An attorney for the Clinton campaign exchanged emails with Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan regarding a discredited theory of Trump-Russia collusion at the center of an ongoing special counsel investigation, the New York Times reports.
Attorney Marc Elias exchanged emails with Sullivan and other Clinton campaign officials on Sept. 15, 2016, regarding a purported link between the computer servers of Donald Trump’s real estate company and the Russian oligarch-owned Alfa Bank, the Times reported. Elias and Michael Sussmann, partners at the firm Perkins Coie, shared the data with the FBI and journalists as part of an effort to publicize allegations that the Trump campaign was working with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
Sullivan’s knowledge of the lawyers’ activities raises questions about what else he knew of the effort to push the now-debunked collusion theory. His involvement in peddling the theory is also opening him up to allegations that he pushed election disinformation.
Sussmann is charged with lying to the FBI’s general counsel during a meeting on Sept. 19, 2016, regarding the purported Alfa-Trump link. Special Counsel John Durham accused Sussmann of lying when he allegedly claimed he was not sharing the data with the FBI on behalf of a client. In reality, he was representing the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and a tech executive who hoped to land a position in a future Clinton administration. The executive and a group of computer scientists claimed to have stumbled across computer records showing suspicious activity between Alfa and Trump’s company.
Alfa Bank has vehemently denied the allegations and claims that someone fabricated data linking the company to Trump.
The Sussmann indictment describes a series of interactions between Sussmann, Elias, journalists, and the computer researchers. Elias and the researchers have not been charged in the investigation. CNN reported on Thursday that Durham recently subpoenaed Perkins Coie. The National Security Council has not responded to questions about whether Sullivan has been contacted by Durham.
Sullivan publicly touted the Alfa-Trump allegation days before the 2016 election. He issued a statement on Oct. 31, 2016, citing a story in Slate that laid out the evidence for an Alfa-Trump link. Sullivan said the "secret hotline" between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank "may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia." It was later revealed that Sussmann was a key source for the Slate article. It is unclear if Sullivan or others on the Clinton campaign helped with the story.
Though the FBI had determined by February 2017 that there was not a secret link between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization, Sullivan repeatedly alleged a nefarious connection. In an interview on March 17, 2017, he told CNN that "very serious computer science experts" had uncovered "a secret hotline" between the Russian bank and Trump’s company.