By Zachary Stieber
A federal judge on May 4 granted a motion from special counsel John Durham to review documents that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and other parties had claimed were protected by privilege, which means the documents may ultimately be made available to the public.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, after a hearing in Washington, granted Durham’s motion to compel production of unredacted versions of said documents from the Perkins Coie, a law firm hired by the campaign ahead of the 2016 election; Rodney Joffe, a technology executive; and Fusion GPS, a firm that specializes in opposition research that the campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) used extensively to investigate then-candidate Donald Trump—Clinton’s rival for the presidency.
The parties had resisted producing some documents and handed over redacted versions of others because of shielding afforded by attorney-client privilege or another form of privilege that protects documents used in producing “work product”—claims Durham has disputed in part because Fusion primarily engaged in non-legal matters such as opposition research for the campaign, the DNC, and Perkins.
The documents include details on Fusion’s opposition research into Trump and the firm’s promotion of dubious stories regarding Trump to various media outlets, Durham has said. Among them are emails and attachments sent by or received by Fusion, Perkins, and Joffe.
Other communications between Fusion and Joffe appear related to the claim that the Trump Organization, Trump’s business, had a secret backchannel with a Russian bank.
Evidence purportedly substantiating that claim was brought by Michael Sussmann—at the time representing the campaign and Joffe—to the FBI, which could not substantiate the allegations. The CIA found the claims were not “technically plausible.”
The motion was brought in the case against Sussmann, who is set to go on trial later in May for allegedly lying to the FBI when he said he was not bringing the information on behalf of a client.
The documents in question may or may not ultimately be made available to the general public.
The motion asked Cooper, an Obama appointee, to agree to compel the parties to produce unredacted forms of the documents and then review the documents in private.
After conducting such a review, Durham requested the court to give prosecutors access to unredacted versions of any documents the judge determines aren’t shielded by privilege. Any such documents would likely be posted on the court docket, making them available for anybody to read.