Saturday, January 19, 2019

James Baker And Michael Sussman Revisited

Jeff Carlson has a summary out of James Baker's testimony to the House. Baker, a close friend of James Comey, was General Counsel for the FBI, which is to say that he worked directly with Comey. Baker is currently the subject of a criminal leak investigation. The summary of Baker's testimony--which is mostly very self serving--doesn't contain any bombshells but, as usual, is worth reading. It is mostly concerned with Baker's interaction with Michael Sussman, which I covered extensively in two previous posts. Nevertheless, this aspect of the Russia Hoax is well worth reviewing, if only to remind ourselves of aspects that we may have forgotten:

James Baker Identifies Another Source Behind the FISA Application

It's James Baker's Turn To Throw Rosenstein Under A Bus

Here, below, are the two paragraphs of Sussman's bio from his page at Perkins Coie, the law firm where he's a partner--yes, the same law firm that represented the DNC and laundered DNC money to Glenn Simpson's Fusion GPS (that part's not in his official bio). I urge you to peruse the rest:

Michael Sussmann, formerly with the U.S. Department of Justice, is a nationally-recognized privacy, cybersecurity and national security lawyer. He is engaged on some of the most sophisticated, high-stakes matters today, such as his representation of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in their responses to Russian hacking in the 2016 presidential election. This work was detailed in the best-selling books The Apprentice (2018), The Perfect Weapon (2018), Russian Roulette (2018), and Hacks (2017).
Michael has been ranked as a “Privacy and Data Security Expert” in the Chambers Global and Chambers USA directories. He is often quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other media. His legal work has been cited by investigative reporters in two other important books: Power Wars (2015) and Dragnet Nation (2015). He has provided Congressional testimony and litigated national security cases in federal court.

You'll see why I said in the first post "In a Hillary Clinton administration the sky would have been the limit for Sussman--or close to it," especially when you read the rest of the details of his involvement with the FBI during the 2016 campaign.

The most significant new information that comes out of Carlson's summary is that

  • Baker had three contacts with Sussman, all during the month or so preceding the FISA application, 
  • that he was fully aware of who Sussman was and whom he represented, 
  • as well as the fact that Sussman was spreading the same stories to the New York Times. 

In other words, Baker was fully aware that Sussman was a Clinton campaign operative spreading "dirt" on Trump--further evidence, if any were needed, that the FBI was working hand in glove with the Clinton campaign. Here is Carlson's summary of these points:

Baker had at least three meetings with Sussman—the first in person and the following two by phone. During the subsequent meetings, Baker discovered that Sussman was speaking to the media regarding the same information he shared with Baker. 
Baker admitted during his testimony that he knew Sussman had professional involvement with the DNC. 
Baker acknowledged that he soon discovered that Sussman was also speaking to The New York Times regarding that same information. The FBI later contacted The New York Times and asked them to hold off on publishing while they investigated the matter. 
The information Sussman passed to Baker also appeared in the so-called Steele dossier in a memo dated Sept. 14, 2016. Notably, Sussman met with Baker five days later, Sept. 19, 2016. Baker had initially testified he believed the meeting took place sometime after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application on Carter Page was approved. Lawmakers later provided a corrected, earlier date.

Imagine: that's the best, most self serving, face Baker can put on his interaction with Sussman!

However, most of Baker's interaction with Sussman had to do with the Alfa Bank fake news story. Here is my version, from the first post above, of that involvement:

Nevertheless, there is significance in Sussman's approach to the FBI, even if his background information didn't really contribute anything to the probable cause for a FISA application. As I stated above, Sussman's approach to the FBI occurred at a point in time, September 2016, when the FBI would have been fully engaged in preparing the FISA application--which was approved on October 21, 2016. While necessarily speculative, Sussman's approach to the FBI suggests that he, perhaps through Glenn Simpson's operation at Fusion GPS (which included Chris Steele, of course, but also Bruce Ohr at DoJ), had been made aware that the FBI was in the process of working up a FISA application. The idea that Sussman simply stopped by to provide Baker with interesting material on Russian hacking and engaged in no form of advocacy strains credulity--after all, it was Sussman in the first place who commissioned the "dossier" on behalf of the Clinton campaign. At a minimum, this appearance of possible collusion between the FBI and the Clinton campaign for the purpose of initiating or forwarding investigation of the Trump campaign demands close scrutiny.

Look at it this way. Sussman's political connections undoubtedly gained him access to the very highest levels of the FBI. If you or I walked in to the FBI to inform them that Russians were engaged in hacking, we'd have been politely informed that the FBI is well aware of that and, equally politely but firmly, shown the door. Now, you might say, Sussman had as a client the DNC--an organization that claimed to have been hacked by the Russians. Surely that would be reason for James Baker to pay more attention to what Sussman had to say than he might pay to the complaints of others. But Sussman's client, the DNC, had refused to give the FBI access to their compromised (or so they claimed) server. That refusal was surely on the advice of counsel--Sussman--and it was Sussman who put the DNC in touch with Crowdstrike to "investigate" the server. Why then, except for Sussman's political connections, should Baker have given him the time of day, when Sussman's real motive was clearly not to assist with a past crime but to urge the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign? The obvious answer is that the thing that got Sussman through Baker's door was his political clout. Would a lawyer for the Trump campaign have been afforded the same courtesy? One might well doubt that.

AND MORE dots are being connected. Chuck Ross at The Daily Caller leads the way and Jeff Carlson does an excellent job fleshing out some of the details. As I said earlier, Sussman's visit to Baker couldn't possibly have been a simple document dump of background on Russian hacking. It turns out, to no one's surprise, that Sussman was simultaneously planting false information (fake news?) with both the FBI and various media outlets, almost certainly in coordination with Fusion GPS's active measures operation.

In a report issued by Devin Nunes' HPSCI on Russian active measures, dated in March 22, 2018, we read about a source who met with Baker, and we now know that source was Sussman. The footnote in which this passage appears is over half redacted, but includes this, in partially unredacted form:

“In September 2016 [Sussman] 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, [Sussman] 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.”

That Slate article, of course, was the notorious fake news that Russia's Alfa Bank was in a "sustained relationship" with the Trump organization and that the traffic between Alfa and a mysterious server in Trump Tower somehow "appeared to follow the contours of political happenings in the United States. 'At election-related moments, the traffic peaked.'”

This story has long since been totally debunked. The server in question was owned by a company named Cendyn and was used for email marketing for hotels and resorts. Interestingly, however, the Slate article links this fake news with the initiation of the FBI's CI investigation into Trump's supposed ties to Russia. That investigation was initiated on 7/31/16, not long after Sussman met with Baker ("mid-June") regarding the supposed hack of the DNC server. So, what we're left with is that the FBI, at some point prior to the end of July, was fed a cock and bull story about Alfa Bank and a server in Trump Tower--this story was presumably brought forward by Sussman. The same story was repeated (as confirmed by the HPSCI report) by Sussman in September when he visited Baker, and was also fed to Slate by Sussman. The same day that the article appeared, Hillary Clinton began promoting it on social media. The fake news story was quickly debunked, but garnered lots of publicity and fed the Russia Hoax narrative that has continued to this day in one form or another--most notably the reprehensible activities of Team Mueller.

Thus we see that Sussman leveraged his reputation as a cyber security law expert to spread disinformation against the Trump campaign, in coordination with Fusion GPS. And this episode almost certainly only scratches the surface of Sussman's activities, as he is know to have had many other contacts with members of the liberal anti-Trump journalistic class.


  1. Michael Sussman seems to be the particular lawyer at Perkins Coie who managed the DNC contract to link Donald Trump to Russia. Since Sussman's special expertise was prosecuting cybercrimes, the Perkins Coie focus from the beginning was the supposed Russian hacking of Democrat (DNC and Clinton) computers.

    I suppose that Sussman contacted FBI General Counsel James Baker in order to clarify the FBI's considerations for establishing an FBI investigation of Russian supposed
    hacking of Democrat computers.

    In this context, Sussman wanted FBI to investigate computers associated with Trump. Such an investigation of computer communications between Trump Tower and Alpha Bank would be only the first step. Those communications might provide the FBI with a reason to proactively search through computers used by the Trump campaign.

    After all -- Sussman might have argued to Baker -- the Russians stole files from DNC and Clinton computers, and so they might have stolen files also from Trump computers. The FBI should search through the Trump computers for suspicious files and activities.

    It's likely that Sussman contacted Baker repeatedly in order to argue that there was legal justification for the FBI to investigate Trump's computers and computer communications. If the FBI did establish such an investigation, then Sussman would leak that fact to Trump-hating journalists.

  2. Mike, the irony in it all is that Sussman, as the lawyer for the DNC, is the guy who would have told the FBI to pound sand when they came asking to look at the DNC server to figure out what happened--and then he shows up in Baker's office saying, hey, investigate the server in Trump Tower! Of course, the FBI could have pushed the issue and demanded access to the DNC server on NatSec grounds. But they didn't. So much of the testimony we're seeing is totally self serving. We need professional prosecutors examining these people.

  3. Following up my previous comment.

    Suppose Sussman had convinced Baker that the FBI should study Trump's computers and computer communications. After all, Crowdstrike had found that the Russians had hacked into the DNC computers.

    Perhaps Sussman subsequently might have recommended an experienced company to study Trump's computers and computer communications, to look for similar Russian hacking.

    Which company might Sussman have recommended?


  4. Perkins Coie attorneys, working for the Clinton campaign and the DNC, hired Fusion GPS (responsible for the phony "dossier" and the meeting at Trump Tower to set up top Trump aides) and Crowdstrike (responsible for the phony (?) Russian hacking allegation). The question from the start has been to what extent any given operation, such as Trump Tower, was Fusion-originated or FBI-originated, but it is most probable that Fusion, Perkins, the Clinton campaign and the FBI were working collaboratively. Obama, too, had a Perkins connection: his personal attorney (and, for a time, his White House counsel) was Perkins partner Robert Bauer; and Perkins partner Judith Corley acted on Obama's behalf in securing his alleged birth certificate in Hawaii. Also, the wife of a Glenn Simpson friend was an Obama communications adviser (the friend joined Fusion after the election),and Simpson's wife Mary Jacoby paid a visit to the White House in April 2016. Soon afterwards came the alleged intrusions of the DNC server that led the DNC to call in the FBI and then Crowdstrike.

  5. Steve, thanks for those reminders. I'm with you on the "question from the start." We still don't have that answer. Hopefully Barr will demand the truth from Simpson and the attorneys--and will also demand the full story from DoJ/FBI. There must be consequences.

  6. Steve, I was just watching Nunes' Fox interview and he says point blank: "Fusion GPS was behind the Trump Tower Meeting, and that means the Clinton campaign. If you want to get to the bottom of this that's where you have to go." So he's saying, Glenn Simpson committed perjury. The interviewer adds to what Nunes said, "And if you wanna talk about the Clinton campaign, you gotta talk about Bruce Ohr ..." This is why I characterized Ohr's statements to the House as self-serving. His involvement, as Victoria Toensing is also saying, is much deeper than he has admitted.

  7. And I see that sundance at Conservative Tree House has just done a 180, without acknowledging it. He's been bashing Bill Barr non-stop, now he says re the Dem impeachment schedule:

    "The wild card is AG nominee William Barr.

    "Unlike Rod Rosenstein, Robert Mueller, Chris Wray and David Bowdich, William Barr doesn’t appear to be part of the compliant organization.

    "Specifically because Barr is not participating in the team agenda (doesn’t seem like it so far) he becomes a risk they may need to isolate and marginalize."

    I believe that will prove far easier said than done.

  8. Barr might have a backbone and won't back down, but I do think the left will come with some accusation in an attempt to take him down after confirmation. The Kavanaugh hearings were a disaster because the hearings were reopened and the accusations were shown to be ridiculous in a way that couldn't be completely concealed- just enough to allow the Republican Senators room to confirm. The Democrats learned the lesson, and will wait until Barr is confirmed, then go after him with a smear to get him recused, too.

  9. Yancey, I saw a news item yesterday in which a new Dem congressman, in response to a question from a constituent, assured the guy that, yes, the Dem Congress would be seeking to impeach Kavanaugh because of his "clear" perjury. I assume you're right and they'll seek to use this tactic against Barr, too. Barr, otoh, seems to have learned something in life as well as from the Kavanaugh hearings--as witness his remarkably concise and straightforward responses to Dem questioners. I don't think he'll be bullied. He's spent a lifetime in the law defending executive privilege and will defend his own position.

  10. The bellwether of the future with AG Barr will be his selection for deputy when Rosenstein steps aside. If the intent is to seriously prosecute former senior Executive Branch officials for felonious criminal conduct, then this nominee will be proven and tenacious career prosecutor. If the intent is to continue the coverup with a facade of faux outrage and bluster, then it will be fancy-dan bureaucrat who bends to the will of the political class. Barr will never recuse, nor be forced into same; but his deputy will be where the rubber meets the road. Barr's job will primarily involve house cleaning at DOJ and FBI, which is no small task in itself. Trump will eventually have to decide about declassifying everything once he has extracted all leverage possible, but this could ultimately by overwhelmed by the hurricane of news stories coming this Spring. I expect the nomination to replace Ginsberg will drown out everything else.

  11. Unknown, early reports said that Barr initially demanded a free hand to name his Deputy, but eventually came to some other understanding with the White House. That episode--and we have minimal info on it--can be taken in a number of ways. Obviously, choice of a Deputy is a very important issue, and one that Barr (a former DAG and AG, himself) has given plenty of thought to. That's probably a very good sign. OTOH, and just as obviously, the WH, having been badly burned once, doesn't want to take ANY chances. My guess is that there have already been discussions between the WH and Barr in which a list of candidates that would be agreeable to both was drawn up.

    One name that should be looked at closely--and was mentioned before Matt Whitaker was named as Acting AG--is that of Noel Francisco, a former Scalia clerk and currently the Solicitor General. I know that he's been highly regarded for years and before Whitaker was named Francisco's name came up as a devilishly clever solution for Trump, and a candidate who would be the Dems' worst nightmare. One important consideration re Francisco is that he has already been through Senate confirmation. Succession rules are somewhat complicated, but Francisco is super qualified and moving him into the DAG slot would avoid a possibly lengthy confirmation process. Here's one of the first articles that popped up when I searched "DoJ order of succession": Who would fill Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's position if he's fired or resigns?

    If you read the article you'll see that there's a split on whether Francisco is more of an acute legal thinker (as Solicitor General he argues the government case before the SCOTUS, and he's in the news today re trans in the military @ SCOTUS; he also headed Office of Legal Counsel) than the tenacious investigator/prosecutor you'd like to see. No one doubts his smarts and talent, and he would certainly have an insider's knowledge of DoJ.

  12. Unknown, a reminder ...

    While I certainly don't downplay the importance of the Deputy position, bear in mind that the only reason Rosenstein played such an important role was because the feckless Sessions recused, allowing Rosenstein to step into the AG shoes: Rosenstein was, in effect, the AG for all things connected to Trump and Mueller because it's the AG who supervises a Special Counsel.

    As you said, Barr won't recuse--he as good as guaranteed that. And so it's Barr who will be directly supervising Mueller. Whoever becomes DAG will supervise the FBI Director. However, you can bet that Barr will be part of that. The last time Barr was AG he handled the removal of an FBI Director (curiously named Sessions), so he knows all about that. Which should give Chris Wray pause for thought.

  13. Unknown, I see today that Jerrold Nadler has called Whitaker before his (Nadler's) impeachment committee, intending to ask him all sorts of questions based on media "obstruction" theories re Whitaker's official consultations. This is exactly the sort of thing that Barr spent his time fighting the last time he was AG. Expect Whitaker to claim executive privilege and, if it gets to the courts, Barr will throw the full resources of the DoJ into the fight. This is what Barr was appointed for, and it's why he sought the job.