5 new questions about Russia collusion probe emerging from Sussman trial
Questions about the Steele dossier may be answered in the October trial of Igor Danchenko, while new revelations from Congress show the FBI had a unique relationship with the Clinton campaign's main law firm.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
- found not guilty on Tuesday of lying to the FBI
- Just the News, Not Noise
- charged Danchenko with repeatedly lying to the FBI
- currently under investigation by the special counsel
- "close-hold" placed on Sussmann's identity
- Former CIA officer Kevin P. testified during the trial
- Former FBI agent Tom Grasso testified during the trail
While the trial of 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann concluded with his acquittal, Special Counsel John Durham's prosecution team succeeded in revealing new evidence about how the false Trump-Russia collusion narrative got foisted upon the FBI and the nation.
And with each revelation came new questions.
Sussmann was found not guilty on Tuesday of lying to the FBI, a charge brought against him by Durham's probe, which is examining the origins of the investigation into the Trump-Russia collusion allegations.
Durham alleged Sussmann had lied in his meeting with then-FBI General Counsel James Baker by saying that he was not representing any clients in relaying a since-debunked allegation of a secret communications channel between the Russian Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. According to Durham, Sussmann was at the time representing two clients from his Perkins Coie law firm, the Clinton campaign and then-Neustar tech firm executive Rodney Joffe.
Sussmann claimed he told the truth, and the jury sided with him.
Trump Media & Technology Group CEO Devin Nunes, the former House Intelligence Committee chairman who helped unravel the Russia collusion narrative, told "Just the News, Not Noise" TV show cohosts John Solomon and Amanda Head on Wednesday that he's "not that concerned about" Sussmann's acquittal, nor did it surprise him.
Given that the trial took place in Washington, D.C. where Clinton received 90% of the vote in 2016, Nunes said, "Durham had to know that he was rolling the dice with, really, a 1-out-of-30 chance that he was going to get a conviction here."
However, the prosecution raised some important new questions regarding the Trump-Russia collusion investigation throughout the trial. And those questions were augmented by a new revelation Wednesday by congressional investigators.
Question 1: What was the relationship between Perkins Coie and the FBI?
Nunes mentioned that some of his former colleagues in Congress have learned of "some type of strange relationship" between Sussmann's former law firm, Perkins Coie, and the FBI.
In early May, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) wrote a letter to Perkins Coie inquiring about "a Secure Work Environment" installed by the Justice Department at the law firm's D.C. office.
Last Wednesday, Perkins Coie responded to the congressmen's letter, confirming such a relationship existed between the law firm and the FBI dating to 2012.
"The Secure Work Environment was given final accreditation by the Physical Security Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ('FBI') on March 26, 2012," the law firm wrote the congressmen. "The Secure Work Environment began operation on that date and has been in continuous operation since then."
According to the law firm's letter, Sussmann had access to the Secure Work Environment until July 2021.
While "Perkins Coie maintains and has access to the Secure Work Environment" and "is responsible to the FBI for maintaining the Secure Work Environment pursuant to FBI standards and requirements," the bureau itself "was responsible for initially accrediting the Secure Work Environment, and periodically performs inspections to ensure that the Secure Work Environment is operating in accordance with the requisite standards."
Jordan and Gaetz want to know more, including what the secure work environment was used for and whether the firm's lawyers or clients worked as confidential human sources for the FBI.
Question 2: What is still unknown about the Steele dossier?
Nunes noted that the October trial of Igor Danchenko, a Russian analyst who was the primary source for the Christopher Steele dossier, is the next important component of Durham's probe. Former MI6 agent Steele was paid by the Clinton campaign's opposition research firm to dig up dirt on Russia, and he took that information to the FBI, much like Sussmann did his allegations about Alfa Bank.
Durham has charged Danchenko with repeatedly lying to the FBI during the Russia collusion investigation. The FBI terminated its relationship with Steele because he leaked to the news media early in the investigation and concluded that much of Steele's dossier alleging Russia collusion was either false, uncorroborated or useless internet rumor.
Kevin Brock, the FBI's former intelligence chief, told Just the News that one revelation from the Sussmann trial that needs further explanation is the fact that Sussmann's Alfa Bank allegations and several of Steele's dossier memos were delivered to the FBI on the exact same day.
"What kind of got lost in this trial, is the fact that there appeared to be a concerted strategy by the campaign to release disinformation about Alfa Bank and disinformation about the Steele dossier on the same day, September 19 2016," Brock said. "This is not an accident.
"This appears to me to be a strategic move to to release this information, to try to get it into the press, to be able to tell the press that the FBI was looking at these allegations, so that six weeks out from the national election, the American people would be led to believe that there was something to be concerned about regarding Donald Trump."
Question 3: Who else in the FBI is under investigation by the Durham probe?
During the trial, it was revealed that one of the prosecution's witnesses, FBI agent Curtis Heide, is currently under investigation by the special counsel for not turning over exculpatory evidence related to Russia case.
FBI agent Ryan Gaynor, also a witness for the prosecution, was originally a witness in Durham's investigation prior to the trial. During the course of the probe, Gaynor became a subject of Durham's investigation, but his status returned to witness after he remembered that there was a "close-hold" placed on Sussmann's identity by senior FBI leadership, preventing him from telling the investigating agents who the source of the email server data was.
The question remains whether other FBI current and former employees are also under investigation.
Question 4: What was the FBI's and CIA's final analysis of the email server data?
While the FBI closed the Alfa Bank investigation in January 2017 and believed that the allegation was not supported by the evidence, the bureau was given information from the CIA following the agency's February 2017 meeting with Sussmann.
Former CIA officer Kevin P. testified during the trial that he had met with Sussmann, who gave him information regarding the Alfa Bank allegation. Kevin said he passed along the information to the FBI.
During Heide's cross-examination by the defense, it was mentioned that his former trainee, then-FBI agent Allison Sands, had interviewed cybersecurity company Mandiant again regarding the Alfa Bank allegation in April 2017.
Heide said that the investigation was incomplete because his team was unable to speak with the source of the allegation, the author of the white paper explaining the data for the allegation, or the person who brought the information to the FBI.
Question 5: What resources did Rodney Joffe use when he was a government contractor?
During the trial, Joffe's government contracts were mentioned but not the extent to which he had access to government resources while he researched the notion of Trump having a secret communications channel with the Kremlin.
Former FBI agent Tom Grasso testified during the trial that he had worked with Joffe on cyber crime investigations for the bureau, calling him a "private sector partner" and "friend." Joffe was also a confidential human source for the FBI at the time he supplied the bureau with the Alfa Bank allegation through Sussmann.
Nunes said there are questions remaining about what, if any, federal resources Joffe used to do the work and who in the government knew about it.