Law Firms

Perkins Coie partner resigns from firm after he is charged by special counsel

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John Durham

John Durham. (U.S. Department of Justice via AP, File)

Perkins Coie partner Michael Sussmann resigned from the law firm after he was indicted Thursday on a charge of lying to the FBI.

Perkins Coie said in a statement that Sussmann “offered his resignation from the firm in order to focus on his legal defense, and the firm accepted it,” reports here and here. The statement said Sussmann had been on leave from the firm. The New York Times, the Washington Post and Politico also have coverage.

The indictment stems from a September 2016 meeting in which Sussmann gave the FBI general counsel information about an alleged secret channel of communications between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank, according to a Justice Department press release.

Sussmann is accused of lying when he said he wasn’t bringing the allegations to the FBI on behalf of any client; he actually brought the allegations on behalf of at least two clients, including Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the Justice Department alleges. Donald Trump was a presidential candidate at the time.

The FBI eventually determined there was insufficient evidence to support the allegation of a secret communications channel, prosecutors say. The computer under scrutiny was used by a mass marketing email company that sent ads for Trump hotels and other clients.

Sussmann was indicted in special counsel John Durham’s probe into the origins of the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election. Trump had touted the inquiry as a way to show that politics motivated the Russia probe.

Durham previously indicted FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith for changing an email to help justify surveillance of a former Trump campaign official.

In addition to the Clinton campaign, Sussmann was representing a tech executive who “exploited his access to nonpublic data at multiple internet companies to conduct opposition research concerning Trump,” the indictment says.

The executive enlisted the help of researchers at a U.S.-based university who were analyzing internet data in connection with a pending federal cybersecurity research project.

The indictment alleges that Sussmann and the tech executive coordinated with agents of the Clinton campaign with regard to the information provided to the FBI and the media.

Sussman’s telephone calls and meetings regarding the Russia bank allegations were billed to the Clinton campaign, the indictment says. Some meetings took place with “Campaign Lawyer-1,” identified in news coverage as Marc Elias, the Clinton campaign general counsel who recently left Perkins Coie to form his own law firm.

Sussmann had previously represented the Democratic National Committee in connection with the hack of its email servers.

He is a cybersecurity lawyer who formerly worked for the Justice Department as senior counsel in the computer crime and intellectual property section of the criminal division.

Latham & Watkins partners Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth, who represent Sussman, said in a statement that the indictment was based on “politics, not facts.” They said the lying accusation is baseless and Sussmann committed no crime.

“Stripped of its political bluster, innuendo, and irrelevant details, what is striking about the allegations in the indictment is how few of them actually relate to the charge the special counsel chose to bring,” the statement says.

“At its core, the special counsel is bringing a false statement charge based on an oral statement allegedly made five years ago to a single witness that is unrecorded and unobserved by anyone else,” the statement read. “The Department of Justice would ordinarily never bring such a baseless case.”

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