Judge Ponders If ‘Decision Tree’ That Seeded Trump ‘Secret Server’ Claim Can Be Bared in Sussmann Trial

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In August 2016, Clinton Campaign attorneys Marc Elias and Michael Sussmann met with Neustar Senior Vice President Rodney Joffe in their Perkins Coie Washington D.C. law offices and “encouraged” him to concoct a “narrative” tying the Trump Organization to a Russian bank, according to federal prosecutors.

But whether that concocted “narrative,” and the “decision tree” that seeded and circulated it to the FBI a month later, is relevant in Special Counsel John Durham’s case against Sussmann for making a false statement to the FBI remains uncertain.

United States District Judge Christopher Cooper during a 43-minute teleconference hearing Wednesday waded through the first of many disputes regarding what witnesses and evidence will be heard when Sussmann’s trial begins May 16.

Durham, in April 6 court filings, sought to compel the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS, Perkins Coie, and others to provide documents and communications they’ve refused to hand over as allegedly protected by attorney-client privilege.

Since Monday, the DNC, Clinton Campaign, Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie have all petitioned  to intervene in the case to challenge Durham’s motion.

Five witnesses called by Durham connected to the Clinton campaign have invoked their Fifth Amendment rights and will not cooperate with the investigation.

Cooper set Friday and Monday deadlines for all parties to file responses to all petitions and motions piling up in the case in anticipation of ferreting through them during an April 27 in-person hearing in his Washington, D.C., courtroom.

“There are a number of individuals seeking to file” motions in the case, he said. “There will be quite a cast. We need to figure out a way to streamline that” by merging “overlapping arguments.”

Attorneys Sean Berkowitz, Michael Bosworth, Natalie Hardwick Rao and Catherine Yao of Latham & Watkins LLP, representing Sussmann, in filings have called for restrictions on witness testimony and argue that notes taken by two FBI officials not be entered as evidence in the case.

Wednesday’s expedited hearing focused solely on their petitions to limit testimony by expert witnesses on the veracity of the data provided by the attorney presented to the FBI, and on how that information was gathered and circulated.

Durham alleges Sussmann knowingly lied in claiming to be acting as “a concerned citizen” on Sept. 19, 2016, when he gave Baker documents regarding alleged DNS (Domain Name System) traffic between Russia-based Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization.

During that meeting, Sussmann who specializes in cybersecurity litigation allegedly failed to tell Baker he had worked in the past for Joffe, whose firm monitored DNS traffic for the Executive Office, that his Perkins Coie law firm represented Clinton’s campaign committee, and that the conveyed data was gleaned, in part, from “opposition research” conducted by Fusion GPS and included hearsay allegations collected by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele in the discredited “Steele” dossier.

By John Haughey

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