped organize an effort to spread Russia collusion stories and trigger an investigation.

Durham accuses Sussmann of lying to the general counsel of the FBI in September 2016 when Sussmann delivered documents and data to the FBI supposedly supporting a claim that Russia’s Alfa Bank was used as a direct conduit between former President Trump‘s campaign and the Kremlin. According to Durham, Sussman told the FBI general counsel that he was not delivering the information on behalf of any client. The indictment not only details multiple billings to the Clinton campaign as the data was collected and the documents created; it claims Sussman billed the campaign for the actual meeting with the FBI. At the time, Perkins Coie attorney Marc Elias was general counsel for the Clinton campaign. Both men have since left the firm.

The big trick in 2016 was the general effort to create a Russia collusion scandal with the help of Justice Department insiders and an eager, enabling media.

It was only last October, for instance, that we learned that then-President Obama was briefed by his CIA director, John Brennan, on an intelligence report that Clinton planned to tie then-candidate Trump to Russia as “a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server.” That was on July 28, 2016 — three days before the Russia investigation was initiated.

The problem was that both the Steele dossier and the Alfa Bank allegations fell apart soon after being fed to the FBI. A key source for dossier compiler and former British spy Christopher Steele was viewed by American intelligence as a Russian agent, and it was believed that the Clinton campaign and the dossier were being used by Russian intelligence to spread disinformation.

According to Durham, the Alfa Bank allegation fell apart even before Sussmann delivered it to the FBI. The indictment details how an unnamed “tech executive” allegedly used his authority at multiple internet companies to help develop the ridiculous claim. (The executive reportedly later claimed that he was promised a top cyber security job in the Clinton administration). Notably, there were many who expressed misgivings not only within the companies working on the secret project but also among unnamed “university researchers” who repeatedly said the argument was bogus.

The researchers were told they should not be looking for proof but just enough to “give the base of a very useful narrative.” The researchers argued, according to the indictment, that anyone familiar with analyzing internet traffic “would poke several holes” in that narrative, noting that what they saw likely “was not a secret communications channel with Russian Bank-1, but ‘a red herring,’” according to the indictment. “Researcher-1” repeated these doubts, the indictment says, and asked, “How do we plan to defend against the criticism that this is not spoofed traffic we are observing? There is no answer to that. Let’s assume again that they are not smart enough to refute our ‘best case scenario.’ You do realize that we will have to expose every trick we have in our bag to even make a very weak association.”

“Researcher-1” allegedly further warned, “We cannot technically make any claims that would fly public scrutiny. The only thing that drives us at this point is that we just do not like [Trump]. This will not fly in eyes of public scrutiny. Folks, I am afraid we have tunnel vision. Time to regroup?”

Clinton herself discussed the allegations as if they were the product of independent sleuths. Right before the 2016 election, she tweeted, “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.”

The indictment details an operation that parallels the notorious Steele dossier, which also featured a pattern of working with FBI insiders while denying connections to the campaign.

The Clinton team denied involvement in the creation of the Steele dossier throughout the 2016 campaign despite direct media inquiries. It was only after the election that mysterious expenses for its legal counsel led reporters to discover the truth. The payments for the dossier were masked as “legal fees” among the $5.6 million paid to the law firm. According to New York Times reporter Ken Vogel, Elias categorically 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 later wrote that “folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.”

According to the indictment, Sussman told the truth — and contradicted what he’d originally told the FBI general counsel — when interviewed under oath in December 2017 before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, telling them he did not hold the meeting of his own volition but at the request of a client.

Notably, another Clinton figure pushing the Alfa Bank conspiracy was Jake Sullivan, who now weighs intelligence reports for President Biden as his national security adviser. Sullivan, a senior policy adviser to Clinton, declared in an official campaign press statement that the Alfa Bank allegation “could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow” and portrayed it as the work of independent experts: “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank. This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia. … This line of communication may help explain Trump’s bizarre adoration of Vladimir Putin.”

So the “very useful narrative” was delivered to the media and the FBI and, along with the dossier, was used to launch the Russia investigation, which led to the appointment of former special counsel Robert Mueller. The “bag of tricks” was supposed to be buried with the involvement of the Clinton campaign — until Trump Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham as a second special counsel.

Sussman and Elias both recently left Perkins Coie. Elias has formed a new firm to give advice on ethics and campaign disclosures and is leading a Democratic group on “election integrity.” Sussmann reportedly is focusing on his own criminal defense.

Durham’s indictment of Sussman revealed quite a bit about how scandals are manufactured and manipulated in Washington. From CREEP to Clinton, lawyers discovered themselves in legal jeopardy when special prosecutors found them holding a “bag of tricks.” A dirty trick in politics can be a thing of beauty for a campaign — until it boomerangs on the tricksters.

Durham’s final report, meanwhile, could answer even more questions, but will Washington ever allow it to see the light of day without massive redactions?

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

132 thoughts on “Clinton Lawyer’s Indictment Reveals “Bag of Tricks””

  1. I have long argued that FBI/DOJ has been structurally ill-equipped to get involved in cases where candidates and campaigns are under allegations. Yet, there must be a rapid-response, neutral, law-enforcement presence to deter illegal mischief during campaigns.
    This suggests some kind of Election Integrity Rapid-Response Office (EIRRO), with officers and staff sworn to political neutrality, and pre-vetted for neutrality, ready to take up a case at the drop of a hat.

    The snails-pace investigation we got from Mueller and Durham is the opposite of what is needed. We need rapid-response, so that no dirty-trick will remain hidden up through election day. If there is a high probability of revelation before the voters, the temptation will not be to commit the dirty trick, but to entrap the opposition into doing one. Those are much easier to dispel.

    The first step is acknowledging how poorly-equipped FBI/DOJ are for the job of assuring campaign integrity. That opens the door to reforms .

      1. Yes, that was a great article.

        What a Rap Sheet.

        And just think of all that was cover up from the public’s eye.

  2. Judge in case of anti-Trump mudslinger is married to attorney for ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page
    Officials say Judge Christopher Cooper’s ties to leading Democrats and key figure in discredited Trump-Russia probe should disqualify him from case of Michael Sussmann, lawyer who fed anti-Trump dirt to FBI while hiding connection to Hillary Clinton campaign.

    Last week, the special counsel appointed to oversee the probe into the FBI’s investigation of former president Donald Trump indicted Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Republicans and Trump allies are optimistic about the latest development in John Durham’s investigation but are still concerned that Attorney General Merrick Garland might halt the investigation to protect allies and even the president himself….

    https://justthenews.com/accountability/russia-and-ukraine-scandals/judge-case-anti-trump-mudslinger-married-attorney-anti?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

    1. Re: Judge C Coopers/Durham ties

      Though we often have high hopes of justice finally I must conclude again J Durham is just the latest of the DOJ/FBI staff preparing multiple important cases around the Coup/Sedition/Espionage/Insurrection against us US Citizen’s Govt & Flush all these cases down the round file Again!

  3. “The big trick in 2016 was the general effort to create a Russia collusion scandal with the help of Justice Department insidersand an eager, enabling media.”

    The corrupt Justice Department, includes the FBI. This would be the proof, the Deep State is real and active. The exposure will result in zero repercussions(unless a Republican is involved, then

  4. Great post JT. Durham’s investigation has been airtight on leaks until we got word an indictment was going to happen. It would be poetic justice if the Durham investigators had warrants to monitor the communication traffic of the rats that conspired to spy on the Trump campaign.

  5. “FBI insiders” is a euphemism for Democrat activists abusing positions of authority, lying to the courts, and using the power of the government against their targets, which included a duly elected sitting US President.

  6. The Democrats’ Watergate.

    Since they hold so much power today, they may be able to deflect accountability and responsibility. The media is certainly working overtime to prevent their viewers from learning the truth of this duplicity and coup attempt. The media is why there are still people who believe Trump colluded with Russia, called Neo Nazis “very fine people”, or is an anti-semite. Well, the media combined with willingly naive viewers eager to hear propaganda.

  7. “The single charge under 18 U.S.C. 1001 is not as significant as the supporting narrative and facts disclosed by Durham in this prosecution.”

    I think this demonstrates the Stupidity of Anonymous the Stupid’s argument in an earlier blog.

    Further on, Turley demonstrates that Anonymous the Stupid’s arguments have been almost continuous lies as he hides under the anonymous label patting himself on the back from his own pretend friends.

  8. MEMO TO SPECIAL COUNSEL JOHN DURHAM:

    It is a vast, pervasive national coup d’etat conducted by Obama on orders from the global communist Deep Deep State.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

    Robert Frost

    “The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.”
    _________________________

    “We will stop him.”

    – Peter Strzok to FBI paramour Lisa Page
    —————————————————-

    “[Obama] wants to know everything we’re doing.”

    – Lisa Page to FBI paramour Peter Strzok
    _________________________________

    The Obama Coup D’etat in America is the most egregious abuse of power and the most prodigious crime in American political history.

    The co-conspirators are:

    Kevin Clinesmith, Bill Taylor, Eric Ciaramella, Rosenstein, Mueller/Team, Andrew Weissmann,

    James Comey, Christopher Wray, McCabe, Strozk, Page, Laycock, Kadzic,

    Sally Yates, James Baker, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Priestap, Kortan, Campbell,

    Sir Richard Dearlove, Christopher Steele, Simpson, Joseph Mifsud,

    Alexander Downer, Stefan “The Walrus” Halper, Azra Turk, Kerry, Hillary,

    Huma, Mills, Brennan, Gina Haspel, Clapper, Lerner, Farkas, Power, Lynch,

    Rice, Jarrett, Holder, Brazile, Sessions (patsy), Nadler, Schiff, Pelosi, Obama,

    Joe Biden, James E. Boasberg, Emmet Sullivan, Gen. Milley et al.

  9. Conservative bastions such as Bill Maher and Jimmy Dore have admitted that Russigate was a hoax. There are hoaxes and their are hoaxes but this one was used against a Presidential candidate and in an attempt to unseat a sitting President. The people who did it still exclaim their patriotism. You should know it when you see it. “The most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means”-Saul Alinsky. There are those who post here who hold these words as their sworn motto.

    1. Richard Nixon must be rolling over in his grave watching at what modern dims have done and gotten away with.

  10. It’s “Alfa Bank,” not “Alpha” (typo). Thank again for the clear analysis. It seems more indictments are coming.

  11. What a tangled Webb. Remember, Brenner and Clapper told us all that Trump colluding with the Russians had a high degree of probability but under oath they testified that it could not be confirmed. They spread the lie on national television through multiple venues. After their testimony they became persona non grata on the main stream media. A couple of fine upstanding individuals for Anonymous and FishWings to hold hands with.

  12. Fusion GPS also had payments for legal services from Richard Bauer , President Obama’s lawyer who had Mark Elias position at Perkins Coie before going to the White House.

  13. Durham has nothing, and Turley knows it. So keeping the delusions of toxic rage alive in the right-wing bubble is all he has.

    1. FishWings, prepare your crying towel. Researcher # 1 will be testifying at Sussman’s trial. FishWings quotes Bart Simpson. “I didn’t do it. Nobody saw me do it. You can’t prove a thing.” People referred to as researcher # 1 (witness # 1) have been promised anonymity if they give up information to a prosecutor. Your a little to old for the cartoon world aren’t you FishWings.

    2. “Durham has nothing, and Turley knows it.”

      Let’s see what happens if and when this goes to trial. It’s a safe bet neither Adam Schiff nor Jerry Nadler will hold any hearings on the matter.

      1. Is this the same “marine” “Viet vet” who sat on a hilltop by an antennae in the rear for 12 months reading Playboys?

  14. If I submit a false report or complaint to my local police and they investigate, I can be liable for the costs of the investigation.
    Why can’t Mr.Sussmann, his firm, and his employer, be liable for all the costs of the investigation they triggered?
    Is there a political exemption in the law?

  15. “The researchers were told they should not be looking for proof but just enough to ‘give the base of a very useful narrative.’”

    So those Cretins are not motivated by a desire for the truth. They are driven by a desire to defraud the public and rig the election.

    (Superb summary, JT. Thank you.)

    1. It’s not a “superb summary.” In fact, there is no basis in the indictment for Turley’s claim that “The researchers were told they should not be looking for proof.”

      Here’s the indictment: https://www.justice.gov/sco/press-release/file/1433511/download

      “So those Cretins are not motivated by a desire for the truth.”

      On the contrary, the indictment quotes the Tech Executive emailing that “They’re looking for a true story that could be used as the basis for closer examination.”

      1. “there is no basis in the indictment for Turley’s claim that “The researchers were told they should not be looking for proof.””

        Anonymous the Stupid is making the same mistake he made in an earlier response. He assumes everything known is in the indictment. Take note, Anonymous doesn’t seem to learn, so he repeats his mistakes over and over again.

      2. On the contrary, the indictment quotes the Tech Executive emailing that “They’re looking for a true story that could be used as the basis for closer examination.”

        That is a polite way of saying. “show me the man, and I”ll find you the crime.”

        Real investigations start out with an event, and then investigation to determine the facts. Corrupt political FBI executives do opposition research on political opponents.

        Note they already had a target, and looking for a plausible, (not factual) story (fable) as a basis (excuse) for closer examination (spying)

        1. The Tech Executive did not work for the FBI and so cannot be a “Corrupt political FBI executive.”

          Both sides “do opposition research on political opponents.”

          As for “looking for a plausible, (not factual) story,” that may be what you’re looking for, but that’s not what the person quoted was looking for.

          1. “Both sides “do opposition research on political opponents.”

            …But, you and your side continuously lie.

  16. For what it’s worth, it’s ALFA Bank – not ALPHA Bank…

    The fact that the Clinton campaign couldn’t even spell the name of a central player accurately leaves inquiring minds to wonder..

  17. Meanwhile, Turley is silent about the actual reason that the Russia investigation was opened: an Australian diplomat contacted the US and said that George Papadopoulos, who was then a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, “suggested the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia that it could assist this process with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Mrs. Clinton (and President Obama).”

    As for “That warning from an unnamed “university researcher” captures the most fascinating aspect of the indictment in describing a type of Nixonian dirty tricks operation run by — or at least billed to — the Clinton campaign,” let’s not forget the Trump campaigns own dirty tricks, including Paul Manafort giving campaign polling data to Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik (and we know that Russia interfered in the election, including via troll farms that would have found such polling data quite useful), and Roger Stone’s contact with Guccifer 2.0 and Wikileaks (which released the hacked DNC data, timed to distract from Trump’s “grab them by the p*ssy” remarks).

    1. Yo anonymous Konstantin Kilimnik had much stronger ties to the Obama Administration. Why did the DOJ allow him to visit the US several time. Remember we know you know that we know your lying and yet you continue to lie x

        1. YES. I don’t suffer fools gladly. Your evidence proves my point. Who wasn’t interviewed by the gang of eight is the critical evidence.

          1. Neither report comes from the Gang of Eight.

            One is a DOJ Inspector General’s report; the other is a bipartisan SSCI report that was adopted unanimously.

            So no, my evidence definitely does NOT prove your point.

            I don’t suffer fools gladly either. More relevant here: I don’t suffer dishonesty gladly.

              1. You claimed “Who wasn’t interviewed by the gang of eight is the critical evidence.” No one was interviewed by the Gang of 8. You don’t even name who you think should have been interviewed but wasn’t.

                As for the SSCI, perhaps you meant Burr, not Barr. All 15 members of the SSCI approved the SSCI report, most of whom are not among the Gang of 8. You are also silent about the DOJ IG report.

    2. “Meanwhile, Turley is silent about the actual reason that the Russia investigation was opened: an Australian diplomat contacted the US and said that George Papadopoulos, who was then a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, “suggested the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia that it could assist this process with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Mrs. Clinton (and President Obama).””

      So how exactly did Mr. Papadopoulos get that info in the first place?

      1. So how exactly did Mr. Papadopoulos get that info in the first place?

        I have been asking this question since the “meeting” (sting) took place. For some strange reason, the best investigative law enforcement agency on the plant has never provided that simple answer.
        Much like this post points out, to reveal the answer, exposes the “whole bag of dirty tricks(corruption)

          1. “Ask Papadopoulos.”

            Papadopoulos answered the questions, but you wish to lie by omission and pretend such questions weren’t answered. You are being deceitful again and lying by omission.

            1. Go to Amazon for the answer.

              Deep State Target: How I Got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump Hardcover – March 26, 2019
              by George Papadopoulos

              You won’t. You prefer to lie.

    3. It seems this guy keeps repeating things that have been discussed over and over again. He lied by omission before, and is doing the same thing now.

  18. Scum in Washington.

    This “dirty trick” rises to the level of treason because it undermines our democracy.

    The resulting “justice” will further undermine the country as Americans see the connected skate (compare the treatment of the 1/6 rioters).

    We need to reform the entire system.

      1. False statement by ambiguous use of “Words have (meanings)”. When you argue each word must defined as to its use. If I used the word dangerous in describing a person it could be construed negatively or positively, it needs context. Soldiers, Police,Self Defense trainers are expected to be dangerous. Criminals,Fanatics are dangerous. A Treasonous act is ipso facto a declaration of War and a sneak attack on the United States.

        1. “A Treasonous act is ipso facto a declaration of War . . .”

          Is that supposed to be a definition of “treason”? If so, you might want to do what LDP suggested.

      2. ma

        Yes. Treason.

        Doesn’t follow the traditional definition, but damages the country for personal gain.

        Our enemies are laughing at what we tolerate.

        Yep, treason.

        1. “Doesn’t follow the traditional definition . . .”

          If you want a government of men, and not of laws, then keep mangling the definitions of words, such as “treason.”

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