“Not My Investigation”: Former FBI General Counsel Shrugs Off Delay in Turning Over Key Text Message

Former FBI General Counsel  (and now Twitter lawyer) James Baker has long been a lightning rod for critics over the role of the FBI in pushing false Russian collusion claims. Baker did not help himself with those critics yesterday when he took the stand in the trial of Michael Sussmann, former Clinton campaign counsel. After declaring Sussmann a friend, Baker seemed to shrug off the fact that he previously failed to turn over a critical piece of evidence to Special Counsel John Durham because “this is not my investigation. This is your investigation.”

Sussmann faces a single charge under 18 U.S.C. 1001 for lying to the FBI in a meeting with Baker.

In the indictment, Sussmann is accused of “mak[ing] a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement or representation” in conversations with Baker. Durham argued that “the defendant provided the FBI General Counsel with purported data and ‘white papers’ that allegedly demonstrated a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and a Russia-based bank.”

Sussmann’s choice of Baker was little surprise to critics who have long viewed the former General Counsel as one of those officials who facilitated Russian collusion claims.

On May 4, 2018, Baker resigned from the FBI and joined the Brookings Institution as a fellow. Brookings also featured prominently in developing false collusion claims.  He later joined Twitter as a high-ranking attorney and has been criticized for playing a role in that company’s robust censorship program targeting conservatives and others.

On the stand, Baker explained that he continues to be a friend of Michael Sussmann, who he met during their time together at the Justice Department.

The most striking statement in the testimony arose after Baker was asked about his belated turning over of a key piece of evidence. A text message from Sussmann before their meeting clearly showed Sussmann denying that he was contacting Baker on behalf of any client. He was representing the Clinton campaign and charged the time to the campaign:

“Jim — it’s Michael Sussmann. I have something time-sensitive (and sensitive) I need to discuss. Do you have availability for a short meeting tomorrow? I’m coming on my own — not on behalf of a client or company — want to help the Bureau. Thanks.”

DOJ released exhibits showing Sussmann's texts to FBI Baker

As I previously discussed, the text was a bombshell for the case in directly contradicting Sussmann’s claim that Baker merely misremembered their conversation.

Baker was asked why he never informed Special Counsel John Durham of the text despite the long investigation of Sussmann. Indeed, he did not turn over the text after Sussmann was indicted on September 16th.

Baker’s response was telling: “It’s frankly — I’m not out to get Michael and this is not my investigation. This is your investigation.”

That came off a lot like “why should I help you?” Even being used as a conduit for a baseless, false allegation by a campaign did not seem to motivate Baker to actively seek to turn over any evidence in his possession. The phone that Baker used in the DOJ was reportedly turned over the Inspector General but Baker admitted that the information was on the cloud and he was able to later locate it. However, the question is how this communication on a key issue under investigation could have skipped the mind or attention of Baker given prior interviews and testimony.

Baker said that he found the message in March and turned it over to his lawyer. That seems like a rather belated discovery.  Alfa bank was under investigation for years, including extensive investigations by Congress, the Mueller investigation and the Durham investigation. Yet, Baker did not previously review his own interactions with Clinton counsel or involvement on either the Steele dossier or Alfa Bank allegations?

Baker specifically testified in 2018 on Russian collusion claims involving the Trump organization and campaign. This included extensive questions about his interaction with Sussmann. In the hearing, Baker told Congress that he “did not recall” if Sussmann said he was representing anyone in the meeting, even though he had a text expressly stating that he was not representing the campaign or anyone else in the meeting. Indeed, Baker testified “I don’t remember knowing why Michael Sussman, for example, was coming into the office.”

Even if Baker continues to maintain that he did not know that Sussmann was working for Clinton at the time of their meeting, it was clear early in the investigation that Sussmann and his partner at Perkins Coie, Marc Elias, were involved in the allegations of a false campaign-driven Russian collusion allegations.

Baker, however, reportedly shrugged off the question and testified “I’m not out to get Michael and this is not my investigation. This is your investigation. If you ask me a question, I answer it.”

In truth, it is the investigation of the United States Department of Justice, where Baker held a top position.

The testimony left the impression that Baker was going to cooperate but could hardly be expected to seek to help the Justice Department in proving a possible crime by Clinton campaign counsel. He indicated that he had to be specifically asked for such information and could not be expected to volunteer it or to seek to confirm evidence in his possession: “Nobody had asked me to go look for this material before that.”

When he came into possession of information from Sussmann, Baker told Congress, “I wanted to get it out of my hands into the hands of agents as quickly as possible.” That did not appear the standard that he applied to evidence in his possession that was material to Durham investigation of the Clinton campaign.

It is just not Baker’s job. After all, this is not his investigation.

185 thoughts on ““Not My Investigation”: Former FBI General Counsel Shrugs Off Delay in Turning Over Key Text Message”

  1. Turley: “Baker’s response was telling: ‘It’s frankly — I’m not out to get Michael and this is not my investigation. This is your investigation.’”

    It’s telling that Turley cuts off the quote where he does.

    Here’s a longer excerpt of the Q&A between DeFilippis and Baker:
    Q: So did there come a time when you were asked by the Government to give any statements you might have on the subject of your testimony today?
    A: Yes.
    Q: And just tell us how that happened and then what you did in response.
    A: There was a phone call with the Government. I think it was in March of this year. And it was to discuss discovery-related matters in part in the conversation. And I think it was Mr. Durham who asked me, you know: You need — we have an obligation to hand over discovery to the defense in this case. And can you go look for emails and other communications that you might have had with Mr. Sussmann?
    And so in response to that, I — after we got off the phone, I immediately went to my phone and started looking through emails and then I looked for texts. And I did a search for texts with Michael’s last name; and texts came up, and I scrolled through them. They took a while to down — it was clear to me at least that they were downloading from the cloud.
    And as I scrolled through and got to the beginning of my set of communications with Michael, this is the first one that I had.
    Q: Now, had you — have you spoken to and met with the Government in connection with this case previously?
    A: Yes.
    Q: And had you previously located this text message here?
    A: Not to the best of my recollection. No.
    Q: What, if anything, was the reason for that?
    A: It’s — I was not — I mean, the way I thought about it was that frankly, like, I am not out to get Michael. And this is not my investigation; this is your investigation. And so if you ask me a question, I answer it. If you ask me to look for something, I go look for it. But to the best of my recollection, nobody had asked me to go look for this material before that. [emphasis added]

    Amazing. Durham waited until March before asking Baker to look through his communications with Sussmann. Talk about incompetence.

    Turley wonders “the question is how this communication on a key issue under investigation could have skipped the mind or attention of Baker given prior interviews and testimony,” yet Turley does NOT wonder why it “could have skipped the mind or attention of” Durham to ask Baker to check “communication on a key issue under investigation.” Turley is trying to make Durham look good, but Durham doesn’t look good, and neither does Turley in presenting it this way.

  2. Simple. Baker lies. His father is the father of liars. He obviously feigned a Christian religious experience in 2018 to reduce the negative judgmental evaluation that haunted his performance as Council at the FBI… a true rogue’s gallery.

  3. The comment section is always filled with spam messages, very hard to figure the right one but I saw ethical.gurru {at} gmail and sent message some weeks ago, now I have access to my girlsfriends phone, deleted messages and pictures, and I got to know the whole family is just using me for money from the messages with her mom. I will play along for a few months before I come out open.

    1. Wesley, do you want my phone number? No one loves me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna eat some worms

      🐛

  4. My guess is that Baker only turned over the text because he knew that Durham would have found it and if he didn’t he could have probably faced an obstruction charge.

    But lets see how this plays out…

  5. I’ve written previously that certain individuals whose corruption exceeds a minimal ‘acceptable’ level should wear Kevlar.

  6. Sussman lied to Baker to help ensure that the FBI would view the information as untainted by politics and thus worthy of investigation. The ultimate object was to get the media to run stories that Trump was under FBI investigation for colluding with Russia.

    Even today, Baker appears not to care that he was made part of a scheme to manipulate the election. His attitude is similar to the NY Times and WaPo journalists who were lied to by their sources whom they continue to protect.

    This was happening at around the same time as Crossfire Hurricane and the Carter Page FISA warrant application, in which Baker was also involved. The key to that investigation and application was the Steele dossier, also provided by operatives of the Clinton campaign. The CIA had warned Obama in July and the FBI in September that Russian intelligence had learned that Clinton had approved a plot to link Trump to Russia to distract from her email scandal.

    The FBI quickly concluded that the information Sussman provided did not show any connections between Trump and Russia. It also learned from Danchenko starting in January 2017 that the Steele dossier was rubbish. Yet the FBI did not take the next step to investigate the ultimate sources of the information provided by Sussman or Steele. Instead the FBI and DOJ continued to investigate the collusion fantasy, without any evidence.

    So far Durham has done nothing to pursue any senior officials at the FBI, or any other governmental institution. They were clearly colluding with the Clinton campaign in trying to defeat Trump and then derail his Presidency. I hope Sussman is convicted, and then Danchenko as well, but in my view Durham will have failed if the high government officials who amplified this conspiracy and kept it running, and Clinton and the senior Clinton campaign officials (including Jake Sullivan) who invented it, are not held to account.

  7. Aside from the Sussmann trial, the larger and more salient issue is, at what point does oppo-research become illegal? Dirty tricks have been part of the American political scene since Grover Cleveland had to deal with cartoons of babies yelling, “Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa?” After his election, he had them publish cartoons that answered the question with, “In the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha!” Nixon had to deal with Dick Tuck’s antics. I think all this political humor becomes illegal only if and when the perpetrator enlists the government under false pretense to spread the false narrative. Whether the FBI, CIA, or Department of Justice, our government departments and agencies have credibility, and their imprimatur is a valuable asset to a campaign. That’s why it’s important to prosecute Sussmann and any others who attempted to use the federal government as an unwitting collaborator in a false story devised as oppo-research.

  8. Professor Turley Writes:

    On the stand, Baker explained that he continues to be a friend of Michael Sussmann, who he met during their time together at the Justice Department
    …………………………………………..

    Professor Turley lives and works in the Beltway himself. He knows damn well that Washington is a company town full of people who’ve known each other for years.
    The same is true for Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

    So if Michael Sussmann wants to chat with old friend James Baker he may not go through the formal protocols that non-acquaintances would bother with. One suspects that’s not abnormal. Old friends meet up all the time in company towns.

    And James Baker has no obligation to consider Durham’s investigation for any thing other than the partisan charade it is. No one outside the rightwing media bubble thinks Donald Trump was the victim of Hillary Clinton, Michael Sussmann ‘or’ Christopher Steele.

    Donald Trump had NEVER held public office before. Nor had Trump ever run for office before. Trump had never been subject to an FBI background check. Trump couldn’t even be bothered to show his income tax filings!

    Long before Trump got his party’s nomination, he demonstrated a shocking lack of maturity and total disregard for facts. Trump was totally hostile to the judge presiding over his Trump University fraud case. What’s more, Trump’s business dealings with Russian investors had been quite extensive. Russian investors had saved the Trump Organization after its Atlantic City bankruptcies.

    Therefore with this column Professor Turley pretends that Donald Trump was a distinguished statesman and should’ve been regarded as such. The problem is that wasn’t Donald Trump.

    1. You’re in denial.
      The evidence has proven that Hillary tried to frame President Trump.
      There has been one conviction so far.
      Open your eyes and stop acting like a child because your party got busted trying to throw an election.
      Again.

    2. Donald Trump had NEVER held public office before. Nor had Trump ever run for office before. Trump had never been subject to an FBI background check. Trump couldn’t even be bothered to show his income tax filings!

      Relevance?
      I bet all of this is a a cut paste from someone else. Most all of it has no bearing on anything. But this little passage just feeds the leftist emotional need to be outraged, even though none of it means squat. Just words signifying nothing.
      It basically says President Trump had never run for office……..SO? that covers lots of people. AOC? The FBI doesn’t do background checks on politicians. Tax filings not required. The last paragraph is a particular head scratcher considering Biden’s known bribes from China. $11 million over six years, for no visible services. According to…? NBC

      https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/analysis-hunter-bidens-hard-drive-shows-firm-took-11-million-2013-2018-rcna29462

    3. Democrats will defend any level of criminality or misconduct if it’s their team. How does a sworn justice official not provide information for a major investigation on FBI misconduct and still be defended?

      Dems only standard is the pursuit of power.

  9. Put them both in a cell together, see how long before they beat the crap out of each other and then see how they snitch.
    They’re guilty as hell, no special privileges.

  10. “It’s not my investigation it’s your investigation.” Now there’s an FBI lawyer who believes in justice for all. I am against defunding the police but in my book defunding the FBI has a lot of merit.

  11. There is one simple fact that won’t go away. Sussman told Baker that he wasn’t coming to the FBI on the behalf of anyone. He was just reporting to the FBI out of love for his country. Then he billed the Clinton campaign for his meeting with Baker. I wonder how much he charged per hour for his altruistic endeavor. I can picture the scene. He walks into Baker’s office places his hand over his heart and says the pledge of allegiance. He pulls out a miniature flag, sets it on Baker’s desk and says boy have I got a tale (tall) for you. As he was leaving the meeting he turned back to Baker and once again with his his hand over his heart he declares “For God and country Jim Baker for God and country.” Baker says goodbye and asks, “How’s Hillary?”

    1. “Then he billed the Clinton campaign for his meeting with Baker.”

      Durham alleges this but has not presented evidence of it. Treat it as an allegation, not a fact.

      1. Anonymous, from the indictment. For example, on or about July 29, 2016, SUSSMANN and Campaign Lawyer-I met with personnel from the U.S. Investigative Firm in Campaign Lawyer-1’s office. SUSSMANN billed his time in this meeting to the Clinton Campaign under the category “General Political Advice” with the billing description “meeting with [Campaign Lawyer-I], others regarding [] confidential project.” (For all of SUSSMANN’s other billing entries cited herein that he billed to the Clinton Campaign, he similarly billed his time to the campaign under the category. Anonymous, do you really think that Durham would have put this information in the indictment if he didn’t have Sussmann’s billing records. https://www.justice.gov/sco/press-release/file/1433511/download. Of course it’s alleged but Durham can read the billing records in plain old black and white. Carry on Anonymous carry on there are windmills to defeat.

        1. Sussmann was definitely doing work for the Clinton Campaign. He was also doing work for other clients. That Sussmann did some work for the Clinton campaign does not imply that he met with Baker on 9/19/2016 on behalf of the Clinton Campaign.

          Yet YOU asserted that Sussmann “billed the Clinton campaign for his meeting with Baker.” THAT is what I’m saying is an allegation for which Durham has not presented evidence so far, so YOU should not be treating is as anything other than an allegation. YOU do not present any evidence for it. Clearly what you just quoted about a 7/29/2016 meeting is not evidence about a 9/19/2016 meeting.

          Details, TIT, details.

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