By Ben Feuerherd and Bruce Golding – NYPost

WASHINGTON, DC — A former FBI official testified Thursday he’s “100% confident” that a Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer denied acting “on behalf of any particular client” when he handed over since-debunked information linking Donald Trump to Russia.

“I think it was pretty close to the beginning of the meeting. Part of his introduction to the meeting,” former FBI general counsel James Baker told jurors in Washington, DC, federal court.

The testimony directly supports the sole count lodged against defendant Michael Sussmann as a result of special counsel John Durham’s probe into alleged law-breaking in connection with the FBI and Robert Mueller’s probes of purported Trump-Russia ties.

Sussmann, 57, is on trial on a single count of lying to the government during a Sept. 19, 2016, sit-down with Baker at FBI headquarters.

FBI General Counsel James Baker
FBI general counsel James Baker (above) testified he was “100% confident” that lawyer Michael Sussman denied working “on behalf of any particular client.”
Attorney Michael Sussmann
Attorney Michael Sussmann (front) is on trial for one count of lying to the government.

“He said that he was not appearing before me on behalf of any particular client,” Baker recalled.

“He had information of concern about an apparent surreptitious communications channel between Alfa-Bank, which he described as being connected to the Kremlin in Russia, and some part of the Trump Organization in the US.”

Who’s who in the case

  • Michael Sussmann: Cybersecurity lawyer who worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign; charged with lying to the FBI
  • Rodney Joffee: Former tech executive and Sussmann client who told him about a purported cyber back channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa-Bank
  • Christopher Steele: British ex-spy hired by Fusion GPS; compiled the infamous “Steele dossier” of reports on Trump and Russia
  • John Durham: Special counsel investigating potential criminality in the government investigations of former President Donald Trump’s purported ties to Russia
  • James A. Baker: Former FBI general counsel; received Alfa-Bank information from Sussmann
  • Marc Elias: Clinton campaign general counsel, former partner of Sussmann’s at Perkins Coie law firm
  • Judge Christopher Cooper: Presiding over Sussman’s trial in Washington, DC, federal court
  • Peter Fritsch and Glenn Simpson: Former Wall Street Journal reporters who co-founded the Fusion GPS research company; worked for Clinton’s campaign
  • Andrew McCabe: Former FBI deputy director; allegedly contradicted the basis for the charge against Sussmann during a 2017 briefing

Baker testified that he was “100% confident that he said that in the meeting.”

Baker added that Sussmann had told him a reporter at a news outlet was working on a story about the information that purported to show a secret communications channel between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank. 

The threat of a news story coming out about the allegations prompted Baker to take immediate action, he said. 

“It affected my thinking about the urgency of the matter because I know that if a news organization were to publish something about an alleged surreptitious communications channel … as soon as that article came out the communications channel would disappear,” Baker told assistant Special Counsel Andrew DeFilippis.

Minutes after his meeting with Sussmann, Baker said he briefed Bill Priestap, who at the time was assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, about the Alfa Bank information.

In a phone call with Priestap, Baker vouched for Sussmann as a source, describing him as a “serious lawyer” with background in cybersecurity who previously worked in the Justice Department. 

Baker told Priestap that Sussmann was not acting on behalf of any client – a detail Priestap recorded in notes shown to the jury that he took during the phone call. 

Hillary Clinton
Michael Sussman did not disclose his role with the Hillary Clinton campaign at the time of his FBI meeting, according to James Baker’s testimony.

“Said not doing this for any client,” Priestap wrote.

Baker also alerted other top FBI officials, including Director James Comey, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Trisha Anderson, a former FBI lawyer who oversaw legal support for its counterterrorism, counterintelligence and cyber investigations. 

On top of that, Anderson took notes of the meeting she had with Baker, which were shown to jurors in court. 

Special Counsel John Durham
Special counsel John Durham is conducting an investigation into possible criminal activity in the Trump-Russia probe.

“No specific client,” she wrote of Sussmann.