A special counsel looking into the investigation of contacts between former President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia has told the Justice Department he will ask a grand jury to indict a cybersecurity lawyer on a charge of making a false statement to the FBI, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
John Durham was appointed by former U.S. Attorney General William Barr as special counsel in 2019 to investigate the U.S. officials who probed the Trump-Russia contacts. Trump, a Republican, portrayed the 2016 FBI investigation as part of a witch hunt against him.
The lawyer, Michael Sussmann, is a former federal prosecutor who represented the Democratic National Committee on issues related to Russia's 2016 hacking of its servers, the Times reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.
Sussmann's lawyers, Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth, said in a statement their client has committed no crime.
"We are confident that if Mr. Sussmann is charged, he will prevail at trial and vindicate his good name," they said.
Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesperson for Durham, declined to comment to Reuters on the report.
The accusation against Sussmann focuses on a meeting he had in September 2016 with a top FBI lawyer in which he relayed analysis from cybersecurity researchers who thought odd Internet data might be evidence of a covert channel between computer servers associated with the Trump Organization and a Kremlin-linked Russian bank, the Times reported.
The FBI eventually decided those concerns had no merit, according to the Times.
The case against Sussmann centers on who his client was when he met with the FBI lawyer, the Times reported. The FBI lawyer recalls Sussmann saying he was not meeting on behalf of any client, while Sussmann told Congress in a 2017 deposition that he sought the meeting on a behalf of a cybersecurity expert, according to the newspaper.
Durham, the Times reported, has obtained billing records from Sussmann's law firm showing that when he logged certain hours as working on the Russian bank matter he billed them to Democrat Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
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