Although the Special Counsel’s Office being led by crack prosecutor John Durham unsealed it’s indictment against Michael Sussmann of the Perkins Coie law firm more than two and a half months ago, only now is one of the most interesting developments from that indictment coming to the surface.
When the online media outlet Buzzfeed published the Steele Dossier in it’s entirety in January of 2017, the dossier contained within it the allegation that Alfa Bank was working as a conduit or middleman between the Russian government of Vladimir Putin and the Donald J. Trump presidential campaign.
Since Alfa Bank had been doing nothing of the sort, the three top executives at Alfa Bank filed a lawsuit for defamation against Fusion GPS, the private political communications firm that was paid to create the dossier on behalf of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
That defamation case has now been in litigation for four long years, with Fusion’s founders, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, repeatedly trying to get the case dismissed – and failing.
Fusion Was Supposed To Have Turned Over All Documents Relating To It’s Work On Alfa Bank Years Ago
At the start of any trial proceeding, both sides are supposed to show the presiding court that they have met all of their discovery obligations. In this case, Fusion had repeatedly claimed to the court it had met all of it’s discovery obligations, and that all of their work related to the Alfa Bank hoax had been turned over.
If an attorney/client privilege was invoked, the defendant – in this case, Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson – put the claimed privileged communications in what is called the ‘privilege log’, so that the judge could make a review them and rule as to whether or not the plaintiffs – Alfa Bank – could see them, even if in a redacted form.
But even if an email is in the court cases’ privilege log, who sent it, who received it, and the date of the mail is still visible to the other party in the lawsuit.
What happened here is that when Sussmann’s indictment was unsealed last September, Alfa Bank’s legal team quickly realized that Durham had included emails from Fusion GPS that had never been handed over to them by Fusion. In that charging document they see emails where the sender and the receiver and the date and time that the emails were sent do not match any of the previously disclosed emails in case file. This means Fusion violated the discovery rules in the lawsuit, which is a pretty big deal.
Naturally, the Alfa Bank lawyers quickly alerted the court to this fact by filing a demand to see for themselves these new emails that Fusion had held back.
“After Plaintiffs filed their Second Motion to Compel – and following the Government’s indictment of former Perkins Coie attorney Michael Sussmann – it became clear that Defendants possess numerous documents responsive to Plantiff’s RFPs that Defendants neither produced nor included on their privilege log.”
Since Sussmann is an attorney, of course Fusion could try to shield their communications with him regarding the Alfa Bank hoax by asserting Attorney/Client privileges to the court. But even if they’d done that, Fusion was still legally required to place all those communications in the privilege log so the judge could make a decision as to whether the Alfa Bank could see them.
Instead, Fusion simply held back a bunch of these documents.
Which has now created a huge legal headache because John Durham not only got his hands on them, he’s included them in a criminal indictment of Sussmann that the entire world can read.
Where Did Durham Get These Fusion GPS Emails About Alfa Bank?
It stands to reason Durham didn’t get these emails from Fusion itself, since Fusion is the one that is involved in a long protracted court fight with Alfa Bank. Simpson and Fritsch would not be stupid enough to be deliberately hiding key emails from the court presiding over the defamation lawsuit while handing them over to Special Counsel Durham.
The biggest sign it wasn’t Fusion is that immediately after the Sussmann indictment was unsealed, Fusion began including the previously undisclosed Alfa Bank emails in their new filings in the lawsuit.
They knew they were caught red handed.
So that brings up the real question: who gave Durham these emails, if it wasn’t Fusion GPS?
And the answer is that it had somebody who was in the email chain on the other end. People intimately involved in the crafting of the Alfa Bank hoax. The list of possible suspects isn’t that large.
- Michael Sussmann
- Marc Elias
- Rodney Joffe
- One of the Georgia Tech cybersecurity researchers involved in the project
Whoever it was that handed this evidence to the Special Counsel’s Office, I can only imagine the face Glenn Simpson made as he read the Sussmann indictment and realized the game was up.