The Russian Hoax

The indictment of Washington attorney Michael Sussman — accused of lying to the FBI in order to smear Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign — reveals the ace up the sleeve of high-powered Democrats. It’s a card they played time and again to advance the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory: friends in high places.

They used friends in law enforcement to launch secret investigations; they used friends in the federal government to broaden those investigations; and they used friends in the media to spread the word about Trump and his organization being under investigation.The Russia fiasco metastasized in large part because those involved in advancing the false allegations had important connections. They used friendships with powerful federal officials to encourage investigations against team Trump. Those targeted by Sussmann and others were unabashed outsiders, and as such lacked the sort of connections the insiders exploited so adroitly.null

Sussmann was a partner at the Washington law firm Perkins Coie in 2016, which represented the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president. But, according to the indictment handed down by Special Counsel John Durham last week, when he met with the FBI’s general counsel, James Baker, to allege that Trump was in cahoots with the Russians, Sussmann claimed he was representing another client. The indictment alleges this was false.

Securing a meeting with the FBI’s top lawyer can’t have been easy. But for Sussmann it was.

Not just anyone can call up the bureau’s general counsel and, with amorphous claims of conspiratorial criminality by a presidential candidate, promptly get a private sit-down. And yet that is exactly what Sussmann did. How? Because, as Baker told congressional investigators, Sussmann came to him “based on a preexisting relationship.”

In closed-door congressional testimony Oct. 18, 2018, Baker told lawmakers about Sussmann’s convoluted claim that a computer server at Trump Tower was in secret contact with a possible Russian government cutout, Alfa Bank. “So he was describing a – what appeared to be a surreptitious channel of communications – communication between some part of President Trump’s, I’ll say organization but it could be his businesses. I don’t mean like The Trump Organization, per se. I mean his enterprises with which he was associated. Some part of that and a – an organization associated with – a Russian organization associated with the Russian government,” and it was “conducted in a way so as to make it a covert communications channel.”

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