It was recently reported by Newsmax that Special counsel John Durham’s team prosecuting Michael Sussmann, a leading attorney for Democrat causes, could challenge attorney-client privilege claims made by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Sussmann is accused of making false statements to federal investigators by denying that he was working for any client when he brought computer data to FBI general counsel James Baker. The data suggested connections between entities tied to former President Donald Trump and Russia.
Prosecutors are seeking to call witnesses from Sussmann’s former law firm, Perkins Coie, and the investigative firm Fusion GPS. The Clinton campaign and the DNC have maintained for years that the dossier that Fusion GPS produced was done as attorney-requested research involving potential litigation and is therefore protected by attorney-client privilege.
Sussmann’s defense attorney, Sean Berkowitz, said at a pretrial hearing for his client on Thursday that “it’s obviously a bit of a hornet’s nest,” according to Politico.
He said the night before that Durham’s team have already indicated their plans to contest the claims of privilege during the pretrial phase, which Berkowitz said was “wildly untimely” and “an ambush that could change the entire parameter and focus of the case.”
Berkowitz also told U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper that “we’re very concerned about it.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew DeFilippis told the judge that “we have had conversations and have been unable to get comfort as to the grounding and basis of various privilege theories.
These issues are unavoidable, and we’ve been working for quite some time to get to the bottom of them.”
Politico went on to report that During a House Intelligence Committee investigation in 2017, Clinton campaign general counsel Mark Elias, a Perkins Coie attorney, testified — with permission from the DNC and the campaign — that he selected Fusion GPS to do research on Trump and individuals in his orbit.
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He said Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook approved the work, but wasn’t involved in picking the firm. But details of who in Clinton’s orbit knew about the sensitive project, handled primarily by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, remain murky.
“We have had conversations and have been unable to get comfort as to the grounding and basis of various privilege theories,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew DeFilippis told the judge. “These issues are unavoidable and we’ve been working for quite some time to get to the bottom of them.”