The grand jury indictment against Sussmann centers on a September 2016 meeting between him and then-FBI General Counsel James Baker in which Sussmann passed along charges insisting there was a secret backchannel between Russia’s Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. While Durham states Sussmann told Baker he was not working for any specific client, the special counsel disputes that he was secretly doing the bidding of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign as well as working on behalf of a yet-unnamed technology company executive. Sussmann pleaded not guilty.
The Durham indictment asserts that “on or about September 15, 2016, Campaign Lawyer-1 exchanged emails with the Clinton Campaign's campaign manager, communications director, and foreign policy advisor concerning the Russian Bank-1 allegations that SUSSMANN had recently shared with Reporter-1.” Durham announced that “Campaign Lawyer-1 billed his time for this correspondence” to the Clinton campaign, with the billing entry of “email correspondence with [name of foreign policy advisor], [name of campaign manager], [name of communications director] re: [Russian Bank-1] Article.”
Clinton’s foreign policy adviser was Sullivan, while her campaign manager was Robby Mook, and communications manager was Jennifer Palmieri. “Campaign Lawyer-1” was Marc Elias. Sullivan has not been blamed for wrongdoing by Durham. The White House National Security Council did not return a request for comment.
On Halloween 2016, Clinton tweeted: “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.” And she shared a lengthy Sullivan announcement.
“This could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow,” Sullivan insisted. “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank. This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia. ... This line of communication may help explain Trump’s bizarre adoration of Vladimir Putin.”
Sullivan continued: “We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia.”
It was published by Slate at the end of October 2016 that researchers found “a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.” According to The New York Times, “The FBI ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts.”
A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report from 2020 did not detect "covert communications between Alfa Bank and Trump Organization personnel."
In March 2017, CNN reported that “federal investigators and computer scientists continue to examine whether there was a computer server connection between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank.”