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'Tech Exec-1' says he will plead the Fifth in Durham case

John Durham
FILE – In this April 25, 2006 file photo, U.S. Attorney John Durham speaks to reporters on the steps of U.S. District Court in New Haven, Conn. (AP Photo/Bob Child, File) Bob Child/AP

‘Tech Exec-1’ says he will plead the Fifth in Durham case

April 05, 03:36 PM April 05, 08:52 PM

The “Tech Executive-1” whom John Durham says coordinated with the Clinton campaign to push claims of Trump-Russia collusion says he will plead the Fifth in the trial of a top Democratic cybersecurity lawyer indicted by the special counsel.

Michael Sussmann was indicted last year on charges of concealing his clients — Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the tech executive known to be Rodney Joffe, formerly of the company Neustar — from FBI general counsel James Baker when he pushed since-debunked claims of a secret back channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank.

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Sussmann’s lawyers are furious about Durham’s apparent focus on Joffe.

“The Special Counsel has made Rodney Joffe a cornerstone of its case against Mr. Sussmann. Most conspicuously, the Special Counsel charges that Mr. Sussmann falsely told James Baker that he was not conveying information on behalf of a client when Mr. Sussmann was actually conveying it on behalf of Mr. Joffe,” Sussmann’s lawyers said in filings with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday night. “While Mr. Joffe is prepared to testify in Mr. Sussmann’s defense — and to offer critical exculpatory testimony on behalf of Mr. Sussmann, including that Mr. Joffe’s work was not connected to the Clinton Campaign — the Special Counsel is making it impossible for Mr. Sussmann to call Mr. Joffe as an exculpatory witness at trial.”

Durham revealed in February he has evidence Joffe “exploited” domain name system internet traffic at Trump Tower, Donald Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and the Executive Office of the President. The special counsel said in October that Joffe exploited his company’s access to data at a “high-ranking executive branch office” both before and after the 2016 election.

Sussmann’s lawyers claimed Monday that Durham was “manufacturing incredible claims of continuing criminal liability for Mr. Joffe that are forcing Mr. Joffe to assert his Fifth Amendment right.”

They argued the judge should dismiss the false statements charge against Sussmann if Durham won’t grant Joffe immunity.

DURHAM SAYS SUSSMANN PUT HIS LIE TO THE FBI IN WRITING

Sussmann’s team argued Joffe “would offer critical exculpatory testimony” if called to testify, including that Sussmann and Joffe “agreed that information should be conveyed to the FBI and to Agency-2 to help the government” and not to benefit Joffe. The team also contends Joffe “held a good faith belief in the analysis that was shared with the FBI,” while Sussmann “believed the data and analysis were accurate.”

Durham’s team wrote on Monday that “evidence at trial will show” that beginning in July 2016, Sussmann, Joffe, and agents of the Clinton campaign were “acting in concert toward a common goal” of “assembling and disseminating the Russian Bank-1 allegations and other derogatory information about Trump and his associates to the media and the U.S. government.”

The special counsel says Joffe also tasked researchers with mining internet data to establish “an inference” and “narrative” tying Trump to Russia. Durham said Joffe indicated he was doing this to please certain “VIPs” on the Clinton campaign.

Durham noted in March that Joffe “had a history of providing assistance to the FBI on cyber security matters, but decided in this instance to provide politically-charged allegations anonymously through the defendant and a law firm that was then-counsel to the Clinton Campaign.”

Steven Tyrrell, a lawyer for Joffe, sent a letter to Sussmann lawyer Michael Bosworth on April 1, saying: “My client will invoke his rights under the Fifth Amendment if called to testify at trial, even though he very much wants to set the record straight about the allegations against him and believes he can provide exculpatory information concerning the allegations against your client.”

Joffe’s attorney says he was told by Durham prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis on March 31 that his client “remains a subject of the investigation.” Joffe’s lawyer said he has indicated his client “has a desire to testify” but “he has concerns about doing so if he is a subject of the OSC’s investigation.”

Durham has said Sussmann told a government agency, believed to be the CIA, about the dubious Russian bank connection in a February 2017 meeting, in which Sussmann again allegedly misled about who his client was. The special counsel said Sussmann also claimed 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 and other locations.” The allegations about these Russian phones, called YotaPhones, are being scrutinized by Durham’s team.

The lawyer for Joffe wrote Monday that DeFilippis said “while it was fair to say that the Alfa-related allegations tied back to Sussmann’s September 19, 2016 meeting, the Yota phone-related allegations” also were a focus.

Joffe’s lawyer added: “DeFilippis further noted that certain fraud statutes have longer than a five-year limitations period, although he did not specify what statutes might be implicated.”

“It is preposterous for the Special Counsel to suggest that he might bring a case against Mr. Joffe or anyone else involving YotaPhone allegations,” Sussmann’s lawyers said, adding that “the Special Counsel has not even charged a conspiracy to defraud the government in any form, let alone a conspiracy to defraud the government involving YotaPhone allegations.”

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“The Special Counsel’s Office has identified no support for these allegations,” Durham wrote of the Russian phone claims in February. “Indeed, more complete DNS data that the Special Counsel’s Office obtained from a company that assisted Tech Executive-1 in assembling these allegations reflects that such DNS lookups were far from rare in the United States.”

Joffe revealed in a deposition in February that he also invoked his Fifth Amendment rights when asked to testify in front of Durham’s grand jury and claimed a chemotherapy drug he had used affected his memory from 2012 through 2017.

The Clinton campaign touted the Alfa Bank claims in the closing days of the 2016 election, but special counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI, and a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee investigation did not uncover evidence for it.

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