Perkins Coie Lawyer Michael Sussmann’s Coordinated Leaks to Media and FBI’s James Baker, Likely Came From Steele, Fusion GPS

October 4, 2018 Updated: October 9, 2018

News Analysis

An analysis of documents suggests that Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for Perkins Coie—which had been retained by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign—was feeding information to FBI General Counsel James Baker and at least one journalist ahead of the FBI’s application for a FISA warrant on the Trump campaign.

The information provided by Sussmann could have been used by the FBI as “corroborating information.” This is particularly troubling given that the main source of the Russia-collusion allegations, former British spy Christopher Steele, had been hired by Perkins Coie—the law firm Sussmann works for.

Michael Sussmann Lawyer Perkins Coie
Michael Sussmann, partner at Perkins Coie, the law firm hired by the DNC and the Clinton campaign during the 2016 elections. (Courtesy Perkins Coie)

Sussmann’s identity was revealed following a Wednesday closed-door testimony by Baker before congressional investigators in what has been termed an “explosive testimony.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who was present at the hearing, told Fox News that, “During the time that the DOJ and FBI were putting together the FISA during the time prior to the election, there was another source giving information directly to the FBI, which we found the source to be pretty explosive.”

Both Jordan and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told Fox News that the source who provided information to the FBI in its Russia case was not previously known to congressional investigators.

Further details were later provided in reporting by John Solomon of The Hill who disclosed that Baker had met with at least one attorney from Perkins Coie. The meeting was, according to Solomon, to discuss allegations of Trump-Russia collusion in advance of the FBI’s Oct. 21, 2016, application for a FISA warrant on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

This admission is significant as Perkins Coie was the law firm that retained Fusion GPS and former British spy Christopher Steele on behalf of the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. Of equal importance is the fact that the involvement of Perkins Coie does not appear to have been disclosed to the FISA Court. The controversial dossier produced by Steele would later be used by the FBI as the primary evidence used to obtain the FISA warrant on Page.

It now appears that Perkins Coie was acting as an “outside source” to corroborate Steele.

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge confirmed the identity of the Perkins Coie lawyer as Michael Sussmann, who is a partner at the firm. Sussmann reportedly provided Baker with documents and electronic media related to alleged Russian meddling in the election.

Sussmann was also the lawyer who spearheaded the handling of the alleged hack of the DNC servers.

Although the DNC has claimed that the actual date of the hack was April 18, 2016, alleged detection did not occur until April 28, 2016. Immediately following the alleged discovery, DNC CEO Amy Dacey called Sussmann at Perkins Coie. After speaking with Dacey, Sussmann contacted Shawn Henry, CSO and president of CrowdStrike.

There are a number of unusual events surrounding the DNC’s version of events that have been previously detailed, including the fact that the DNC’s first call would be to outside legal counsel.

In the House Intelligence Committee’s final Report on Russian Active Measures, mention is made of a meeting between James Baker and an unknown party in footnote 43 on page 57. This is a particularly heavily redacted portion but the following details are available:

“In September 2016 [redacted] shared similar information in a one-on-one meeting with FBI General Counsel James Baker. HPSCI, Executive Session of [redacted], Dec. 18, 2017. Around the same time as his meeting with FBI, [redacted] shared the information with journalists, [redacted] of Slate, who published an article at the end of October. HPSCI, Executive Session of [redacted] Dec. 18, 2017; [redacted] “Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?,” Slate, Oct. 31, 2016. Candidate Clinton promoted the [redacted] article to her social media followers the same day it was published.”

The date of Dec. 18, 2017, provided by the House Report is significant. It corresponds directly to a set of interview dates related to the Russia investigation. The dates were revealed following a House Intelligence Committee vote on Sept. 28 to release a number of transcripts taken from interviews during its investigation of 2016 election interference by Russia.

Dec. 18, 2017, is the date that Michael Sussmann was interviewed by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Which indicates that Michael Sussmann was the individual who met with James Baker in September of 2016.

Equally interesting is the article in question, “Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?“, published on Oct. 31, 2016, by Franklin Foer. The article concerns allegations regarding a server in the Trump Tower and was later used in the promotion of the Trump-Russia collusion narrative. Notably, Foer’s article was published on exactly the same day as a Mother Jones article by David Corn, headlined “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump.”

In the Slate article, Foer writes:

“In late July, one of these scientists…found what looked like malware emanating from Russia. The destination domain had Trump in its name.”

Interestingly, the FBI’s Counterintelligence Investigation into Trump-Russia ties began on July 31, 2016. More from the article:

“It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.

The conversation between the Trump and Alfa servers appeared to follow the contours of political happenings in the United States. “At election-related moments, the traffic peaked.”

The server and Alfa Bank were investigated by the FBI and were also the subject of a journalistic investigation by the New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers. Nothing was found.

It was later discovered that the server was not operated by the Trump Organization but was instead “run and managed by Cendyn, a vendor that organizes email marketing campaigns for hotels and resorts.” The “traffic” Foer was reporting on was simply “mass emails, related to loyalty programs, discount offers, and the like.”

Alfa Bank features prominently in one particular Steele Memo, in which it’s misspelled as Alpha. The Memo is dated September 14, 2016.

Sussmann not only provided Baker, the top legal counsel for the FBI, with documents and electronic media related to Russian meddling in the election, he also personally helped establish rumors of Russian involvement with the Trump Campaign through targeted leaks to Foer. And Sussmann did so in a manner that allowed Foer’s article to perfectly coordinate with Corn’s article, which states:

James Baker FBi Special Counsel
Former FBI General Counsel James Baker. Baker testified in a closed-door hearing before Congressional investigators on Oct. 3, 2018.

“A former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence tells Mother Jones that in recent months he provided the bureau with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump—and that the FBI requested more information from him.”

Corn’s article was written via direct leaks from Steele. It’s possible that Sussmann may have had additional coordination with Baker. A Dec. 22, 2017, article by Politico, revealed that Baker communicated with Corn “in the weeks leading up to the November 2016 election.”

Corn notes in his article that “a senior US government official not involved in this case but familiar with the former spy tells Mother Jones that he has been a credible source with a proven record of providing reliable, sensitive, and important information to the US government.”

Things get more interesting still. An earlier Sept. 23, 2016, Politico Magazine article, “Who Is Carter Page? The Mystery of Trump’s Man in Moscow” by Julia Ioffe, made direct note of Alfa Bank. Her article also referenced what is almost certainly Fusion GPS:

“As I started looking into Page, I began getting calls from two separate “corporate investigators” digging into what they claim are all kinds of shady connections Page has to all kinds of shady Russians. One is working on behalf of various unnamed Democratic donors; the other won’t say who turned him on to Page’s scent. Both claimed to me that the FBI was investigating Page for allegedly meeting with Igor Sechin and Sergei Ivanov.

In the interest of due diligence, I also tried to run down the rumors being handed me by the corporate investigators: that Russia’s Alfa Bank paid for the trip as a favor to the Kremlin; that Page met with Sechin and Ivanov in Moscow; that he is now being investigated by the FBI for those meetings because Sechin and Ivanov were both sanctioned for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

The Steele Memo detailing Alfa Bank was written on Sept. 14, 2016. The Politico article came out on Sept. 23, 2016. Ioffe makes reference to two corporate investigators. One clearly appears to be Fusion “working on behalf of various unnamed Democratic donors.” But who is the second individual “who won’t say who turned him on to Page’s scent.”

Either way, the implications are startling. Sussmann was getting information directly from Steele and Fusion GPS which he then leaked independently to at least one journalist but possibly more, thereby providing additional corroboration for the Steele Memos—even though the source was the same.

Sussmann is a nationally recognized privacy, cybersecurity, and national security lawyer. He was named by Washingtonian Magazine as a “Top Lawyer” for cybersecurity. His expertise in cybersecurity was the primary reason Sussmann represented the DNC and Clinton campaign in their responses to Russia’s alleged hacking of the server.

A Perkins Coie spokesperson told Fox News in a statement the following:

“Prior to joining Perkins Coie, Michael Sussmann served as a cybercrime prosecutor in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice during both Republican and Democratic administrations. As a result, Sussmann is regularly retained by clients with complex cybersecurity matters.

“When Sussmann met with Mr. Baker on behalf of a client, it was not connected to the firm’s representation of the Hillary Clinton Campaign, the DNC or any Political Law Group client.”

Questions remain as to what information exactly Sussmann provided to Foer. Did Sussmann provide specific information regarding the Trump server detailed in the Slate article? If so, how did this information come into his possession? Those details were not present in the Steele Memo. Sussmann’s role also raises further questions regarding CrowdStrike’s involvement in events surrounding the DNC server.

The Slate article managed to attract the immediate attention of Hillary Clinton who posted a tweet on the same day the article was published:

“Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.”

Attached to her tweet was a statement from her senior policy advisor, Jake Sullivan:

“This could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow. Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.”

“This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia. It certainly seems the Trump Organization felt it had something to hide, given that it apparently took steps to conceal the link when it was discovered by journalists.”

These statements, which were later proven to be incorrect, are all the more disturbing with the hindsight knowledge that it was a senior Clinton/DNC lawyer who helped plant the story in the first place.

Jeff Carlson is a CFA® Charterholder. He worked for 20 years as an analyst and portfolio manager in the high-yield bond market. He runs the website TheMarketsWork.com

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a statement by Perkins Coie as provided to Fox News

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.