WASHINGTON—A Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer lied to two CIA officers in 2017 when presenting data he claimed showed that President Donald Trump was linked to a Russian bank, a former CIA officer testified in federal court on May 20.
The officer, who was referred to as Kevin P., told the court that he and another officer, Steve M., met with Michael Sussmann, the lawyer, on Feb. 9, 2017, at the headquarters of the spy agency in Langley, Virginia.
Sussmann said he was not representing any “particular clients” and referred to the sources of his information as “contacts,” Kevin P. testified.
That’s the same lie Sussmann is on trial for allegedly telling James Baker, an FBI lawyer to whom he passed some of the data in September 2016.
Sussmann told the CIA officers that he was a member of a law firm and other lawyers at the firm represented Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, but made it clear that he did not have any connection with that, according to the ex-officer.
Sussmann said he wanted his contacts to “remain anonymous because of potential threats to them from the Russians.”
Kevin P. took the information and passed it on to CIA technical experts. The information pertained to alleged links between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank, with Sussmann and others with the Clinton campaign suggesting the links were nefarious.
The FBI concluded the information did not support that suggestion.
For the first time, in April, it was revealed that the CIA determined the information was not “technically plausible,” did not “withstand technical scrutiny,” “contained gaps,” “conflicted with [itself],” and was “user created and not machine/tool generated,” according to special counsel John Durham’s office, which is prosecuting Sussmann.
Kevin P.’s testimony, and that of retired CIA officer Mark Chadason, were the first time anybody from the CIA addressed the matter in public.
According to a memorandum of the meeting that was filed by prosecutors before the trial started, Sussmann during the meeting “advised that he was not representing a particular client” and that his law firm’s work was “unrelated to his reasons for contacting the CIA.”
In an early version of the memo memorializing the latter meeting with Sussmann, the memo referred to him saying he had “clients” who wanted to remain anonymous. Kevin P. said he changed “clients” to “contacts” because Sussmann did not refer to them as clients.
Kevin P. also acknowledged that he did not ask Sussmann whether any of his contacts were clients.
Sussmann’s first meeting was with Chadason, a retired CIA officer. The meeting took place over breakfast at a northern Virginia hotel about two weeks before Sussmann met with the CIA officers.
Chadason said Gilman Louie, who ran the CIA’s venture capital In-Q-Tel fund, asked him to meet Sussmann “because he had information of importance to national security.”
Chadason said that Sussmann told him that he was representing a client in relation to the information.
Sussmann said he was representing “an engineer with a number of patents” and “a Republican,” who “had some allegations against President Trump that he wanted me to hear,” Chadason testified.
That matches a memo of the conversation that states that “Sussmann said that he represents a CLIENT who does not want to be known, but who had some interesting information about the presence and activity of a unique Russian-made phone around President Trump.”
Sussmann appears to have been referring to Rodney Joffe, a technology executive who prosecutors say helped develop the information. Joffe has said he was promised a position in the government if Clinton won the election.
Sussmann told Kevin P. that he went to the CIA because he was worried the FBI did not handle the material he handed over properly, musing that the bureau may lack the needed expertise to analyze it.
“Did he say he was frustrated because no one was listening to him?” Sean Berkowitz, a lawyer representing Sussmann, asked.
“Yes, he was frustrated,” Chadason said.
Scott Hellman, an FBI expert who testified earlier in the trial, said it was evident within a day that the data Sussmann brought did not support the allegations against Trump.
Chadason noted in an email to the CIA that they should “remember that this guy is a partisan lawyer who works for the DNC,” adding, “I am not sure what the real story is but I am sure you guys will figure this out.”
“My feeling was the information was interesting enough to pass to the CIA to be vetted and validated,” Chadason said. “I had no ability to assess the validity of the information … he seemed loyal … [and] seemed like a credible source.”