A federal judge late Thursday ordered Fusion GPS, the research firm tapped by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign to gin up dirt on former President Trump, to turn over nearly two dozen emails to special counsel John Durham, who is investigating the Russian-collusion narrative.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper’s decision is a major victory for Mr. Durham, who is prosecuting former Clinton campaign lawyer Micheal Sussmann on charges of lying to the FBI.
At a hearing last week, prosecutor Jonathan Algor said the emails are “important” to investigators for Mr. Durham’s ongoing probe.
Fusion GPS, which hired British ex-spy Christopher Steele to compile a salacious and unverified dossier tying Mr. Trump to Russia, must turn over the emails to Mr. Durham by Monday, when Mr. Sussmann’s trial is scheduled to start.
Mr. Durham last year had subpoenaed 38 emails, but Fusion GPS and the Clinton campaign fought hard to keep them out of his hands.
Judge Cooper ruled that Fusion GPS improperly withheld 22 emails by claiming they were protected by attorney-client privilege. He said the remaining 16 emails should remain out of public view because they detail attorney-client privilege and attorney work-product.
The 22 emails largely consist of internal communications between Fusion GPS and Mr. Sussmann detailing efforts by the Clinton campaign to pitch to media outlets negative stories tying Mr. Trump to a Russian bank.
Some of the emails include discussions about circulating a draft version of a background white paper Mr. Sussmann compiled that pushed a now-debunked conspiracy theory of covert communications between Mr. Trump and Russia’s Alfa Bank.
Attorneys for Fusion GPS argued that the emails should be protected because they contain legal advice on how to avoid defamation and libel lawsuits while pitching the Alfa Bank story.
Judge Cooper wrote that the emails show Fusion employees “interacted with the press as part of an affirmative media relations effort by the Clinton campaign.”
“That effort included pitching certain stories, providing information on background, and answering reporters’ questions,” he wrote in an 11-page opinion. “And because these emails appear not to have been written in anticipation of litigation but rather part of ordinary media-relations work, they are not entitled to attorney-client work-product.”
Mr. Sussmann is accused of concealing his ties to the Clinton campaign when he peddled the Alfa Bank allegations to a top FBI lawyer. He allegedly told the attorney that he was not meeting with the bureau on behalf of a client, but billed the Clinton campaign for the encounter.