Research Firm Hired by Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Ordered to Hand Its Emails to Durham Probe
US Special Counsel John Durham is probing the legality of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) inquiry into allegations of former President Donald Trump's collusion with Russia, which turned out to be unsubstantiated.
A US federal judge has ordered a research firm, hired by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign to dig up dirt on former President Donald Trump, to turn over 22 emails to Special Counsel John Durham.
Thursday’s decision by District Judge Christopher Cooper on handing the Fusion GPS emails was described by US media as a major victory for Durham, who is prosecuting former Clinton campaign lawyer Micheal Sussmann on charges of lying to the FBI, as part of the special counsel’s probe into the Russian “collusion” narrative. Fusion GPS in turn previously hired former British spy Christopher Steele to compile the now-debunked reports that purportedly tied Trump to Russia
Cooper ruled that the research company improperly withheld the 22 emails from Durham by arguing that they were protected by attorney-client privilege and “work-product” privilege, in a move that came at the request of Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
The federal judge stressed, however, that the emails, which mainly contain communications between Sussmann and Fusion GPS employees, are not protected from disclosure because they “appear not to have been written in anticipation of litigation but rather as part of ordinary media-relations work”.
“It is clear that Fusion employees also interacted with the press as part of an affirmative media relations effort by the Clinton Campaign. That effort included pitching certain stories, providing information on background, and answering reporters’ questions,” Cooper wrote in an 11-page decision.
The judge ordered Fusion to turn over the emails to Durham’s team on Monday, when jury selection for Sussmann’s trial is due to begin.
Sussmann, who pleaded not guilty, is charged with lying about a September 2016 meeting with a senior Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official, where he made a tip about suspicious cyberactivity between the Trump Organisation and a major Russian bank at the time.
The developments come amid Durham's ongoing investigation that kicked off in 2019, when then-Attorney General William Barr told the special counsel to lead a review into the "Russiagate" probe launched by the FBI in July 2016 to determine if the bureau's inquiry into the allegations of Trump's "collusion" with Moscow was legal.
21 December 2021, 13:16 GMT
This was preceded by the US Justice Department releasing a redacted version of then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, which summarised the outcome of his probe into allegations of the Trump-Russia collusion and Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 US election. According to the report, Mueller’s investigation found insufficient evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Russia has repeatedly rejected allegations of its interference in the US political system, stressing that the claims were made to explain the election loss of Trump's opponent and distract public attention away from actual instances of election fraud and corruption.
The 35-page Steele dossier
, published a week before Trump's inauguration in January 2017, alleged that Russian intelligence had compromising information on the then-US president-elect and that the Kremlin and Trump had "extensive" secret back channels.
The dossier, which was discredited by US investigators as unreliable and based largely on anonymous sources, became part of the Democrats' three-year campaign to accuse Trump of colluding with Russia.
The 45th president said at the time that Steele "should be extradited, tried, and thrown into jail" over his dossier which POTUS claimed was compiled at the behest of and paid for by his 2016 election opponent Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.