A federal judge Thursday night ordered Fusion GPS, the investigative agency tapped by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign to dig up dirt about former President Trump, to forward nearly two dozen emails to Special Counsel John Durham, who is investigating the story of the Russian collusion.
US District Judge Christopher Cooper’s decision is a major victory for Mr Durham, who is prosecuting former Clinton campaign attorney Micheal Sussmann on charges of lying to the FBI.
At a hearing last week, District Attorney Jonathan Algor said the emails are “important” to investigators for Mr Durham’s ongoing investigation.
Fusion GPS, which has hired ex-British spy Christopher Steele to compile a lecherous and unverified file linking Mr Trump to Russia, is to deliver the emails to Mr Durham by Monday, when the trial against Mr Sussmann.
mr. Durham had subpoenaed 38 emails last year, but Fusion GPS and the Clinton campaign fought hard to keep them out of his hands.
Judge Cooper ruled that Fusion GPS falsely withheld 22 emails by claiming they were protected by attorney-client privilege. He said the remaining 16 emails should be out of the public eye because they describe attorney-client privilege and the attorney’s work product.
The 22 emails largely consist of internal communications between Fusion GPS and Mr. Sussmann, detailing the Clinton campaign’s efforts to bring negative stories about Mr. Trump to a Russian bank to the media.
Some of the emails contain discussions about the circulating of a draft background white paper that Mr. Sussmann compiled that put forward a now debunked conspiracy theory of secret communications between Mr. Trump and Russia’s Alfa Bank.
Fusion GPS lawyers argued that the emails should be protected as they contain legal advice on how to avoid defamation and libel cases while telling Alfa Bank’s story.
Judge Cooper wrote that the emails show Fusion employees “interacted with the press as part of an affirmative attempt at media relations by the Clinton campaign.”
“That effort involved pitching certain stories, providing background information and answering reporters’ questions,” he wrote in an 11-page op-ed. “And because these emails don’t appear to have been written in anticipation of a lawsuit, but rather as part of regular media relations work, they have no right to attorney-client work product.”
Sussmann is accused of hiding his ties to the Clinton campaign when he relayed the Alfa Bank allegations to a top FBI attorney. He allegedly told the attorney that he was not meeting with the agency on behalf of a client, but was billing the Clinton campaign for the meeting.