An indictment says Michael Sussmann lied to the FBI during a meeting about "the capacity in which he was providing the allegations" that the Trump Organization was communicating with a Russian bank. File Photo by Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock
Sept. 17 (UPI) -- A special counsel appointed during the Trump administration to uncover the origins of the Russia investigation produced an indictment Thursday, charging a lawyer who purportedly gave the FBI information in 2016 connecting then-candidate Donald Trump with a Russia bank for lying about his ties to Hillary Clinton.
Brought by special counsel John Durham, the 27-page indictment charges Michael Sussmann with one count of lying to the FBI.
It is the second criminal case Durham has filed since he was tapped in May of 2019 by then-Attorney General William Barr to investigate the origins of the Justice Department's two-year investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The indictment said Sussmann lied to the FBI during a Sept. 19, 2016, meeting about "the capacity in which he was providing the allegations to the FBI" that the Trump Organization was communicating with Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank via a computer back channel.
"Specifically, Sussmann stated falsely that he was not doing his work on the aforementioned allegations 'for my client,' which led the FBI general counsel to understand that Sussmann was acting as a good citizen merely passing along information, not as a paid advocate or political operative."
The document accuses Sussmann of having acted on behalf of a technology industry executive, a U.S. Internet company and the presidential campaign of then-candidate Clinton.
The indictment explained that Sussmann's statement "misled" the FBI concerning the political nature of his work, depriving it of information to better assess the origins and relevance of his data and the motives of his clients.
Sussmann's lawyers rejected the charge on Thursday as the result of "politics not facts."
"The special counsel appears to be using this indictment to advance a conspiracy theory he has chosen not to actually charge," Sussmann's lawyers said in a statement. "This case represents the opposite of everything the Department of Justice is supposed to stand for. Mr. Sussmann will fight this baseless and politically inspired prosecution."
The indictment states Sussmann's law firm, Perkins Coie, was retained by the Clinton campaign in 2015 to act as its counsel. Meanwhile, Sussmann, a lawyer who specializes in cybersecurity, was hired by the Democratic National Committee in April 2016 to represent it concerning the hacking of its email servers by the Russian government while also giving advice to Clinton's campaign.
The document said Sussmann began communicating with an unnamed tech executive about the data alleging a link between the Trump campaign and the Russian bank in July of 2016, work for which he charged the Clinton campaign.
The grand jury accuses Sussmann and the tech executive of working together and with others for weeks "on behalf of the Clinton campaign to share information about the Russian bank data with the media and others, claiming that it demonstrated the existence of a secret communications channel between the Trump Organization" and the Russian bank.
Durham previously brought charges against former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who pleaded guilty in January to altering an email supporting the surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide.
The former Connecticut U.S. attorney was appointed special counsel ahead of November's presidential election to ensure his investigation could continue under the next administration.
In February, Durham was one of two attorneys appointed by the Trump administration who were not asked to resign by President Joe Biden.
The investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election, which Trump had described as a witch hunt, produced indictments against more than 30 people, including those close to the 45th president.
It also culminated in a report produced by special counsel Robert Mueller in 2019 that said there was not enough evidence to prove collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign but there were some 10 episodes in which obstruction of justice charges could be considered against the former president.