Former FBI general counsel James Baker is “100% confident” that cybersecurity attorney Michael Sussmann told him during a 2016 meeting that Sussmann was representing himself only and hid his ties to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
Baker is a key witness in Sussmann’s trial over prosecutors’ allegation that Sussmann lied to the FBI about his motivations for requesting the September 2016 meeting with Baker. Sussmann is accused of hiding his clients, the Clinton campaign and tech executive Rodney Joffe, from Baker when Sussmann asked the FBI official to pass along false allegations of the Trump Organization keeping a backchannel with Russia’s Alfa-Bank during the 2016 meeting.
“Michael started to explain why he was there. He said he was not appearing before me on behalf of any particular client. In essence, in the meeting, he said, ‘I’m not here on behalf of any particular client.’ … I’m 100% confident that he said that in the meeting,” Baker said on Thursday, according to the Washington Examiner.
Baker said he “believed it and believed the statement was truthful” because Sussmann was a former colleague and friend. Baker said he probably would not have agreed to meet with Sussmann if he knew that Sussmann was acting on behalf of the Clinton Campaign.
“That would raise very serious questions, certainly in my mind, about the credibility of the source and the veracity of the info — heightening, in my mind, whether we were going to be played or pulled into the politics,” Baker said, according to the New York Post. “We were aware of and wary of being played – having the fact of our investigation being the thing to enable the press to report on something flawed or incomplete.”
The former FBI general counsel, who now works on Twitter’s legal team, said that reporters will sometimes use FBI investigations to report on allegations that the reporter cannot verify.
“If reporters learn that we are investigating something, and it is of interest to them, then yes, sometimes they will publish things, for sure,” Baker said, according to the Examiner. “There’s also a concern at the FBI … where we would be worried that sometimes reporters would want to report about the fact that the FBI was investigating something even if they did not have confidence in the underlying information. … They’re not reporting necessarily about the thing. They’re reporting about the FBI investigating the thing.”