Grand Jury Indicts D.C. Attorney with Making False Statements to the FBI in 2016 Regarding Alleged Communications Between Trump Organization and Russian Bank
Special Counsel John Durham today announced that a federal grand jury returned an indictment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charging Michael A. Sussmann, 57, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney, with making a false statement to the FBI on Sept. 19, 2016. The charge in the indictment stems from a set of allegations brought by Sussmann to the FBI related to an alleged secret channel of communications between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank.
Sussmann is expected to make his initial appearance in the D.C. federal court as soon as tomorrow. The court will schedule the appearance.
As alleged in the indictment, on Sept. 19, 2016, Sussman, a lawyer at a large international law firm, met with the FBI General Counsel at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Sussmann had requested the meeting to provide the General Counsel with certain data files and “white papers” that allegedly demonstrated a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and a Russia-based bank. Sussmann, who had previously represented the Democratic National Committee in connection with a cyber hack, falsely stated to the General Counsel that he was not bringing these allegations to the FBI on behalf of any client. This false representation led the General Counsel to understand that Sussmann was providing information as a good citizen rather than a paid advocate or political operative. In fact, Sussmann assembled and conveyed the allegations to the FBI on behalf of at least two clients, including a U.S. technology executive and the Clinton Presidential Campaign.
It is alleged that beginning in July 2016, Sussmann worked with the aforementioned U.S. technology executive, other cyber researchers, and a U.S.-based investigative firm to assemble the data and white papers that Sussmann ultimately provided to the FBI and the media. The technology executive, for his part, exploited his access to non-public data at multiple internet companies and enlisted the assistance of researchers at a U.S.-based university who were receiving and analyzing internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract designed to identify the perpetrators of malicious cyber-attacks and protect U.S. national security. The indictment further alleges that researchers were tasked to mine this internet data to establish “an inference” and “narrative” that would tie then-presidential candidate Donald Trump to Russia, and which the executive believed would please certain “VIPs.” The indictment also alleges that Sussmann, his law firm, and the technology executive coordinated with representatives and agents of the Clinton Campaign in these efforts.
It is further alleged that Sussmann’s false statement misled FBI personnel and deprived the FBI of information that might have permitted it more fully to assess and uncover the origins of the relevant data and analysis, including the identities and motivations of Sussmann’s clients.
The FBI ultimately determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations of a secret communications channel between the Trump Organization and the Russia-based bank.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Special Counsel Andrew DeFilippis and Assistant Special Counsel Michael T. Keilty, with the support and assistance of other members of Special Counsel Durham’s team. The Special Counsel’s investigation is ongoing.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.