“White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan figures prominently in a grand jury investigation run by Special Counsel John Durham into an alleged 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign scheme to use both the FBI and CIA to tar Donald Trump as a colluder with Russia, according to people familiar with the criminal probe, which they say has broadened into a conspiracy case.
Sullivan is facing scrutiny, sources say, over potentially false statements he made about his involvement in the effort. As a senior foreign policy adviser to Clinton, Sullivan spearheaded what was known inside her campaign as a “confidential project” to link Trump to the Kremlin through dubious email-server records provided to the agencies, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Last week, Michael A. Sussmann, a partner in Perkins Coie, a law firm representing the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of making false statements to the FBI about his clients and their motives behind planting the rumor, at the highest levels of the FBI, of a secret Trump-Russia server.
The grand jury indicated in its lengthy indictment that several people were involved in the alleged conspiracy to mislead the FBI and trigger an investigation of the Republican presidential candidate — including Sullivan, who was described by his campaign position but not identified by name.
The Clinton campaign project, these sources say, also involved compiling a “digital dossier” on several Trump campaign officials – including Gen. Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page. This effort exploited highly sensitive, nonpublic Internet data related to their personal email communications and web-browsing, known as Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses.
To mine the data, the Clinton campaign enlisted a team of Beltway computer contractors as well a university researchers with security clearance who often collaborate with the FBI and the intelligence community. They worked from a five-page campaign document called the “Trump Associates List.”
The tech group also pulled logs purportedly from servers for a Russian bank and Trump Tower, and the campaign provided the data to the FBI on two thumb drives, along with three “white papers” that claimed the data indicated the Trump campaign was secretly communicating with Moscow through a server in Trump Tower and the Alfa Bank in Russia. Based on the material, the FBI opened at least one investigation, adding to several others it had already initiated targeting the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016.
One of those campaign agents was Sullivan, according to emails Durham obtained. On Sept. 15, 2016 – just four days before Sussmann handed off the materials to the FBI – Marc Elias, his law partner and fellow Democratic Party operative, “exchanged emails with the Clinton campaign’s foreign policy adviser concerning the Russian bank allegations,” as well as with other top campaign officials, the indictment states.
The sources close to the case confirmed the “foreign policy adviser” referenced by title is Sullivan. They say he was briefed on the development of the opposition-research materials tying Trump to Alfa Bank, and was aware of the participants in the project. These included the Washington opposition-research group Fusion GPS, which worked for the Clinton campaign as a paid agent and helped gather dirt on Alfa Bank and draft the materials Elias discussed with Sullivan, the materials Sussmann would later submit to the FBI. Fusion researchers were in regular contact with both Sussmann and Elias about the project in the summer and fall of 2016. Sullivan also personally met with Elias, who briefed him on Fusion’s opposition research, according to the sources.
Sullivan maintained in congressional testimony in December 2017 that he didn’t know of Fusion’s involvement in the Alfa Bank opposition research. In the same closed-door testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, he also denied knowing anything about Fusion in 2016 or who was conducting the opposition research for the campaign.
“Marc [Elias] … would occasionally give us updates on the opposition research they were conducting, but I didn’t know what the nature of that effort was – inside effort, outside effort, who was funding it, who was doing it, anything like that,” Sullivan stated under oath.
Sullivan also testified he didn’t know that Perkins Coie, the law firm where Elias and Sussmann were partners, was working for the Clinton campaign until October 2017, when it was reported in the media as part of stories revealing the campaign’s contract with Fusion, which also produced the so-called Steele dossier. Sullivan maintained he didn’t even know that the politically prominent Elias worked for Perkins Coie, a well-known Democratic law firm. Major media stories from 2016 routinely identified Elias as “general counsel for the Clinton campaign” and a “partner at Perkins Coie.”
“To be honest with you, Marc wears a tremendous number of hats, so I wasn’t sure who he was representing,” Sullivan testified. “I sort of thought he was, you know, just talking to us as, you know, a fellow traveler in this — in this campaign effort.” (Read more: RealClearInvestigations, 9/23/2021) (Archive)