Federal Judge Recuses Herself From A Second Fusion GPS Case
A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has recused herself from a second case involving Trump dossier firm Fusion GPS.
Tanya S. Chutkan, an Obama appointee, recused herself on Monday from a case involving a dispute over subpoenas issued for Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned the dossier.
Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian tech executive accused in the dossier of hacking Democrats’ computer systems, has sought to subpoena Fusion GPS records and to depose its employees to find out more about the research firm’s work on the dossier.
Gubarev is suing BuzzFeed for defamation for publishing the dossier earlier this year. He denies the allegations laid out in the document, which was written by former British spy Christopher Steele.
Chutkan recused herself last month from another case involving Fusion GPS. The firm had filed suit against its bank, TD Bank, to keep it from complying with a subpoena issued by the House Intelligence Committee, which sought Fusion’s bank records.
Chutkan presided over that case from Oct. 20 to Nov. 9. It was reassigned to Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush appointee. Since taking over the case, Leon has indicated that he plans to allow more transparency into the court proceedings involving the battle over Fusion’s bank records. He has ordered several documents be unsealed and made public.
Chutkan has presided over the case involving the lawsuit against BuzzFeed since Aug. 31. Her replacement is Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee who assumed office in October.
The reasons for Chutkan’s recusals remain a mystery.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. District Court confirmed that Chutkan recused herself from the case but declined to provide an explanation, citing policy against discussing recusal decisions.
Chutkan’s past legal work could have something to do with the decision.
Prior to her appointment to the federal bench, Chutkan was a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner (BSF), an international white shoe law firm founded by David Boies.
At the firm, Chutkan represented Theranos, a medical technology company. Fusion GPS also appears to have worked for Theranos and BSF.
Chutkan represented Theranos in a 2013 malpractice lawsuit. She left BSF for the federal bench the next year.
It is unclear when Fusion GPS began working on behalf of Theranos. But The Washington Post reported on Monday that Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritsch intervened on behalf of the company during a 2015 investigation by The Wall Street Journal.
Fritsch, a former reporter at The Journal, reportedly asked Journal reporter John Carreyrou to soften coverage of Theranos and its inaccurate blood-testing devices.
The Post reported that Fritsch accompanied Boies along with a Theranos delegation to The Journal’s newsroom in June 2015 to meet with Carreyrou and his editor. Carreyrou’s series of stories on Theranos exposed the companies faulty blood-testing equipment and led to a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation.
Fusion GPS typically works for law firms in their representation of corporate or political clients. Such was the case for its work on the dossier. Fusion was paid by Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented the Clinton campaign and DNC.
BSF was accused of using heavy-handed tactics to quiet a whistleblower who came forward to expose Theranos’ fraudulent activity.
Tyler Shultz, the whistleblower, told The Wall Street Journal that lawyers with BSF threatened him and hired private investigators to track him.
BSF has been accused of similar tactics in the firm’s representation of Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer accused of sexually assaulting numerous actresses. The law firm hired an Israeli private intelligence firm to investigate many of Weinstein’s accusers.
There is no indication that Chutkan worked for BSF while Theranos was dealing with the Wall Street Journal. BSF did not respond to a request for comment.