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FBI asked Democrat lawyer Sussmann to help with media response to 2016 DCCC hack, court docs show

Reports of the hacking emerged during 2016 Democratic National Convention in which Hillary Clinton won party nomination for president

Published: June 2, 2022 2:40pm

Updated: June 2, 2022 9:49pm

The FBI deferred to Democrat Party attorney Michael Sussman when drafting a response to an onslaught of media inquiries in 2016 about Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee emails being hacked, according to an email exchange made public during Sussmann's recent trial.

FBI officials sent a draft media statement to Sussmann, a former Justice Department cybersecurity specialist.

"Michael — our press office is once again getting a ton of calls on the DCCC matter," Jim Trainor, assistant director for the FBI Cyber Division, emailed Sussman on July 29, 2016, according to court documents obtained by the Epoch Times. "A draft response is provided below. Wanted to get your thoughts on this prior to sending out."

In Sussmann's response, he focused on the first sentence of the draft, which he said seemed to undermine what the DCCC was saying about the reported intrusion.

"The draft you sent says only that the FBI is aware of media reports; it does not say that the FBI is aware of the intrusion that the DCCC reported," Sussmann replied. "It refers only to a 'possible' cyber intrusion and in that way undermines what the DCCC said in its statement (or at least calls into question what the DCCC said).'"

A organization sending a media "holding statement" to a crisis management or law firm for review, particularly ones on retainer, is common practice. But it's unclear why the FBI would ask for assistance from an attorney who appeared to be a stakeholder in the matter.

Reports of the hacking emerged during the Democratic National Convention that summer in which Hillary Clinton won the party's nomination for president. Some of the hacked emails suggested party insiders were trying to help Clinton defeat her opponent for the nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent running on the Democrat ticket.

Sussmann proposed changing the press release from saying the FBI is "aware of the recent media reporting on a possible cyber intrusion involving the DCCC" to saying the bureau "is aware of the cyber intrusion involving the DCCC that has been reported in the media and the FBI has been working to determine the nature and scope of the matter."

Trainor said the proposed alterations were fine, according to the documents obtained by the Epoch Times. 

"We try to really limit what we see and not acknowledge too much but the below edits are fine and we will send out," Trainor said.

Sussmann was acquitted Tuesday of a single charge of making a false statement to the FBI in a September 2016 meeting in which he provided data he alleged showed a cyber connection between the Trump Organization and Russia's Alfa Bank that was allegedly a back channel to the Kremlin.

Special Counsel John Durham alleged that Sussmann, a private attorney at the time, didn't tell the bureau he was representing clients during the meeting, amid evidence he was in fact there on behalf of a former tech executive and the 2016 Clinton campaign. 

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