The trial of Michael Sussmann began another week on Monday, with more witnesses being called as Special Counsel John Durham continues to build his case against the former Hillary Clinton lawyer.
Sussmann is charged with lying to the FBI, something he allegedly did when he hid who he was working for while sharing the now-debunked Alfa-Bank story. That disinformation campaign, which was meant to falsely assert Donald Trump was colluding with the Russians during the 2016 election, has now been directly tied to Hillary Clinton during the trial after it was revealed that she approved its dissemination.
But apparently, Sussmann and Hillary Clinton by proxy weren’t the only ones lying. According to documents presented by Durham, the FBI lied about the Alfa Bank smear’s provenance, telling agents it had come from the DOJ. In reality, Sussmann had brought it directly to the FBI, with the leadership being aware of its origins as badly done political opposition research.
FBI agents probing since-debunked claims of a secret back channel between Donald Trump and a Russian bank believed that the allegations had originated with the Department of Justice — when in fact they came from Hillary Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann, who had shopped them to the bureau’s then-general counsel days earlier.
In the latest revelation to emerge from Sussmann’s trial in DC federal court on a count of lying to the FBI, special counsel John Durham’s prosecutors revealed that investigators had received an electronic communication citing a referral from the DOJ “on or about” Sept. 19, 2016, the same day Sussmann met with James Baker, then the FBI’s top lawyer.
To pull back the layers here, it appears the FBI purposely misrepresented the situation by using a false DOJ referral to make it seem as if the Alfa Bank had come from an anonymous third party. In reality, it came from Hillary Clinton, and the FBI was well aware of who had told them the information and his connections to her campaign.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on this. Obviously, there are times when investigators are kept in the dark in order to keep separation from a source. Still, how was such a hold justifiable given the origins of the information?
In fact, FBI Agent Ryan Gaynor, who testified for the prosecution on Monday, noted that the decision to keep the agents in the dark on the source was made by the highest levels of the FBI. He also said that had he known Sussmann was working for Hillary Clinton, he would have possibly handled the matter differently, including not volunteering to run point in the first place.
In one Oct. 3, 2016, email, agent Heide wrote to Gaynor, “We really want to interview the source of all this information. Any way we can track down who this guy is and how we’re getting this information?”
Supervisory Special Agent Daniel Wierzbicki followed up: “An interview with the source of info … may allow us to understand the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the white paper.”
Gaynor responded that it was being discussed at headquarters, but did not provide the identity of the source.
On Monday, he said he may have come to a different conclusion about the hold hindering the investigation if he had known Sussmann was acting as an attorney for the Clinton campaign when he turned over the information.
To summarize, the lower-level agents were asking to interview Sussmann (though, they didn’t know who he was at the time) in order to garner more information about his claim. Instead of allowing that, Gaynor kept the hold in place because his superiors did not give him all the information on who Sussmann was. Had he known Sussmann was motivated by politics, it would have changed things.
That leads to the obvious question. Why did former FBI Director James Comey and the rest of the FBI leadership purposely obfuscate the source of the Alfa Bank story? Why lie about it coming from the DOJ? I certainly have my suspicions, and that’s putting it lightly. The only reason to do those things is to push a false narrative that otherwise wouldn’t hold up under nominal scrutiny. Comey and his lackeys obviously wanted the Alfa Bank story to be true, and they did what they had to do to keep it in the fold
In the end, it feels like everyone was in on this scam, and no one is paying a price. It’s a travesty, and hopefully, Durham continues to expose it for all to see.