For many, the ongoing investigation by John Durham into Hillary Clinton’s campaign and its smear campaign against President Trump and its lies of Russian collusion may have faded into the background. But the special counsel has slowly and methodically continued his investigation into Clinton’s involvement in creating the discredited “Steele Dossier” and is now demanding more documents from her campaign, the DNC, and Fusions GPS, all of which colluded to create the false document.
Durham has accused the DNC, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, research firm Fusion GPS, and Democratic law firm Perkins Coie of improperly holding back hundreds of documents relevant to his investigation under “unfounded” claims of attorney-client privilege.
In a 23-page filing last week, Durham asked that a federal judge order the documents be handed over for in-camera review, arguing that the privilege claims lack “any connection to actual or expected litigation or the provision of legal advice.”
In his request, Durham revealed that out of 1,455 documents withheld by Fusion GPS under claimed “attorney-client privilege” or “work product protections,” only 18 emails and attachments actually involve an attorney.
The filing went on to note that the DNC and Hillary for America — the official name for the Clinton campaign — have also tried to withhold communications between a Fusion GPS employee and tech executive Rodney Joffe, “despite the fact that no one from either the DNC or HFA is copied on certain of these communications.”
The filing is only the latest legal maneuver by the special counsel ahead of the trial of Perkins Coie attorney Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI about his connection to the Clinton campaign when he passed information about then-candidate Donald Trump to the bureau’s general counsel in September 2016. The claim relayed by Sussmann — that servers at the Trump Organization were illicitly communicating with servers at Moscow-based Alfa-Bank — was amplified by the Clinton campaign to further suggest Trump was colluding with Russia.
In a bombshell filing earlier this month, Durham claimed Sussmann, Joffe, and the campaign took part in a “joint venture” to gather and spread dirt about Clinton’s opponent with the assistance of Fusion GPS, which was hired by Perkins Coie and subsequently hired former MI6 spy Christopher Steele to produce his now-infamous dossier of since-debunked allegations about Trump’s links to the Russian government.
In his filing, Durham argued that Fusion GPS’ work “[does] not appear to have been a necessary part of, or even related to, [Perkins Coie’s] legal advice to HFA and the DNC.”
“Instead, contemporaneous communications and other evidence make it clear that the primary purpose of the [Fusion GPS’] work related to the [Steele] dossier, the [Alfa-Bank] allegations, and the other issues was to assemble and publicize allegations that would aid the campaign’s public relations goals.”
The special counsel attached a copy of the April 1, 2016, consulting agreement between Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie to his filing, noting that it stated Fusion’s purpose was to assist Perkins Coie when the firm advised clients on issues “related to defamation, libel and similar laws in which accuracy is an essential legal element.”
In fact, Durham argued, “many of the actions taken by [Fusion GPS] pursuant to its retention agreement fell outside the purpose” outlined in the agreement.
“When [Fusion GPS] employees communicated with [Joffe], they were doing so in furtherance of collaborating and promoting the [Alfa-Bank] allegations, not facilitating legal advice,” the filing reads.
“Simply put, these were communications related to political opposition research and were not made ‘in confidence for the purpose of obtaining legal advice from the lawyer.’”
Durham alleged that Fusion GPS’ main purpose in working with the DNC and Clinton campaign “was to generate opposition research materials that the firm then shared widely with members of the media, the US State Department, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation … members of Congress, and others.”
Last week, the Federal Election Commission fined the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee $8,000 and $105,000, respectively, for mislabeling payments to the firm that were routed through Perkins Coie as “legal advice and services” rather than opposition research.
Durham further claimed any viable attorney-client privilege or confidentiality agreement covering communications between Joffe and Sussmann or other Perkins Coie attorneys was invalidated after Joffe “chose to disclose such information to a third party that did not have any formal or informal contract or retention agreement” with him — specifically, Fusion GPS.
Additionally, the special counsel cited a 2019 book by Fusion GPS co-founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch called “Crime in Progress,” which he said describes the firm’s internal discussions and conversations with Sussman. In light of the book’s publication, Durham claimed, any “valid privilege … might have since been waived.”