Special counsel John Durham is continuing his bid to have a judge review documents that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign claims are shielded by attorney-client privilege.
The Washington Examiner reported that Durham submitted a filing in federal court on Monday that raised a Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruling that fined Hillary for America (HFA) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for violating rules related to the funding of opposition research on Donald Trump, Clinton’s rival in the 2016 presidential campaign.
The research became a key part of the effort to discredit Trump by accusing him of collusion with Russia.
Durham’s latest filing is part of the case against lawyer Michael Sussmann, who was indicted in September for allegedly failing to disclose his clients — the Clinton campaign and tech executive Rodney Joffe — to the FBI when he met with the agency’s general counsel James Baker in September 2016.
Sussmann gave Baker data at the meeting that hinted at a back-channel link between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa-Bank. The supposed link has since been debunked and Sussmann has pleaded not guilty.
The special counsel said that evidence at the trial, which is set to begin this month, will show that Sussmann, Joffe, and “agents of the Clinton campaign” were “assembling and disseminating the Russian Bank-1 allegations and other derogatory information about Trump and his associates to the media and the U.S. government” beginning in late July 2016.
Durham said he will “establish that these efforts amounted to a joint venture.”
Fighting Durham’s efforts to compel them, the Examiner reports that Hillary for America, the DNC, opposition research firm Fusion GPS and the Perkins Coie law firm argue that attorney-client privilege should shield the withheld documents and claim Fusion merely provided them legal services.
FEC filings recently made public, including the FEC’s “conciliation agreement” with the Clinton campaign and the DNC, were attached to Durham’s motion.
Durham said the FEC found “probable cause to believe” the Clinton campaign and the DNC improperly reported their payments to Perkins Coie for Fusion GPS’s research as “legal and compliance consulting.”
The New York Post reported in March that the Clinton campaign and the DNC were ordered to pay $8,000 and $105,000, respectively, for mislabeling payments to Fusion GPS.
Durham’s Monday motion also included a February filing by the FEC’s acting general counsel Lisa Stevenson, who said the commission found “probable cause” that the Clinton campaign and the DNC had violated campaign laws.
An FEC document called the “First General Counsel’s Report” was also attached to Monday’s filing, which said “the available information suggests that HFA and the DNC did not properly disclose the purpose of the disbursements to Perkins Coie, for what appears to have been opposition research done by Fusion.”
A “Second General Counsel’s Report” from the FEC found “the invoices demonstrate that Fusion was providing opposition research services related to Trump and Russia, and there is no evidence that Fusion provided services other than this opposition research.”
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