The indictment of Hillary Clinton lawyer Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI sheds new light on the pivotal role of Democratic operatives in the Russiagate affair. The emerging picture shows Sussmann and his Perkins Coie colleague Marc Elias, the chief counsel for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, proceeding on parallel, coordinated tracks to solicit and spread disinformation tying Donald Trump to the Kremlin.
In a detailed charging document last month, Special Counsel John Durham accused Sussmann of concealing his work for the Clinton campaign while trying to sell the FBI on the false claim of a secret Trump backchannel to Russia’s Alfa Bank. But Sussmann’s alleged false statement to the FBI in September 2016 wasn’t all. Just months before, he helped generate an even more consequential Russia allegation that he also brought to the FBI. In April of that year, Sussmann hired CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm that publicly triggered the Russiagate saga by lodging the still unproven claim that Russia was behind the hack of Democratic National Committee emails released by WikiLeaks.
At the time, CrowdStrike was not the only Clinton campaign contractor focusing on Russia. Just days before Sussmann hired CrowdStrike in April, his partner Elias retained the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on Trump and the Kremlin.
These two Clinton campaign contractors, working directly for two Clinton campaign attorneys, would go on to play highly consequential roles in the ensuing multi-year Russia investigation.
Working secretly for the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS planted Trump-Russia conspiracy theories in the FBI and US media via its subcontractor, former British spy Christopher Steele. The FBI used the Fusion GPS’s now debunked “Steele dossier” for investigative leads and multiple surveillance applications putatively targeting Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.
CrowdStrike, reporting to Sussmann, also proved critical to the FBI’s work. Rather than examine the DNC servers for itself, the FBI relied on CrowdStrike’s forensics as mediated by Sussmann.
The FBI’s odd relationship with the two Democratic Party contractors gave Sussmann and Elias unprecedented influence over a high-stakes national security scandal that upended U.S. politics and ensnared their political opponents. By hiring CrowdStrike and Fusion GPS, the Perkins Coie lawyers helped define the Trump-Russia narrative and impact the flow of information to the highest reaches of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Source: Aaron Maté, RealClearInvestigations