Is Durham Circling Jake Sullivan? The Special Counsel May Not Be Done With the National Security Adviser

Last month Washington was rocked by the indictment of Michael Sussman, former counsel for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee, for his alleged role in spreading a false Russia conspiracy theory. Special counsel John Durham — who is variously described as either painfully methodical or positively glacial as a prosecutor — reportedly was prompted to indict Sussman by an expiring statute of limitations.

Absent such a deadline involving Sussman, it seems unlikely that Durham would have disclosed as much as he did in the indictment. The reason is that he is likely focusing on other possible targets and witnesses. That could include the most notable figure exposed in the Sussman indictment: Jake Sullivan.

In that event, Sullivan potentially could be in the unenviable position of having to argue that he was not perjurious, just clueless, in denying knowledge of key facts to Congress. The “ignorance is bliss” defense is a favorite fallback in Washington scandals but it is less common when that person is the current national security adviser to the President of the United States.

While an indictment of Sullivan is viewed as unlikely, he popped up unexpectedly in the indictment and the National Security Advisor may not be done with the Special Counsel. If Durham is focusing on who knew or approved of the Alfa Bank conspiracy claim in the Clinton campaign, one of the highest figures referenced in the indictment (and just below Hillary Clinton)  is Sullivan.

With Sussman, Durham indicted someone who he believes intentionally hid the role of the Clinton campaign in creating and pushing Alfa Bank scandal. In testimony to Congress, Sullivan also insisted that he did not know the Alfa Bank scandal was the work of a Clinton lawyer and people associated with the campaign. It is not clear if Durham has evidence to contradict his claim of total ignorance on the work performed by campaign counsel and campaign researchers.

Lying to Congress is neither easy nor common for prosecution, though Special Counsel Robert Mueller prosecuted figures like Roger Stone on that basis. Michael Cohen was also indicted for lying to Congress about the involvement of Donald Trump in negotiations over a Moscow real estate deal. Sullivan will have to argue that, despite being one of the top campaign advisers, he was unaware of the campaign’s prior work on developing the allegation.

The Sussman indictment refers to a wide array of characters responsible for creating the alleged conspiracy theory about a secret communications link between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin through Russia’s Alfa Bank. The unsupported claim was allegedly orchestrated in part by Sussman, who was then a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie; another partner at the time, Marc Elias, was the general counsel for the Clinton campaign and played a significant role in pushing the infamous Steele dossier.

The indictment revealed that the Alfa Bank theory was never viewed as particularly credible by the researchers tasked with creating it. Those researchers warned that it would be easy to “poke several holes” in the claim and see the data as “a red herring.”  Yet, as with the Steele dossier, the Clinton operatives were counting on an enabling media to ask few questions before the election. The researchers were told they should not look for proof but just enough to “give the base of a very useful narrative.”

We now know the identities of many of the figures described in the 27-page indictment. The researchers appeared in part to be operating out of Georgia Tech, including one who, according to the indictment, warned “Tech Executive-1” in mid-2016 that “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].”

According to media reports, the mysterious “Tech Executive-1” mentioned in the indictment appears to be Rodney L. Joffe, who was the chief cybersecurity officer at Washington tech contractor Neustar Inc. Joffe, 66, also was a longtime client of Sussman’s and reportedly boasted that he was offered a high-ranking position in the Clinton administration, if she won the election.

In his emails, Joffe pushed for any documentation that could be used as a foundation for the campaign: “Being able to provide evidence of anything that shows an attempt to behave badly in relation to this, the VIPs would be happy.”

That brings us to Sullivan.

As soon as the conspiracy theory was packaged and delivered to the FBI and the media by Sussman, the indictment recounts an exchange between some of those “VIPs”: “… on or about September 15, 2016, Campaign Lawyer-1 exchanged emails with the Clinton Campaign’s campaign manager, communications director, and foreign policy advisor concerning the Russian Bank-1 allegations that SUSSMANN had recently shared with Reporter-1.” The campaign lawyer reportedly was Elias, and the “foreign policy advisor” reportedly was Sullivan.

Sullivan was quoted in an official campaign press statement as stating that the Alfa Bank allegation “could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow.” In the statement, Sullivan said: “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.”

The U.S. intelligence community ultimately rejected the Alfa Bank conspiracy. It also concluded that the Steele dossier not only relied on a suspected Russian agent but likely was used by Russian intelligence to spread disinformation through the Clinton campaign.

Yet, when Sullivan was later questioned by Congress, he went full Sergeant Schultz, claiming he basically did not have a clue about the basis or origins of the Alfa Bank controversy or other campaign-orchestrated scandals. Sullivan was adept at laying qualifiers upon qualifiers to render statements useless: “broadly speaking, at some point in the summer, and I don’t remember exactly when it was, around the convention, I learned that there was an effort to do some research into the ties between Trump and Russia.” That will make any false statement claim difficult absent direct involvement in the planning of these “campaign efforts.”

Sullivan denied knowing that Elias or Sussman were working for the Clinton campaign, despite numerous news articles identifying Elias as the campaign’s general counsel. Sullivan just shrugged and said: “To be honest with you, Marc wears a tremendous number of hats, so I wasn’t sure who he was representing. I sort of thought he was, you know, just talking to us as, you know, a fellow traveler in this — in this campaign effort.”

That seems odd, given Sullivan’s long, close involvement with Clinton and her campaigns. He advised her during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries and later became her deputy chief of staff and policy planning director at the State Department. He was one of the notable names in Clinton’s email scandal and the recipient of her controversial order to strip the classification headings on a key email.  He later rejoined Clinton again during the 2016 campaign as one of her senior-most advisers.

Yet, the lack of disclosure over those behind the “campaign effort” seems suspiciously consistent. Sussman was indicted for allegedly hiding his representation of Clinton in pushing the Alfa Bank conspiracy. Elias was accused of doing the same with reporters on the Steele Dossier. He also reportedly sat next to campaign chair John Podesta when he denied such connections to Congress. Now Sullivan denies any knowledge of the campaign’s early role in these scandals.

It is notable that, when Sullivan was the Clinton campaign’s foreign policy adviser, President Obama was given a national security briefing of Clinton’s alleged plan to tie then-candidate Trump to Russia as “a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server.” That briefing was on July 28, 2016 — three days before the Russia investigation was initiated.

This brings us back to Durham’s calendar. Sullivan reportedly gave his series of denials to Congress in December 2017. The statute of limitations for lying to Congress is five years, which means that Sullivan still would be within range for Durham if the special counsel does not buy Sullivan’s denials. He could also find himself unindicted but entirely exposed in a report that is likely to be blistering.

If so, Sullivan could find himself a “fellow traveler” with Sussman — not “in this campaign effort” but in Durham’s still-unfolding prosecution effort instead.

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

93 thoughts on “Is Durham Circling Jake Sullivan? The Special Counsel May Not Be Done With the National Security Adviser”

  1. As far as I am concerned about the Durham investigation, I have one reaction which will be familiar to Trumpists:


    You shall reap what you sow….

      1. You Trumpists taught me well-

        “Deep State” investigation?

        Scream “WITCH-HUNT!”

  2. On July 28, 2016, CIA Director John Brennan briefed President Obama on an alleged plan by Hillary Clinton to tie Trump to Russia as “a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server” ahead of the upcoming presidential election.

    Brennan’s handwritten notes (which were not declassified until 2020) state, in part, the following:

    We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED]…CITE [summarizing] alleged approved by Hillary Clinton a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service.

    Could “one of her foreign policy advisors” have been Jake Sullivan?

  3. Sullivan and so many other is the Clinton Campaign, Obama DOJ, FBI, belong in prison for conspiracy, lying to Congress and others, and even treason. I hope that Durham at least exposes them, but we all know the lying corrupt Democrat propaganda FAKE News Media will cover ignore or cover up the the facts if they do come to light, and Social Media will do its best to censor even if they do it as invisibly as possible rather than outright banning information that is 100% true and exposing themselves yet again. However, 99.99999% none of this will ever result in charges. We know the corrupt Obama regime and its even more corrupt DOJ are 100% political and go all out to protect Democrat criminals. They may let some minor charge go with some low level scapegoat, but even then you can count on Democrat Judges like Sullivan who disgraced himself with bias in the Flynn trial to protect any Democrats that come before them. The USA has no system of Justice. We are now like a 3rd world country where the winners of the election, if they are Democrats, use our system of Justice for pure partisan political ends.

    1. This absolutely CANNOT just continue to happen! Clinton, Comey, et al did the crime now they need to pay the time!

  4. Even if Elias &/or Sullivan are successfully prosecuted, they’ll receive risibly light sentences, and (threatened with so little) will never provide testimony against anyone else within Clinton’s troupe of flying monkeys. So, best case scenario, they get probation, and their friends treat them to an expensive lunch.

  5. Music
    I’m Clinton the 8th I am
    I grêw up down South 7n a garbage can
    I got married to the Billy next door.
    He was a goat seven times before….

  6. No Special Counsel Has Ever Been More Irrelevant Than Durham

    January 6th was not just an attempted coup, but the beginning of a threat that is still very active. As long as Donald Trump promotes election lies, our democracy remains under siege.

    Therefore it’s insulting that John Durham still has an office to promote Trump’s lie of the so-called ‘Russia Hoax’. Christopher Steele and others were perfectly justified in their suspicions that Trump was a foreign stooge.

    We have seen nothing from Donald Trump to indicate he honestly cares about America. Stoking a civil war is Trump’s main agenda. And every action he takes is calculated to further that goal.

    1. I find it fascinating that some refuse to believe their own $40 million Special Councel.

      And the only thing “under siege” is America, due to Bejing Biden’s policies and incompetence.

    2. And, of course, “January 6th” was not dissimilar to Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, etc., all of which experienced “riots” by BLM, Antifa, etc., not insurrections.

      The only coup ever prosecuted in the United States of America was and continues to be conducted by one Barack Obama/Barry Soetoro, son and step son of foreign citizens, and possessor of foreign allegiances, he with no degree of loyalty to the United States of America, which he has sworn to destroy.

    3. You can’t be serious. The Russia collusion nonsense has been completely debunked over and over. The evidence that it was manufactured by the Clinton Campaign is now incontrovertible. Proving actual statutory crimes were committed is of course much more difficult, and maybe this is just dirty politics as usual. But at this point, to still believe any of the Russia bull as being even remotely grounded in reality – that’s just laughable. Democrats, and progressives, and their supplicants in the press are always just hoping that no one’s paying attention to what’s actually going on. Democrats, the Clinton Campaign, the Obama DOJ, caught red handed trying to f*ck Trump, and you act surprised that Trump is convinced the 2020 election was rigged against him. Perhaps not the voting machines, but you can bet your a$$ the entire government/media complex was rigged against him from DAY 1. You don’t like Trump, so anything goes. And I mean anything.

    4. Why are you just blabbering online instead of spending every free minute trying to convince Independents of Biden’s superiority over Trump. Don’t just sit on your lazy back side. Go foment love of Joe.

    5. ANON – You need to get over that anal-cranial inverson. DT is/was as patriotic as most Americans in the culture and traditions of America. “We have seen nothing from Donald Trump to indicate he honestly cares about America. Stoking a civil war is Trump’s main agenda. And every action he takes is calculated to further that goal.
      I could give a litany list of why you nare wrong. But with the Trump haters, it is a useless undertaking. Durham may in final analysis, surprise a few of us and disclose the Obama, Biden, DOJ, FBI, CIA, State Dept attemptedcoup against DT. No he probably thinks by not doing such, he is saving the system, judicial and otherwise. But further disclosures in the future will destroy that. I realize you have other opinions, but stick that on some place else.

    6. You would post anonymously. NO BALLS!!! Must be an MK Ultra brainwashed human being. So very sad!

    7. Your reading comprehension skills seem lacking. The real threat to democracy was Hillary. And yes, it was a Russian Hoax. That, Trump had nailed cold. But yeah ohh January 6th. You guys always love talking about that day. Your party Bill Clinton pardoned a woman who actually detonated a bomb at the capitol. Selective outrace much?

    8. Mr/Ms/It Anonymous. I guess facts don’t matter to you. The greatest threat to our Democracy is people like you.

    9. TDS much. Love seeing that Trump lives rent free in your oxygen starved brain.

  7. Durham is likely slow burning this so he gets a GOP Congress before he really moves.

  8. It’s not complex.

    Of course, Special Counsel John “Dudley Do-Right” Durham will do nothing.

    To paraphrase Andrew C. McCarthy, if James Comey had indicted Hillary, James Comey would have convicted Obama.

    Obama was pseudonymous in his illegal e-mail exchanges with Hillary and her illegal servers; they were both guilty.

    John Durham, as James Comey did not then, will not prosecute the co-conspirators in the Obama Coup D’etat in America to the fullest extent of the law with extreme prejudice, but protect the “Swamp” of the Global Communist Deep Deep State.

    It will require men with the capacity, fortitude and resolve of the 56 signatories of the Declaration of Independence, who challenged the authority of the entire formidable British Empire, to “keep” the republic and right the American ship of state.

    To wit,

    “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    – Declaration of Independence, 1776

    1. Uh, George, the National Review has NO credibility when criticizing or fabricating claims about Democrats.

        1. Yes, but the National Review doesn’t tell the truth about Democrats, George, any more than Hannity, Ingraham, Levin, anyone on OAN, News Max or Breitbart.

          1. No. Sweetie, you are wrong.

            NUTCHACHA doesn’t tell the truth.

            NUTCHACHA is incapable of discerning the truth.


    “CIRCLE” this guy who uttered the following confession:

    “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

    – Barack Obama, aka Barry Soetoro (Son/Step Son of W/Allegiances to Foreign Citizen)

    And these folks who are allies of Co-Cospirator-1, Barry Soetoro:

    “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

    And these folks comprising the conspiracy:

    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, George Soros, John McCain et al.

  10. Durham Probes Pentagon Computer Contractors in Anti-Trump Conspiracy (condensed)

    Cybersecurity experts who held lucrative Pentagon and homeland security contracts and high-level security clearances are under investigation for potentially abusing their government privileges to aid a 2016 Clinton campaign plot to falsely link Donald Trump to Russia and trigger an FBI investigation of him and his campaign, according to several sources familiar with the work of Special Counsel John Durham. Durham is investigating whether they were involved in a scheme to misuse sensitive, nonpublic Internet data, which they had access to through their government contracts, to dredge up derogatory information on Trump on behalf of the Clinton campaign in 2016 and again in 2017, sources say — political dirt that sent FBI investigators on a wild goose chase. Prosecutors are also investigating whether some of the data presented to the FBI was faked or forged. These sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive law enforcement matter, said Durham’s investigators have subpoenaed the contractors to turn over documents and testify before a federal grand jury hearing the case. The investigators are exploring potential criminal charges including giving false information to federal agents and defrauding the government, the sources said. The campaign plot was outlined by Durham last month in a 27-page indictment charging former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann with making a false report to the FBI. The document cites eight individuals who allegedly conspired with Sussmann, but does not identify them by name. The sources familiar with the probe have confirmed that the leader of the team of contractors was Rodney L. Joffe, who has regularly advised the Biden White House on cybersecurity and infrastructure policies. Until last month he was the chief cybersecurity officer at Washington tech contractor Neustar Inc., which federal civil court records show was a longtime client of Sussmann at Perkins Coie, a prominent Democratic law firm recently subpoenaed by Durham. Joffe, 66, has not been charged with a crime.

    – Paul Sperry, RealClearInvestigations

  11. Turley is wrong on a key point of the chronology. The email exchange Sussman had with Elias and Sullivan about the Alfa matter on September 15 following Sussman’s contact with Reporter-1 was four days BEFORE Sussman’s meeting with the FBI on September 19, not after the information was delivered to the FBI as Turley says. There are also many meetings, calls and/or emails on this topic between Sussman and Elias throughout August and earlier in September. Are there meetings, calls and emails between Elias and Sullivan on this matter during that period? We don’t know yet.

  12. “Last month Washington was rocked by the indictment of Michael Sussman, former counsel for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee, for his alleged role in spreading a false Russia conspiracy theory.

    For those who keep pretending they don’t know about the Russian Hoax.

    1. Right about now, someone is cueing up the but, but the bipartisan Senate Intel report said…and you didn’t read the Mueller Report. comment. Natacha of course will have her fat, orange slob nonsense to regurgitate. Yawn.

    2. Dan Coats, a lifetime Republican, former Republican member of Congress and appointee of your fat orange hero as head of the American Intelligence agencies, said the Russians did collude with the Trump campaign to help him defeat the will of the American people. And, for telling this truth, Trump fired him. The Mueller investigation also found this to be true, based on the evidence they could gather. Of course, your fat hero wouldn’t cooperate, jut like he’s not cooperating with the January 6th commission, so Mueller could not get full information or documents and Trump ordered witnesses not to cooperate, but despite these limitaions, they did prove that Trump’s campaign fed sensitive insider polling data to Russian operatives who used it to spread lies about Hillary Clinton on social media. They did get dozens of guilty verdicts and guilty pleas. They chose districts where support for Hillary was soft enough that such lies might turn voters, and it worked. That’s called cheating, something Trump has done his entire life..

      You can keep believing the Orange Hoax and the Big Lie all you want to, but he DID cheat his way into office in 2016, and he DID lose the popular vote both times.

      1. We read Mueller’s report in it’s entirety. There is no such evidence to support anything of the sort as you well know. No evidence whatsoever of any collusion between the Trump campaign and any entity connected to the Russian government. The Russians were acting on their own to sow disinformation and probably preferenced Trump, but those aren’t remotely the same thing. The Russians have been interfering in US elections for decades so those revelations are really nothing new. The Russian’s FB social media campaign with a budget of $100k had about as much impact on the election as Natacha in the comments section.

      2. And in case you dont know what that means or why it is relevant…I have no less than 50 conservative friends who did not vote in 2016 because the state they live in is RED, so they saw no point. I am sure you have the same experience in the echo chamber where you live. So pointing out who won the “popular vote” is either pointless or disingenuous, depending whether you choose to admit being willfully ignorant or a gas lighter.

      3. “who used it to spread lies about Hillary Clinton on social media.”

        As if any lie about Hillary could possibly be worse than the truth…LMFAO

  13. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t believe anyone that has the highest level of security clearance and “need to know” access should ever be able to use the not wittingly defense. They certainly should never be in a position of National Security. They may avoid prosecution. But at a minimum, they should be immediately stripped of their clearances, banned from public service and banned from any activity that they would be able to profit off of their position in government.

  14. Washington is full of ugly people from both parties.

    The difference is that Republicans will admit that Cohen and Manafort are scum.

    Democrats will deny and deflect about their scum.

  15. Jonathan: After over two years of goading by Donald Trump what does John Durham have to show for his efforts? The indictment of Michael Sussmann for lying to the FBI. Certainly not the blockbuster you predicted and no confirmation of some deep-state conspiracy Trump claimed the Democrats were up to in 2016. Durham has failed to show federal officials tried to sabotage the Trump campaign. And the case involving Jake Sullivan seems even more remote to the central conspiracy claim. A “fellow traveler” with Sullivan? You must be joking! The case against Sussmann pales in comparison to the proved charges against Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI–the guy your budding Bill Barr tried to protect and Trump eventually pardoned. Flynn lied to protect the central issue of importance–Trump’s campaign connections to Russian interests. That’s the part you want us to forget by dwelling now Durham’s desperate attempt prove Trump’s spurious claims. “Much ado about nothing”.

    1. Compare the text document of gen Flynn’s conversation with the russian amb and the written indictment presented to the court and show me the lie or shut up because your to lazy to look at facts.

  16. Unfortunately they will all come away unscathed but make sure you weren’t in DC on January 6th and as a parent don’t ever question your school board!!

    1. More of your out-of-context references to movies shown on basic cable. Yeah, I like “The Shawshank Redemption”, or its real title “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”, but it’s fiction, Karen.

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