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FBI Can’t Be Mum on Russia Probe’s Docs on Perkins Coie Lawyer

Nov. 26, 2019, 11:02 PM

The FBI failed to convince a Washington D.C. federal judge that it was allowed to respond to a FOIA request for records about a Perkins Coie attorney’s involvement in its investigation into Russian election interference by saying that it could neither confirm nor deny the records’ existence.

Conservative activist group Judicial Watch Inc. sued the FBI seeking information based on Congressional testimony from former FBI General Counsel James Baker, who said he met with Perkins Coie attorney Michael Sussman and received information related to the Russia probe. The FBI issued a “Glomar” response, saying it shouldn’t have to disclose any records relating to Sussman, and sought partial summary judgment on that issue.

That motion was rejected because Sussman’s status as an informant was already disclosed by Baker in testimony, making Glomar an unavailable option, according to Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“Having so disclosed, the Government cannot now fall back on Glomar, refusing to confirm or deny whether records related to Sussman and Baker exist,” Boasberg wrote. “That ship has already sailed.”

Because of the public disclosures that Baker met with Sussman and received information related to the Russia investigation, Sussman has “no bona fine privacy interest in concealing records memorializing his communications with Baker in 2016,” Boasberg said in denying the FBI’s motion for partial summary judgment.

The case is Judicial Watch Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice, Dist. Ct. D.C., No. 1:19-cv-00573-JEB, 11/26/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McAfee in Los Angeles at dmcAfee@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com