Special Counsel John Durham won a round in his fight to obtain records from a research firm tied to the infamous “Steele dossier” when a judge rejected claims that they’re necessarily covered by the attorney-client privilege.
Washington, DC federal Judge Christopher Cooper made the ruling Wednesday after quoting from an email in which Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritsch urged a reporter to “do the f–king Alfa bank secret comms story.”
“How is that assisting [in] providing legal advice?” Cooper said, according to the Washington Examiner.
“That is assisting a media strategy.”
Cooper agreed to review 30 internal Fusion GPS emails and eight other emails involving the company and tech executive Rodney Joffe to see if they can be legally withheld from Durham, the Examiner said.
The decision came during a hearing in the case against former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, who faces trial later this month.
Sussmann is charged with lying to the FBI when he allegedly claimed to not be working “for any client” when he passed along since-debunked computer research by Joffe and others that purportedly tied former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign to Russia’s Alfa Bank.
Durham has said that Fusion GPS, the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Perkins Coie law firm “all withheld and/or redacted documents and communications” on grounds of attorney-client privilege after he slapped them with subpoenas tied to the Sussmann case.
Fusion GPS withheld 1,455 documents even though “only 18 emails and attachments involve an attorney,” according to court papers Durham filed last month.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Cooper reportedly asked whether Durham would seek access to all of the records if the judge were to agree that the 38 emails at issue aren’t privileged.
Prosecutor Jonathan Algor responded that Durham wouldn’t need the remaining records “for this trial” but said that Cooper’s decision “is important” for Durham’s probe of the FBI investigation into suspected ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, the Examiner said.
In June 2016, Fusion GPS hired former British spy Christopher Steele to compile reports on Trump and Russia for the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
Many of his findings have since been discredited, including the salacious allegation that Russian intelligence had a recording of prostitutes hired by Trump peeing on a bed in a suite at Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton hotel that had been previously occupied by former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
In February, Clinton’s campaign and the DNC were both fined by the Federal Election Commission for mislabeling payments to Fusion GPS on official disclosure forms.
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