Durham wants jurors to hear about ‘Steele dossier’ during ex-Hillary lawyer’s trial

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Durham wants jurors to hear about 'Steele dossier' during ex-Hillary lawyer’s trial

Special Counsel John Durham wants jurors at the upcoming trial of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann to learn about the “intersection” of his work against former President Donald Trump with that of the author of the discredited “Steele dossier.”

During a pretrial hearing in Sussmann’s case, Durham lawyer Andrew DeFilippis revealed that while former British spy Christopher Steele is on the prosecution’s witness list, he won’t likely be called to the stand because he’s overseas, the Washington Examiner reported.

But DeFilippis reportedly said jurors should be told about a July 2016 meeting between Sussmann and Steele, calling it “incredibly probative and relevant” evidence.

DeFilippis repeatedly pointed to the “strong intersection” between the efforts of Sussmann and Steele, noting that former Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook acknowledged they were part of the same “work stream” involving the Fusion GPS research company and the Perkins Coie law firm.

Defense lawyer Sean Berkowitz argued against any mention of Steele at Sussmann’s trial, saying that “invoking even his name is a lightning rod” and “would be unduly prejudicial” to the defendant.

In this file photo dated July 24, 2020, showing former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele in London.
Former British spy Christopher Steele wrote a dossier containing a litany of unproven allegations, including the claim that Russian intelligence had a recording of Trump-hired prostitutes urinating on the bed in a suite at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel
Aaron Chown/PA FILE via AP

Sussmann, a former Perkins Coie partner, is charged with lying to the FBI when he allegedly denied working for Clinton’s campaign while offering up explosive claims of a “secret channel” between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

Berkowitz said that Sussmann’s conversation with Steele was “relatively innocuous” and that Sussmann “doesn’t recall ever seeing Steele again.”

This 2018 portrait released by the U.S. Department of Justice shows Connecticut's U.S. Attorney John Durham.
Special Counsel John Durham wants jurors at Sussmann’s trial to know of his meeting with Steele.
U.S. Department of Justice via AP

Berkowitz also argued that there’s “no evidence that Mr. Sussmann knew what Mr. Steele was doing” and warned that introducing the matter would lead to a “trial within a trial about what Mr. Steele was doing and how he was acting.”

Steele’s dossier contained a litany of unproven allegations, including the salacious claim that Russian intelligence had a recording of Trump-hired prostitutes urinating on the bed in a suite at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel where former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama had previously stayed.

The dossier was commissioned by Fusion GPS as a part of a research project into 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls that was initially funded by the conservative Washington Free Beacon website.

It was later taken over by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, which were fined by the Federal Election Commission in March for mislabeling their payments on official disclosure forms.

In November, Durham obtained an indictment against Russian analyst Igor Danchenko, a key source for the material in the Steele dossier, including its infamous “pee-tape” claim.

Danchenko is charged with repeatedly lying to the FBI, including by allegedly denying that he got some of his information from a longtime Clinton ally, Charles H. Dolan Jr.

Russian analyst Igor Danchenko arrives at the Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse before being arraigned on November 10, 2021 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Russian analyst Igor Danchenko is charged with repeatedly lying to the FBI, including by allegedly denying that he got some of his information from a longtime Clinton ally, Charles H. Dolan Jr.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Washington DC federal Judge Christopher Cooper didn’t rule on whether Steele and his dossier can be discussed at Sussmann’s trial, which is set to begin with jury selection on May 16.

But Cooper granted a prosecution request that he review records subpoenaed by Durham but withheld by the Clinton campaign, the DNC, Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie on grounds of attorney-client privilege.

Durham contends that “almost all of these materials appear to lack any connection to actual or expected litigation or the provision of legal advice.”

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