Justice Department special counsel John Durham rejects allegations that he sought to politicize the high-profile prosecution of a Washington lawyer indicted as part of his probe into the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.
The pushback, which was the subject of a court document on Thursday evening, is the latest in a series of back and forth legal filings that have made headlines in recent days over the Durham investigation and what she has – and has not – found so far. He directly addressed the charges made by Michael Sussmann’s lawyers in court documents earlier this week.
“Defense counsel alleged bad faith on the part of the government and asserts that the Office of Special Counsel intentionally sought to politicize this case, inflame media coverage and taint the jury,” Durham’s filing reads. “That’s just not true.”
During the Trump administration, then-Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham to investigate the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.
Sussmann, a Washington attorney who worked at a firm with longstanding ties to the Democratic Party, pleaded not guilty to a single misrepresentation charge stemming from the Durham investigation, to allegedly lying to the FBI during a a conversation ahead of the 2016 election about possible ties. between Donald Trump and Russia.
Last Friday, Durham filed a court filing about potential conflicts of interest in Sussmann’s case, but included other information about a meeting Sussmann had in 2017 with the CIA to pass on information about internet data. suspects linked to Trump and Russia. Durham said the information was extracted from Trump Tower, the president’s executive office and other locations in an attempt to dig up derogatory information about Trump.
Over the weekend, Trump and his allies shot that dossier, falsely claiming he was saying Hillary Clinton paid agents to spy on Trump’s campaign and presidency. Durham said no such thing in the document.
Yet Trump’s spying allegations dominated conservative media headlines and on Monday Sussmann’s lawyers accused Durham of acting in bad faith.
“The special advocate has again filed a brief in this case which unnecessarily includes damaging – and false – allegations unrelated to his motion and the offense charged, and which are clearly intended to politicize this case, inflame media coverage and to taint the jury pool,” Sussmann’s attorneys wrote in their court filing.
They said Sussmann and several uncharged researchers had legal access to Internet data and that material related to the president’s executive office dated back to when Barack Obama was in office.
They also asked the judge to strike out part of Durham’s case that they say contains misleading allegations that were not in the indictment.
Late Thursday, nearly a week after his initial filing sparked the firestorm, Durham submitted another document to the court to defend his actions.
He also said that the information Sussmann’s team wants to remove from the record is relevant and admissible.
But at the same time, Durham appeared to distance himself from the way his initial case was portrayed in the media.
“If third parties or members of the media have exaggerated, understated or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the government motion, which in no way undermine the valid reasons for the government’s inclusion of this information,” Durham wrote in the filing.
Since being bugged in 2019, Durham has only brought criminal charges against three people in its investigation, including Sussmann.
The others are Kevin Clinesmith and Igor Danchencko.
Clinesmith, a former low-level FBI lawyer, who pleaded guilty to tampering with an email used to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser. Clinesmith was sentenced to one year probation.
Danchenko, who was a key source in the infamous Steele dossier on Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, was charged in November with five counts of making false statements to the FBI. He pleaded not guilty.