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Democratic lawyer protests Durham case jurors being asked about links to Clinton promotion of ‘collusion narrative’

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Democratic lawyer protests Durham case jurors being asked about links to Clinton promotion of ‘collusion narrative’

March 26, 12:14 AM March 26, 11:07 AM

The legal team for indicted Democratic cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann doesn’t like special counsel John Durham’s proposal to ask potential jurors in an upcoming trial if they have any links to groups that looked into what he describes as the Hillary Clinton campaign’s promotion of “the Trump/Russia collusion narrative.”

A filing in federal court Friday said both Durham’s team and Sussmann’s lawyers were in agreement about a questionnaire asking potential jurors if “you, any family member, or close personal friend participated or had any connection with any other government agency, group, organization, committee or subcommittee, public or private group or organization, including any media group or organization that has investigated or made inquiry into” either “Russian interference with the 2016 election” or “the federal government’s investigation of Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia.”

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But Sussmann’s team said it objected to the Durham prosecution request to ask the jury pool the same question related to any links to groups that have looked at or been tied to “the Clinton Campaign and/or the Democratic National Committee’s promotion of the Trump/Russia collusion narrative.”

Sussmann was indicted last year in Durham’s criminal inquiry for allegedly concealing his clients, including Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, from then-FBI general counsel James Baker in September 2016 when he shared information suggesting a secret backchannel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank. The bank has consistently denied collusion allegations. Sussmann, for his part, has pleaded not guilty in the case.

Michael Horowitz, the inspector general of the Justice Department, said in a 2019 report the FBI “concluded by early February 2017 that there were no such links” between former President Donald Trump and Alfa Bank. When asked about the Alfa Bank claims during House testimony in 2019, special counsel Robert Mueller said, “My belief at this point is that it’s not true.” A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report released in 2020 said investigators did not find “covert communications between Alfa Bank and Trump Organization personnel.”

Mueller, who was appointed special counsel in 2017, concluded his investigation in 2019. He issued a report that said the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion.” Although his special counsel team said it “identified numerous links” between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, Mueller’s investigators “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

DURHAM TO PRODUCE LARGE VOLUME OF CLASSIFIED INFO IN STEELE DOSSIER CASE

British ex-spy Christopher Steele created his now-discredited anti-Trump dossier after being hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was itself hired by Perkins Coie and Marc Elias, the general counsel for Clinton’s campaign. Durham appears to be building a case that many collusion claims can be sourced back to Democratic operatives or linked to the Clinton campaign. Trump filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday echoing such a view.

“In the run-up to the 2016 Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton and her cohorts orchestrated an unthinkable plot — one that shocks the conscience and is an affront to this nation’s democracy,” Trump’s lawyers contended. “Acting in concert, the Defendants maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative that their Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, was colluding with a hostile foreign sovereignty.”

Durham said in February he had evidence showing that Sussmann’s other client when he spoke with Baker, known to be former Neustar executive Rodney Joffe, “exploited” domain name system internet traffic at Trump Tower, Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and the Executive Office of the President of the United States.

The special counsel had said in October that Joffe “exploited his own company’s access to the sensitive internet data of a high-ranking executive branch office of the U.S. government, both before and after the Presidential election.” Based on the February filing, that office appears to be the aforementioned EOP, suggesting the snooping on Trump continued through at least the presidential transition period.

The new filing Friday also said Durham and Sussmann agreed to ask potential jurors if “you, any family member, or close personal friend know, or have any connection to” a specific list of individuals and organizations: Alfa Bank, the FBI, Baker, Trump, the Trump Organization, Clinton and her campaign, Joffe, Perkins Coie, Fusion GPS, or the CIA.

This would appear to confirm that “Agency-2” in Durham’s filings is the CIA. The special counsel has said Sussmann claimed to a federal agency (not the FBI) in February 2017 that data he had access to “demonstrated that Trump and/or his associates were using supposedly rare Russian-made wireless phones in the vicinity of the White House.” Durham found “no support for these allegations.”

Sussmann’s lawyers objected to asking jurors the same question in relation to Packet Forensics, Zetalytics, and the Georgia Institute of Technology, which almost certainly identifies two of the unnamed “Internet Company” groups listed by Durham, as well as “University-1.”

Joffe testified in a lawsuit that he had invoked his Fifth Amendment rights when asked to testify by the special counsel. He also declined to answer which businesses he owns and whether he knew the identity of a person dubbed “Originator-1,” who Durham says collaborated with Joffe on the Alfa Bank matter. Originator-1 has been identified as April Lorenzen of Zetalytics.

A filing by Durham’s team last month that generated a great deal of media attention pointed to the 2021 indictment of Sussmann, alleging that Joffe “exploited his access to non-public and/or proprietary Internet data” and tasked researchers to mine internet data to establish “an inference” and “narrative” tying then-candidate Trump to Russia. Durham said Joffe indicated he was doing this to please certain “VIPs” at Perkins Coie and on the Clinton campaign.

Sussmann and Durham agreed to ask potential jurors if they could follow the principle that “if a defendant does not testify, the jury may not consider that fact in any way in deciding whether a defendant is guilty.” But Durham also wanted to ask jurors: “Along this same line, if the United States does prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, it is your duty to find the defendant guilty. Can you adhere to and follow this principle of law?”

Sussmann objected.

Sussmann’s side also had a number of questions it wanted to ask the jury pool about to which Durham objected, including pressing jurors for specifics about their college and degrees if they went to school beyond high school, whether they ever considered working in law enforcement, if they or anyone close to them ever tried to obtain a security clearance, and how much they know about sensitive compartmented information facilities, or SCIFs.

Sussmann also wanted to ask potential jurors if they voted in the 2016 presidential election. Durham objected to that as well.

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During a speech in February, Clinton dismissed what she characterized as “conspiracy theories” meant to distract from scandals embroiling Trump. Durham stood by the snooping evidence he has presented, saying if “third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the government’s motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the government’s inclusion of this information.”

President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, played a key role in promoting the Alfa Bank claims as a Clinton campaign adviser in 2016.

In the closing days of the 2016 presidential race, Clinton tweeted about Alfa Bank: “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.” She also shared a lengthy statement from Sullivan, who said, “We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia.”

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