The Corner

Politics & Policy

Durham Subpoena Report Consistent with Investigative Focus on Clinton Campaign

Republican nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during their presidential town-hall debate in St. Louis, Mo., October 9, 2016. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Our Brittany Bernstein reports that Russiagate special prosecutor John Durham issued subpoenas earlier in September, including to Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign.

This is consistent with the trajectory of Durham’s investigation, as it could be gleaned by the 27-page speaking indictment he filed on September 16, charging Perkins Coie partner Michael Sussmann with a false-statements felony. (Sussmann resigned from the firm after he was charged.)

As further described in Ball of Collusion, my 2019 book about Russiagate (a paperback and e-version with updated information were published late last year), the law firm appears to have been instrumental in major pillars of the Trump-Russia collusion narrative that have proved baseless. These included the now-infamous Steele dossier, which claimed there was “an extensive conspiracy between TRUMP’s campaign team and Kremlin, sanctioned at the highest levels”; and the effort to raise suspicion that computer servers at Alfa Bank, a major Russian financial institution, served as a communications back-channel between the Kremlin and then-candidate Donald Trump.

The Clinton campaign thus sponsored the generation of this bogus information, which was peddled to the FBI; the Bureau, in turn, used it to generate investigations of the Trump campaign. The Clinton campaign then exploited the FBI investigation in its messaging against Trump’s candidacy.

This is what I concluded about the probe in a column analyzing the Sussmann indictment:

Here is where the prosecutor appears to be going: The Trump–Russia collusion narrative was essentially a fabrication of the Clinton campaign that was peddled to the FBI (among other government agencies) and to the media by agents of the Clinton campaign — particularly, its lawyers at Perkins Coie — who concealed the fact that they were quite intentionally working on the campaign’s behalf, and that they did not actually believe there was much, if anything, to the collusion narrative. It was serviceable as political dirt but would not amount to anything real for criminal or national-security purposes.

As Brittany notes, the new grand jury subpoenas could indicate that Durham is contemplating additional charges against Sussmann, and perhaps others. Potential prosecution is always the first consideration when a prosecutor is using the grand jury to compel the production of evidence.

It is also worth noting that, as a special counsel (which Durham was designated to be by former Trump attorney general Bill Barr in an arrangement that has continued under Biden attorney general Merrick Garland), it is expected that Durham will write a narrative report — as, for example, special counsel Robert Mueller did — outlining the findings of his investigation, including misconduct that may indicate corruption but not merit prosecution.

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