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Durham distances itself from Furor in right-wing media on filing


WASHINGTON — John H. Durham, the Trump-era special counsel tasked with reviewing Russia’s 2016 election interference investigation, distanced himself on Thursday from false right-wing media reports that a petition that he recently filed indicated that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had paid to spy on Trump’s White House servers.

Citing a deluge of such reports on Fox News and elsewhere based on the prosecutor’s Feb. 11 filing, defense attorneys for a Democratic-linked cybersecurity lawyer, Michael Sussmann, accused the special counsel of having included unnecessary and misleading information in the documents “obviously intended to politicize this case, inflame media coverage and taint the jury”.

In a filing on Thursday, Mr Durham defended himself, saying those accusations about his intentions were “simply untrue”. He said he had “good and direct reasons” for including the information in the Feb. 11 filing that sparked the firestorm, while disavowing responsibility for how some news outlets interpreted it and described.

“If third parties or members of the media have exaggerated, understated or otherwise misinterpreted the facts contained in the government motion, this in no way undermines the valid reasons for the inclusion of this information by the government,” a- he writes.

But while he admitted no problems with the way he wrote his filing last week, Mr Durham said he would make future filings if they contained “information which legitimately raises concerns confidentiality or other concerns that might overcome the presumption of public access to court documents.

Former President Donald J. Trump seized on the inaccurate information to say there is now “incontrovertible evidence” of a Clinton campaign plot against him – and to suggest that Mr. Sussmann deserved to be executed. Mr. Trump, Fox News hosts and others also criticized mainstream reporters for not covering the alleged revelation.

The dispute dates back to a pre-trial motion in the case that Mr Durham brought against Mr Sussmann accusing him of making a false statement during a September 2016 meeting with the FBI where he shared his his concerns about possible cyber links between Mr. Trump and Russia. The bureau then dismissed them as unfounded.

Mr Durham says Mr Sussmann falsely told the FBI official that he had no clients, but was really there on behalf of the Clinton campaign and a tech executive named Rodney Joffe. Mr Sussmann denies ever saying that, though maintains he was only there on behalf of Mr Joffe – not for the campaign.

Several sentences in the filing relate to a second meeting, in February 2017, where Mr. Sussmann presented the CIA with various concerns about strange Internet data and Russia, which came from the same cybersecurity researchers who had developed the suspicions he presented. at the FBI.

At the CIA meeting, Sussmann raised concerns about data suggesting someone using a Russian-made smartphone may have logged into networks at Trump Tower and the White House, among other places. .

Mr. Sussmann had obtained this information from Mr. Joffe. The court filing also said that Mr. Joffe’s company, Neustar, had helped maintain internet-linked servers for the White House, and charged Mr. Joffe – whom Mr. Durham did not charge with any crime – and associates of “exploiting this arrangement” by scouring certain records to gather derogatory information about Mr. Trump.

In the fall, The New York Times reported on Mr. Sussmann’s meeting at the CIA and the concerns he relayed about data suggesting the presence of Russian-made YotaPhones — smartphones rarely seen in the United States. United — close to Mr. Trump. and at the White House.

But over the weekend, the conservative media treated those phrases in Mr Durham’s file as a new revelation while significantly embellishing what he had said. Mr Durham, some media erroneously reported, had said he discovered the Clinton campaign had paid Mr Joffe’s firm to spy on Mr Trump. But the campaign hadn’t paid his company, and the filing didn’t say so. Some media also quoted Mr Durham’s dossier as using the word ‘infiltrate’, a word it did not contain.

More importantly, the coverage of Trump’s alleged White House spying relied on the idea that the White House network data involved came from when Mr. Trump was president. But Mr Durham’s file does not say when he came from.

Lawyers for a Georgia Institute of Technology data scientist who helped analyze Yota’s data said Monday the data came from the Obama presidency. Lawyers for Mr. Sussmann said the same thing in a Monday night filing complaining about Mr. Durham’s conduct.

Mr. Durham did not directly address this fundamental factual dispute. But his explanation of why he included the information about it in the previous filing implicitly confirmed that Mr. Sussmann had raised concerns about White House data from before Mr. Trump was President.

The purpose of the earlier filing was to ask a judge to consider potential conflicts of interest within Mr. Sussmann’s legal team. Mr. Durham included those paragraphs, he wrote, in part because one of the potential conflicts was that a member of the defense had worked for the White House “during the relevant events that involved” the White House. .

The defense attorney in question is Michael Bosworth, who was assistant White House counsel in the Obama administration.

Separately on Thursday, lawyers for Mr. Sussmann filed a pretrial motion asking a judge to dismiss the case.

They argued that even if Mr. Sussmann had falsely stated at the FBI meeting that he had no client – ​​which they deny – it would not constitute a “material” misrepresentation. that is, affecting a government decision. The decision facing the FBI was whether or not to open an investigation into the concerns he raised at that meeting, and he would have done so regardless, they said.

Mr Durham said Mr Sussmann’s alleged lie was significant because if the FBI had known he was acting “as a paid advocate for clients with a political or business agenda”, the agents might have asked more questions or taken further action before initiating an investigation. .

nytimes Gt

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