Democratic lawyer Marc Elias, infamous for funding British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited dossier, gave grand jury testimony as part of special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the flawed Trump-Russia investigation.
The revelation was made in a Tuesday court filing by Durham’s team in the case against Elias’s former Perkins Coie law firm colleague Michael Sussmann, who was indicted last year. Durham said in the filing that the special counsel team “maintains an active, ongoing criminal investigation of the defendant’s conduct and other matters.”
The indictment against Sussmann centers on a Sept. 19, 2016, meeting between him and FBI general counsel James Baker in which Sussmann pushed debunked allegations of a secret backchannel between Russia’s Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. Durham contends that while Sussmann told Baker he was not working for any particular client, he was secretly doing the bidding of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and billing his services to her — as well as working on behalf of technology executive Rodney Joffe, then a senior vice president at Neustar.
Sussmann denies misleading the FBI and pleaded not guilty.
In the latest filing, Durham revealed that Elias, Hillary Clinton’s top campaign lawyer in 2016 and known as “Campaign Lawyer-1” in the Sussmann indictment, is one of many who has testified before the grand jury.
Elias, who launched his own Elias Law Group last year, hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which in turn hired Steele in 2016. Elias testified he was aware of Fusion'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. Elias coordinated closely with Sussmann on anti-Trump research in 2016.
Elias was punished by a federal appeals court panel in March for a deceptive duplicative court filing, and the judges shot down his effort to wriggle out of the sanctions earlier this month.
The Washington Examiner detailed how Elias attempted to fashion himself as a guardian of democracy despite his lead role in undermining the 2016 presidential election using the baseless Trump-Russia narrative.
Durham said in the indictment that Baker spoke with Bill Priestap, then the assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, after meeting with Sussmann, that Priestap “took contemporaneous notes,” and that Sussmann had said he was not doing his work "for any client.”
Durham revealed that his investigation has also received grand jury testimony from FBI officials including Baker, Priestap, a former FBI deputy assistant director for counterintelligence, an FBI special agent, and an FBI supervisory special agent who worked on the bureau’s Alfa Bank inquiry.
Durham also secured grand jury testimony from “two current employees” of “Agency-2” — reportedly the CIA. The special counsel contends that Sussmann made similar misrepresentations when pushing the allegations to that unnamed agency in early 2017. Employees of Georgia Tech and a former employee of “Internet Company-3” — which was involved in researching the Alfa Bank claims in 2016 — also spoke with the grand jury.
Durham said he had also provided the defense with 94 interview reports, including special counsel witness interviews of “the former chairman” of Perkins Coie as well as an unnamed “former employee of the Clinton Campaign.” Durham told a federal court late last year that he is scrutinizing members of Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign as part of his criminal inquiry.
Baker, who left the FBI in 2018, previously defended the flawed Trump-Russia investigation and the FBI’s handling of British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited dossier. Steele’s main source, Igor Danchenko, was also indicted by Durham for allegedly lying to the FBI about the sourcing for information he fed to Steele. Durham’s team made it clear last year that it plans to call Baker to testify to prove its case.
The special counsel team has also interviewed Baker, the former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, a former FBI deputy general counsel who also allegedly took notes of Sussmann’s alleged lie, more than two dozen other current and former FBI employees, eight employees from the CIA and two from DARPA, eight employees from Neustar, an employee who worked for Joffe, employees from the other related internet companies, and four Georgia Tech employees.
Durham revealed that the special counsel had also received and handed over more than 110,000 pages of records received in response to document requests or grand jury subpoenas, including from the Clinton campaign, an unnamed political organization, Fusion GPS, Perkins Coie, Neustar and the other internet companies, and Georgia Tech. He said he also received records from Perkins Coie and a public relations firm that advised it had “concerning public statements issued in 2018” about Sussmann’s meeting with Baker.
As for the Alfa Bank aspect of Durham's inquiry, Clinton herself tweeted in the closing days of the 2016 race allegations that the bank collaborated with Trump. She also shared a statement from Jake Sullivan, then her foreign policy adviser and now President Joe Biden's national security adviser, on "New Report Exposing Trump’s Secret Line of Communication to Russia.”
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in his December 2019 report that the FBI "concluded by early February 2017 that there were no such links” between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization.
Steele testified in a British court that Sussmann provided him with other claims about Alfa Bank’s purported ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a July 2016 meeting. These allegations made their way into a September 2016 memo that became part of the dossier.