The Democratic cybersecurity lawyer charged with concealing his work for the Clinton campaign from the FBI doesn’t want special counsel John Durham to be able to use Hillary Clinton’s tweet touting the Trump-Russia collusion claims he was pushing as evidence at trial.

Michael Sussmann was indicted in September for allegedly concealing his clients — Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and “Tech Executive-1,” known to be former Neustar executive Rodney Joffe — from FBI general counsel James Baker in September 2016 when he pushed since-debunked claims of a secret backchannel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa-Bank. Sussmann has pleaded not guilty.

Durham told the federal court last week he wanted an October 2016 tweet from the Clinton campaign promoting the Alfa-Bank claims to be admitted as evidence at the May trial.

The special counsel argued the tweet is not inadmissible hearsay "because it is not being offered for its truth” — emphasizing that the prosecutors actually believe its claims were false. Durham said he instead wanted to present the tweet to “show the existence of the defendant’s attorney-client relationship with the Clinton Campaign, which is directly relevant to the false statement charge.”

On Halloween 2016, Clinton tweeted, “Donald Trump has a secret server ... It was set up to communicate privately with a Putin-tied Russian bank.”

Clinton later tweeted, “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.”

She also shared a lengthy statement by then-Clinton campaign adviser and current Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

“This could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow,” Sullivan claimed. "This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia.”

Sullivan added, “We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia.”


The FBI, CIA, special counsel Robert Mueller, a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, and Durham’s team have all cast doubt on or shot down the Alfa-Bank claims.

Sussmann’s lawyers argued the Clinton tweet sharing Sullivan’s statement and touting the story, which originally appeared in Slate, should be considered “inadmissible” for two “fundamental” reasons.

The defense attorneys said, “First, contrary to the Special Counsel’s misleading statement of the law, the Tweet is hearsay and it is plainly being offered for the truth: so that the Special Counsel can argue that the Campaign’s plan all along was to make a public statement about ‘federal authorities’ looking into the ‘direct connection between Trump and Russia.’ Second, the Tweet — which Mr. Sussmann did not author, issue, authorize, or even know about — is irrelevant, prejudicial, and would only confuse and distract the jury from the single false statement charge it must decide.”

Sussman's lawyers wrote, “The Tweet, which was posted on October 31, 2016, does not reveal anything about Mr. Sussmann’s state of mind over a month earlier, when he purportedly made the alleged false statement."

“There is no evidence that Mr. Sussmann’s meeting with Mr. Baker had anything to do with the Clinton Campaign’s broader media strategy.”

But Durham wrote, “In the months prior to the publication of these articles, the defendant had communicated with the media and provided them with the Russian Bank-1 data and allegations” and had kept Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias “apprised of his efforts” while Elias “communicated with the Clinton Campaign’s leadership about potential media coverage of these issues.”

The special counsel says the evidence at trial would show that, beginning in late July and early August 2016, Sussmann, Joffe, and “agents of the Clinton campaign” were “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 said evidence will “establish that these efforts amounted to a joint venture.”

Sussmann’s lawyers countered, “There is a real danger that if the Tweet were admitted, the jury would believe that Hillary Clinton herself was part of the Special Counsel’s uncharged conspiracy and that she had a direct interest or involvement in Mr. Sussmann’s efforts. Drawing the candidate herself into this matter in this way would be unfair to Mr. Sussmann.”

The Sussmann indictment states that, shortly before his meeting with the FBI, Elias sent emails addressed to Sullivan, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, and Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri about the Alfa-Bank claims Sussmann was sharing with the media, with Elias billing his time to the Clinton campaign.

Elias hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which in turn hired British ex-spy Christopher Steele in 2016. Elias testified he was aware of Fusion GPS's plans to have Steele brief reporters about his anti-Trump research during the 2016 contest, met with Steele during the 2016 contest, and periodically briefed the campaign about the findings from Fusion and Steele. Sussmann also met with Steele in 2016 and pushed Alfa-Bank claims to him, which Steele in turn pushed to the U.S. government.


Shortly after Clinton’s loss to Trump in November 2016, Joffe said in an email, "I was tentatively offered the top [cybersecurity] job by the Democrats when it looked like they'd win."

Durham revealed in February he has evidence that Joffe “exploited” DNS internet traffic at Trump Tower, former President Donald Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and the Executive Office of the President.

The Special Counsel's Office said Joffe tasked university researchers with mining internet data to establish “an inference” and “narrative” to tie Trump to Russia, which Durham says Joffe believed would please certain “VIPs” — referring to the Clinton campaign.