By Marshall Cohen
A judge ruled Thursday that Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm hired to dig up dirt about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, must turn over 22 internal emails to special counsel John Durham, who is investigating the FBI’s Russia probe.
Fusion, the Clinton campaign and its law firm Perkins Coie say the emails don’t show any wrongdoing, but they have fought in court to prevent Durham from obtaining them. Durham’s team subpoenaed the emails as part of their investigation of Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, who was charged with lying to the FBI and goes to trial next week.
Sussmann has pleaded not guilty.
The emails that will be turned over to prosecutors are largely among Fusion employees and pertain to their efforts to plant news coverage about Trump’s supposed ties to Russia. They are part of a batch of 38 emails that were subpoenaed last year.
While Durham will get the 22 emails, the judge blocked prosecutors from getting the 16 related emails, finding that they were shielded under attorney-client protections. Clinton’s lawyers had hired Fusion to help with some legal work.
Durham is still investigating the origins of the Russia probe and how Clinton allies peddled information that purportedly connected Trump to Russia. The Sussmann case revolves around his meeting with a top FBI official several weeks before the 2016 election when he passed along a tip about strange cyber links between Trump and a Russian bank.
“Fusion did more in connection with the Alfa Bank allegations than simply provide information and analysis to (Clinton campaign lawyer Marc) Elias so that he could better advise the Campaign on defamation risk,” federal Judge Christopher Cooper wrote in a ruling, explaining that the emails went beyond typical attorney-client work.
“It is clear that Fusion employees also interacted with the press as part of an affirmative media relations effort by the Clinton Campaign. That effort included pitching certain stories, providing information on background, and answering reporters’ questions,” Cooper wrote.
Cooper also ruled that prosecutors can’t bring up the new emails at Sussmann’s upcoming trial because they waited too long to access the material and it would “prejudice (his) defense.” At a court hearing last week, prosecutors said the emails could help their ongoing investigation.
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