In Durham trial, former top FBI lawyer details 2016 meeting behind unsubstantiated data linking Trump to Russian bank - CBS News


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  jbb  •  one month ago  •  12 comments

By:   Robert Legare (CBSPolitics)

In Durham trial, former top FBI lawyer details 2016 meeting behind unsubstantiated data linking Trump to Russian bank - CBS News
Former FBI general counsel James Baker takes the stand in the trial of Michael Sussmann, who is accused of lying to investigators.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

By Robert Legare

May 19, 2022 / 5:59 PM / CBS News

Washington - When noted cyber attorney Michael Sussmann came to FBI headquarters in September 2016 to hand over now-debunked data purportedly linking Trump Tower to Russia's Alfa Bank, the FBI's general counsel, James Baker, said the information concerned him, and he viewed it as a "potential national security threat," Baker told a Washington, D.C. jury on Thursday.

Sussmann is now on trial for lying during that 2016 meeting, accused by special counsel John Durham of hiding his alleged connection to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and the technology executive who provided him the data. He has pleaded not guilty and will call witnesses next week to help him mount a full defense against the single charge of lying.

Prosecutors say Sussmann's lie began the night before the meeting, on Sept. 18, 2016, when he texted Baker to request the meeting. He allegedly wrote, "I'm coming on my own - not on behalf of a client or company," text messages revealed during this week's trial read. "[W]ant to help the Bureau." But Durham, who was appointed during the Trump administration to investigate accusations of misconduct in the Trump-Russia investigation, alleges Sussmann came forward not to "help the Bureau," but to help two clients who had hired his law firm, Perkins Coie.

The Washington, D.C. law firm was hired by the Clinton campaign and Sussmann's former colleague Marc Elias, who was the campaign's top lawyer. He testified Wednesday.

Sussmann represented the tech executive, Rodney Joffe, who allegedly passed him the Alfa Bank data from cyber analysts. According to the indictment against Sussmann, Joffe had also expressed interest in receiving a job in a possible Clinton administration.

"[Sussmann] said, 'I'm not here on behalf of any particular client," Baker recalled, in testifying about Sussmann's statement to him at that 2016 meeting at FBI headquarters. "I'm 100% confident that he said that in the meeting."

Under direct examination on Thursday, Baker told the jury Sussmann was a "friend," and he had no reason to doubt representations about his motives.

Sussmann handed over memos and thumb drives containing the data, Baker said, which alleged there was some "surreptitious" connection between Trump and Russia. The FBI ultimately found that there was insufficient evidence to support that allegation , but Durham's team argues that Sussmann's lie to Baker about his clients cloaked the allegations in legitimacy and caused investigators to take them more seriously than they may have if Sussman had disclosed the political connections.

"He was coming to see me as a good citizen," Baker said of Sussmann. "I thought that he would want to help the government. That's the kind of person that I thought him to be."

"He didn't ask me to do anything…he said to take whatever action you think is appropriate," Baker said. However, Sussmann did notify Baker that a story on the data was to be published by a news outlet, later revealed to be The New York Times, which added urgency to the matter.

"If we're going to do something, we need to get going," Baker said in court, explaining that Sussmann subsequently helped him by identifying the reporter who would be writing the story in an attempt to stop it from being published.

When asked by prosecutors whether he would have taken the meeting with Sussmann had he known about the alleged clients, Baker replied, "I don't think I would have" because the logistics, prioritization, and "legal review" of the data would have been different if Sussmann met on behalf of a client.

During cross-examination, Baker confirmed he was not testifying about the validity of Sussmann's client claim, but describing the events as he remembered them. He also confirmed that he was under investigation by the Durham team as far back as 2018.

Baker said his confidence in Sussmann at the time of the 2016 meeting and the urgency of the matter prompted Baker to "immediately or within minutes" bring the Alfa Bank data to the attention of top cybersecurity and intelligence officials at the FBI, who launched an investigation, he testified Thursday.

One of those officials, Assistant Director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division Bill Priestap, took notes from Baker's September 2016 account. The handwritten pages revealed Sussmann apparently "said not doing this for any client," but they did note he represented Democrats.

Baker told prosecutors, "We could not confirm that there was a suspicious communications channel," but his meeting with Sussmann - the focal point of the two-week trial - led to problems in the public and in the halls of Congress.

He and Sussmann were attacked for being "coup plotters and traitors," Baker said of the fallout around the Mueller investigation and the Trump-Russia probe. "It sucked at multiple levels…It sucked because I felt as though I had dragged Michael into a maelstrom by discussing him in the first meeting."

But the key issues for defense attorneys at trial on Thursday were neither the purported Trump-Russia data nor the fallout, but when exactly Baker knew of Sussmann's representation of Joffe and his connection to the Clinton campaign and alleged lapses in his memory.

Prosecutors showed the jury a key FBI document memorializing a March 4, 2022, meeting with investigators in which Baker said Sussmann's possible representation of a client would not have affected his handling of the meeting.

According to Baker, the meeting with investigators just months before the trial came after he discovered the Sept. 18, 2016 text from Sussmann.

When asked about that more recent representation of Sussmann's claims, Baker responded, "As I think about it today, that that is not accurate," although he did admit he was aware of Sussmann's past legal representation of the Democratic National Committee hack of 2016.

Wielding a white dry-erase board, defense attorney Sean Berkowitz probed Baker's memory about various meetings and handwritten notes potentially indicating Sussmann's connections to the Clinton campaign and Joffe were apparent to investigators handling the Alfa Bank allegations.

"It's hard to remember events of a long time ago isn't it," Berkowitz asked Baker, attempting to poke holes in his memory using transcripts of Baker's own congressional testimony from 2018. "It depends on what you are talking about," Baker responded.

Baker testified he continued to communicate with Sussmann via text in the years following the 2016 meeting, even attempting to get a job at Sussmann's law firm. He is now deputy general counsel for Twitter.


jrDiscussion - desc
Professor Principal
1  seeder  JBB    one month ago

The CIA and FBI had been actively investigating Trump's Russian connections for years before Sussman shared his concerns with the FBI in September of 2016. Any contention that this was not the case is preposterous. Beginning by at least 2014 Trump was in secret negotiations with known agents of Russian State Intelligence Services to build Trump Tower Moscow and lying about it. Of course the CIA and FBI were investigating Trump's Russian deals before, during and after the 2016 election. What were they supposed to do? Look the other way?

Professor Principal
1.1  Texan1211  replied to  JBB @1    one month ago
The CIA and FBI had been actively investigating Trump's Russian connections for years before Sussman shared his concerns with the FBI in September of 2016

A silly claim still unsupported by any evidence.

Why don't you stop pushing this fabrication--or at least post whatever "proof" you think you have.

Senior Guide
1.1.1  Snuffy  replied to  Texan1211 @1.1    one month ago

But you know it will just be a reposting (once again, oy) of that meme telling you to read the Senate Investigation Report.   After all, if we haven't seen that meme before we may not know about that report that supposedly lays it all out to see. 

I mean,  come on man.....    


Professor Principal
1.1.2  Texan1211  replied to  Snuffy @1.1.1    one month ago


For just once, I would love to see where he got his info from.

I want to avoid that site like the plague!
You and I and a host of others know he can't prove anything.

Even the leftists on here are not coming to the defense of his spurious false claim!

Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
1.2  Sean Treacy  replied to  JBB @1    one month ago
.  CIA and FBI had been actively investigating Trump's Russian connections for years before Sussman shared his concerns with the FBI in September of 2016. Any contention that this was not the case is prepostero

Quick ! Send this secret  information only you possess  to the justice department so the Obama era officials who apparently authorized this illegal activity that only you know about can be prosecuted. 

Professor Principal
1.2.1  Texan1211  replied to  Sean Treacy @1.2    one month ago

Even THEY would laugh him away with this claim.

THAT is how utterly ridiculous it is.

Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
1.2.2  Sean Treacy  replied to  Texan1211 @1.2.1    one month ago
HAT is how utterly ridiculous it is.

For sure.  

Just blatant misinformation repeated over and over and over to deflect from reality. 

Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
2  Sean Treacy    one month ago

Baker buried Sussman.    

He has no factual or legal defense.    

His only hope is the bias of a DC jury who won't want  to hurt the sacred cause of the Democratic Party. 

Professor Principal
2.1  Texan1211  replied to  Sean Treacy @2    one month ago

I really enjoyed it when Robbie Mook threw the whole Hillary team under the bus!

Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
2.1.1  Sean Treacy  replied to  Texan1211 @2.1    one month ago
enjoyed it when Robbie Mook threw the whole Hillary team under the bus!

It's amazing that Biden's national security advisor, Jake Anderson, tried to trick the FBI into investigating his political opponent.

How does he possibly have a job?

Professor Principal
2.1.2  Texan1211  replied to  Sean Treacy @2.1.1    one month ago
How does he possibly have a job?

Being a Democrat trumps all!

Professor Quiet
3  bbl-1    one month ago

Were the Trump kids lying when they said the Trump businesses did not need American Bank funding because they were getting all the money they needed from Russia and The Saudi Dynasty?


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