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Clinton campaign seeks to block Durham access to Perkins Coie documents

The committee for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign is seeking to block Special Counsel John Durham from obtaining certain documents related to law firm Perkins Coie and its work with the campaign, the Democratic National Committee and opposition research firm Fusion GPS.

In a filing late Thursday, Hillary for America (HFA), the principal campaign committee for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, argued that certain privileged documents should be withheld based on attorney-client privilege.

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Durham’s team, earlier this month, had sought the production of documents related to the work and requested the non-party entities provide “further justification for the assertion of their privilege.”

Hillary For America and the DNC are the holders of the privileges at issue, according to the filing. 

Perkins Coie is the law firm that the DNC and the Clinton campaign used to fund the now-infamous anti-Trump dossier. The unverified dossier was authored by Christopher Steele, an ex-British intelligence officer, and commissioned by Fusion GPS.

To support the opposition to compel and justify the assertion of attorney-client privilege, Hillary For American provided declarations from Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.

Mook, in a declaration filed in court late Thursday, said that in April 2015, Hillary for America “engaged Marc Elias and the law firm of Perkins Coie as its general counsel.”

John Podesta in a 2013 file photo

“It was my expectation that the law firm would be responsible for providing legal services and legal advice to HFA,” Mook states. “When HFA engaged Perkins Coie as its general counsel in April 2015, Donald Trump had not yet announced his candidacy for the presidency. He announced his candidacy in June 2015.”

Mook stated that by April 2016, Trump had a “significant lead in the delegate count for the Republican nomination, and it seemed highly likely that he would eventually be the Republican nominee for the 2016 Presidential election.” 

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“One of the topics about which Perkins Coie provided legal services and legal advice to HFA involved fact-finding and research that the campaign conducted regarding candidate Donald Trump,” Mook states.

“Although I was not aware during the campaign of any contractors that Perkins Coie engaged to assist it in providing legal services and legal advice regarding this work, I did believe throughout the campaign that whatever work Perkins Coie performed, either through its own professionals or through any contractors it may have engaged to assist it, the work was done for the purpose of providing legal services and legal advice to HFA,” Mook states.

In his declaration, Podesta states: “HFA asserts its attorney-client privilege and the attorney-work product protection with respect to all documents and information under the control of Perkins Coie or any of its consultants, including Fusion GPS.”

“HFA is not waiving any of its privileges, and it opposes the government’s motion to compel filed on April 6, 2022,” Podesta states.

The back-and-forth over documents comes ahead of the trial of former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, which is set to begin May 16. 

Michael Sussman, attorney for the NAACP in U.S., appears on Closing Night: Fair Housing Act — 50 Years On at the March On Washington Film Festival July 21, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

Durham’s original indictment alleges Sussmann told then-FBI General Counsel James Baker in September 2016 — less than two months before the 2016 presidential election — he was not doing work “for any client” when he requested and held a meeting where he presented “purported data and ‘white papers’ that allegedly demonstrated a covert communications channel” between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, which has ties to the Kremlin.

Durham, in previous court filings, attempts to outline the connection between Sussmann and the now-infamous and discredited anti-Trump dossier, which contained allegations of purported coordination between Trump and the Russian government.

Durham, in a filing earlier this month, stated that Sussmann “represented and worked for the Clinton campaign in connection with its broader opposition research efforts” and “took steps to integrate” the Alfa Bank allegations “into those opposition research efforts.”

Earlier this week, during a motions hearing, government prosecutors argued that there is a “strong intersection” between the opposition research against Trump that Steele was collecting on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the allegations Sussmann presented to the FBI attempting to tie Trump to Russia’s Alfa Bank.

Sussmann’s defense attorneys called Steele a “lightening rod,” and argued that introducing anything about him or his work into the trial would be prejudicial against their client.

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