Jonathan Turley: Is Durham circling Jake Sullivan? Special counsel may not be done with Biden admin official

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Washington was rocked final month by the sudden indictment of Michael Sussman, former counsel for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential marketing campaign and the Democratic National Committee, for his alleged function in spreading a false Russia conspiracy principle.

Special counsel John Durham – who’s variously described as both painfully methodical or positively glacial as a prosecutor – reportedly was prompted to indict Sussman by an expiring statute of limitations.

Absent such a deadline involving Sussman, it appears unlikely that Durham would have disclosed as a lot as he did within the indictment. The cause is that he is probably going engaged on different attainable targets. That might embody essentially the most notable determine uncovered within the Sussman indictment: Jake Sullivan.


In that occasion, Sullivan probably might be within the unenviable place of getting to argue that he was not perjurious, simply clueless, in denying data of key information to Congress. The “ignorance is bliss” protection is a favourite fallback in Washington scandals however it’s much less widespread when that individual is the present nationwide safety adviser to the president of the United States.

While an indictment of Sullivan is seen as unlikely, he popped up unexpectedly within the indictment and the nationwide safety adviser may not be done with the particular counsel. If Durham is specializing in who knew or permitted of the Alfa-Bank conspiracy declare within the Clinton marketing campaign, the very best determine referenced within the indictment (and slightly below Hillary Clinton)  is Sullivan.


With Sussman, Durham indicted somebody who he believes deliberately hid the function of the Clinton marketing campaign in creating and pushing the Alfa-Bank scandal. In testimony to Congress, Sullivan additionally insisted that he did not know the Alfa Bank scandal was the work of a Clinton lawyer and other people related with the marketing campaign. It is not clear if Durham has proof to contradict his declare of whole ignorance on the work carried out by marketing campaign counsel and marketing campaign researchers.

Lying to Congress is neither simple nor widespread for prosecution, although Special Counsel Robert Mueller prosecuted figures like Roger Stone on that foundation. Michael Cohen was additionally indicted for mendacity to Congress in regards to the involvement of Donald Trump in negotiations over a Moscow actual property deal. 

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Sullivan must argue that, regardless of being one of many prime marketing campaign advisers, he was unaware of the marketing campaign’s prior work on growing the allegation and even the identification of the marketing campaign’s basic counsel.

The Sussman indictment refers to a wide selection of characters chargeable for creating the alleged conspiracy principle a few secret communications hyperlink between the Trump marketing campaign and the Kremlin by Russia’s Alfa Bank. The unsupported declare was allegedly orchestrated partially by Sussman, who was then a accomplice on the regulation agency Perkins Coie; one other accomplice on the time, Marc Elias, was the final counsel for the Clinton marketing campaign and performed a big function in pushing the notorious Steele file.

The indictment revealed that the Alfa Bank principle was by no means seen as notably credible by the researchers tasked with creating it. Those researchers warned that it might be simple to “poke a number of holes” within the declare and see the information as “a crimson herring.”  Yet, as with the Steele file, the Clinton operatives have been relying on an enabling media to ask few questions earlier than the election. The researchers have been advised they need to not search for proof however simply sufficient to “give the bottom of a really helpful narrative.”

The Sussman indictment refers to a wide selection of characters chargeable for creating the alleged conspiracy principle a few secret communications hyperlink between the Trump marketing campaign and the Kremlin by Russia’s Alfa Bank. 

We now know the identities of lots of the figures described within the 27-page indictment. The researchers appeared partially to be working out of Georgia Tech, together with one who, based on the indictment, warned “Tech Executive-1” in mid-2016 that “we can not technically make any claims that might fly public scrutiny. The solely factor that drives us at this level is that we simply do not like [Trump].”

According to media reviews, the mysterious “Tech Executive-1” talked about within the indictment seems to be Rodney L. Joffe, who was the chief cybersecurity officer at Washington tech contractor Neustar Inc. Joffe, 66, additionally was a longtime shopper of Sussman’s and reportedly boasted that he was provided a high-ranking place within the Clinton administration if she gained the election.

In his emails, Joffe pushed for any documentation that might be used as a basis for the marketing campaign: “Being in a position to present proof of something that reveals an try to behave badly in relation to this, the VIPs would be blissful.”

That brings us to Sullivan.

As quickly because the conspiracy principle was packaged and delivered to the FBI and the media by Sussman, the indictment recounts an trade between a few of these “VIPs”: “… on or about Sept. 15, 2016, Campaign Lawyer-1 exchanged emails with the Clinton Campaign’s marketing campaign supervisor, communications director, and overseas coverage adviser in regards to the Russian Bank-1 allegations that SUSSMANN had lately shared with Reporter-1.” The marketing campaign lawyer reportedly was Elias, and the “overseas coverage adviser” reportedly was Sullivan.

Sullivan was quoted in an official marketing campaign press assertion as stating that the Alfa Bank allegation “might be essentially the most direct hyperlink but between Donald Trump and Moscow.” In the assertion, Sullivan mentioned: “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based financial institution. This secret hotline may be the important thing to unlocking the thriller of Trump’s ties to Russia … This line of communication may assist clarify Trump’s weird adoration of Vladimir Putin.”

The U.S. intelligence neighborhood in the end rejected the Alfa Bank conspiracy. It additionally concluded that the Steele file not solely relied on a suspected Russian agent however seemingly was utilized by Russian intelligence to unfold disinformation by the Clinton marketing campaign.

Yet, when Sullivan was later questioned by Congress, he went full Sergeant Schultz, claiming he mainly did not have a clue in regards to the foundation or origins of the Alfa Bank controversy or different campaign-orchestrated scandals. Sullivan was adept at laying qualifiers upon qualifiers to render statements ineffective: “broadly talking, sooner or later in the summertime, and I do not keep in mind precisely when it was, across the conference, I realized that there was an effort to do a little analysis into the ties between Trump and Russia.” That will make any false assertion declare tough absent direct involvement within the planning of those “marketing campaign efforts.”

Sullivan denied understanding that Elias or Sussman have been working for the Clinton marketing campaign, regardless of quite a few information articles figuring out Elias because the marketing campaign’s basic counsel. Sullivan simply shrugged and mentioned: “To be sincere with you, Marc wears an amazing variety of hats, so I wasn’t positive who he was representing. I type of thought he was, you recognize, simply speaking to us as, you recognize, a fellow traveler on this – on this marketing campaign effort.”

That appears odd, given Sullivan’s lengthy, shut involvement with Clinton and her campaigns. He suggested her throughout the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries and later turned her deputy chief of employees and coverage planning director on the State Department. He was one of many notable names in Clinton’s electronic mail scandal and the recipient of her controversial order to strip the classification headings on a key electronic mail.  He later rejoined Clinton once more throughout the 2016 marketing campaign as considered one of her senior-most advisers.

Yet, the lack of disclosure over these behind the “marketing campaign effort” appears suspiciously constant. Sussman was indicted for allegedly hiding his illustration of Clinton in pushing the Alfa Bank conspiracy. Elias was accused of doing the identical with reporters on the Steele Dossier. He additionally reportedly sat subsequent to marketing campaign chair John Podesta when he denied such connections to Congress. Now Sullivan denies any data of the marketing campaign’s early function in these scandals.

It is notable that, when Sullivan was the Clinton marketing campaign’s overseas coverage adviser, President Obama was given a nationwide safety briefing of Clinton’s alleged plan to tie then-candidate Trump to Russia as “a way of distracting the general public from her use of a non-public electronic mail server.” That briefing was on July 28, 2016 – three days earlier than the Russia investigation was initiated.


This brings us again to Durham’s calendar. Sullivan reportedly gave his sequence of denials to Congress in December 2017. The statute of limitations for mendacity to Congress is 5 years, which implies that Sullivan nonetheless would be inside vary for Durham if the particular counsel does not purchase Sullivan’s denials. He might additionally discover himself unindicted however fully uncovered in a report that’s more likely to be blistering.

If so, Sullivan might discover himself a “fellow traveler” with Sussman – not “on this marketing campaign effort” however in Durham’s still-unfolding prosecution effort as an alternative.


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