Special counsel John Durham revealed that five witnesses who have connections to the Clinton campaign are invoking their Fifth Amendment right and will not cooperate with his investigation, according to a recent court filing.
In a motion filed (pdf) on April 15, Durham revealed that one unnamed individual, “Researcher-2,” was given immunity in exchange for testimony, while “at least five other witnesses who conducted work relating to the Russian Bank-1 allegations invoked (or indicated their intent to invoke) their right against self-incrimination,” referring to the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.
The names of those five individuals were not provided in the filing, although they pertain to former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, who is accused by Durham of lying to the FBI in 2016 when he met with the bureau’s then-general counsel, James Baker, and told him that then-candidate Donald Trump had a secret back channel with a Russian bank. Sussmann has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers have said Durman’s investigation is politically motivated.
“Researcher 2” was granted immunity by the government on July 28, 2021, about a month before Sussmann was indicted, according to Durham’s filing.
“The Government therefore pursued Researcher-2’s immunity in order to uncover otherwise-unavailable facts underlying the opposition research project that Tech Executive-1 and others carried out in advance of the defendant’s meeting with the FBI,” the filing said. A spokesperson for Rodney Joffe told news outlets in February that he is “Tech Executive-1” mentioned in Durham’s filings. Joffe was previously in charge of a technology firm known as Neustar.
Earlier this month, Durham, in court filings, sought to compel the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS, Democratic election firm Perkins Coie, and others to provide evidence in the Sussmann case. However, they have refused to hand over the documents and said they are protected by attorney-client privilege, according to Durham, who accused those entities of improperly withholding those documents.
Durham further said that of 1,455 documents withheld by Fusion GPS, the firm that was heavily involved in the creation of the controversial and discredited “Steele dossier” on Trump, only 18 emails actually involve an attorney. This means, according to the prosecutor, that attorney-client privilege cannot be applied in the remaining tranche of documents.
Days before that, Durham said Sussmann, Joffe, and Democrats engaged in a “joint venture” to gather and spread claims that Trump had a connection to the Russian government—claims that dominated the early portion of the Trump administration.
“Contrary to the allegations in this recent filing, Mr. Joffe is an apolitical Internet security expert with decades of service to the U.S. Government who has never worked for a political party, and who legally provided access to DNS data obtained from a private client that separately was providing DNS services to the Executive Office of the President (EOP),” a spokesperson for Joffe said earlier this year.
In that early April filing, Durham asserted that Fusion GPS’s work “[does] not appear to have been a necessary part of, or even related to, [Perkins Coie’s] legal advice to [the Clinton campaign] and the DNC.”
“Instead, contemporaneous communications and other evidence make it clear that the primary purpose of [Fusion GPS’s] work related to the [Steele] dossier, the [Russian bank] allegations, and the other issues was to assemble and publicize allegations that would aid the campaign’s public relations goals,” it reads.
Meanwhile, in the same filing that was uploaded Friday, Durham said Sussmann met with a second government agency other than the FBI in February 2017 and handed over alleged evidence claiming to link Trump to Russia. Durham did not name the agency but reports indicated that it was the CIA.
The CIA later concluded that the allegation about the secret channel and a separate allegation about Russian-manufactured phones 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 Durham’s filing.