“Lurking behind the mountains of prosecutorial evidence presented in over 150 exhibits and testimony by nearly two dozen witnesses in the now-concluded Michael Sussmann trial, questions swirl about how widely the debunked Trump-Russia collusion computer data spread among Washington, D.C.’s most powerful committees, including the Senate Armed Services Committee in early 2017.
“On Tuesday, a D.C. jury found Sussmann, the 57-year-old former Perkins Coie lawyer, not guilty of lying to the FBI.
“Despite this setback to special counsel John Durham’s investigation, the public learned how a powerful attorney, in a law firm representing the Hillary Clinton campaign, deliberately bypassed protocol to get a meeting with the FBI general counsel in September 2016 to pass along the Alfa-Bank materials that Sussmann participated in preparing with the help of Fusion GPS and his client, Rodney Joffe.
“Jason Foster, president of Empower Oversight, a nonprofit group dedicated to increasing accountability for government and corporate wrongdoing, told the Washington Examiner: ‘It remains unclear to what extent TDIP’s report allegedly produced for the Senate Armed Services Committee overlaps with the information Sussmann provided to the FBI, although they appear to be closely related. The testimony at the [Sussmann] trial has not explored that question, but it is an important one that the Senate Ethics Committee should examine.’
“The debunked computer data ‘white papers,’ written and assembled by Fusion GPS, Joffe, and Perkins Coie attorneys Sussmann and Marc Elias, were delivered to FBI General Counsel James Baker by Sussmann on Sept. 19, 2016, via hard copy and thumb drives.
“Troubling to Foster, who worked for two decades as a congressional investigator, is whether or not the Senate Armed Services Committee knowingly allowed Daniel Jones’s TDIP to ‘work for free’ for a year in violation of Senate Rule XXXV, which prohibits any gift, which includes gifts of services, over $100 per year.
“On Oct. 8, 2021, three weeks after Sussmann was indicted by Durham for allegedly lying to the FBI, Foster wrote to Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE), the Senate Ethics Committee’s chairman, and Vice Chairman Sen. James Lankford (R-OK). He specifically asked if the Senate Armed Services Committee violated rules ‘by requesting and accepting professional services from TDIP and Daniel J. Jones.’
“Foster pointed out ‘TDIP’s research … began in 2017, continued for more than a year, involved hiring computer science experts at no cost to the Committee … [and] aimed at evaluating data that the Committee had received for alleged connections between Alfa Bank and Trump Organization servers.’
“Foster emphasized the need for transparency, noting: ‘The advice we followed was to avoid accepting professional services without paying for them, even if it was related to the Committee’s official business.’
“Foster stressed: ‘Allowing Senate committees to accept free investigative services by an unknown group of billionaires raises potential conflict of interest issues that the Gift Rule is intended to prevent.’
”If Committees need to engage outside consultants for official business, there is a process for doing so, he continued. ‘It’s unclear who on the Foreign Relations Committee was aware of the arrangement for free services provided and to what extent it was officially authorized. An Ethics Committee investigation could help clear up some of those questions.”’
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