John Durham says DOJ watchdog is withholding Russia probe info

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John Durham says DOJ watchdog is withholding Russia probe info

Special Counsel John Durham is alleging the Justice Department’s internal watchdog has held back information relevant to Durham’s probe into the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.

In a court filing last week that updated the discovery process and requested more time to produce materials in the case of Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann, Durham claimed that the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) had not informed him that Inspector General Michael Horowitz met with Sussmann in March 2017. 

The documents said Durham was informed of the meeting Jan. 20 by Sussmann’s defense team and had it confirmed by Horowitz’s office the following day.

“The OIG had not previously informed the
Special Counsel’s Office of this meeting with the defendant,” reads the filing, which notes that Sussmann and Horowitz met to discuss claims by a client of Sussmann’s that an OIG employee was connecting their computer to a virtual private network in a foreign country.

Michael Sussmann
Democratic lawyer Michael Sussman was indicted for allegedly lying to FBI general counsel James Baker over whether he was advising Hillary Clinton.
Perkins Coie

In December of last year, Durham said, the OIG turned over a forensic report and stated “it had ‘no other file or other documentation relating’” to the matter.

The filing says the Sussmann-Horowitz meeting has “potential relevance to the charges at hand,” but does not go into further detail.

Sussmann was indicted in September 2021 on a charge of making false statements to then-FBI general counsel James Baker in September 2016. According to the indictment, Sussmann lied when he told Baker that he was not advising Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign while raising concerns about purported ties between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank.

Seal for the office of Inspector General
The Office of Inspector General had told special counsel John Durham that producing all documents with regards to Michael Sussman would be “burdensome if not impossible.”

Durham’s office further revealed in last week’s filing that it had discovered in early January that the OIG has two of Baker’s cellphones, along with forensic reports analyzing them.

“Since learning of the OIG’s possession of these cellphones, the Government has been working diligently to review their contents for discoverable materials. The Government expects to make those materials available to the [Sussmann] defense later this week,” the document says. 

Additionally, the court filing revealed that the OIG had told Durham’s office last month that “it would be extremely burdensome, if not impossible” to fulfill a discovery request for “all documents, records, and information” related to Sussmann and his allegation against the Trump Organization.

As a result of the new information, Durham requested the court allow his team to “produce limited, residual discovery on or before March 18, 2022.” He had faced a Jan. 28 deadline to produce unclassified discovery information and a Feb. 11 deadline for classified discovery. 

“The Government will nevertheless endeavor to produce such materials well in advance of that date,” he wrote. “The Government also will consent to the filing by the defense of any additional or supplemental motions that are based on, or prompted by, the Government’s residual discovery.”

John Durham
Special counsel John Durham was appointed by former Attorney General William Barr in 2019 to investigate the FBI’s probe into Russian election interference.
U.S. Department of Justice

Former Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham in 2019 to investigate the FBI’s probe into Russia interference with the 2016 election — which stemmed from the since-debunked “Steele dossier.”

In November, authorities arrested dossier source Igor Danchenko, who revealed to the FBI that his information was based on “rumor and speculation.”

The case against Sussmann will likely go to trial later this spring.

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