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Sussmann found not guilty in blow to John Durham's investigation

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 5/31/2022 Jerry Dunleavy
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Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann was found not guilty Tuesday on the false statements charge of concealing his representation of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign from the FBI when he pushed since debunked Trump-Russia claims to the bureau in 2016.

The verdict is a significant loss for John Durham’s investigation of the investigators, with the special counsel losing the first case that he has brought to trial.

Sussmann, a former Perkins Coie lawyer who represented the Democratic National Committee when it was hacked in 2016, was acquitted after a two week trial in May after being charged with lying to the FBI about who he was representing when, in September 2016, he pushed claims of a since-debunked link between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa-Bank.


He was indicted on a single false statements charge of concealing his clients, Clinton's campaign and Neustar executive Rodney Joffe, from FBI general counsel James Baker.

Sussmann denied lying to the FBI and pleaded not guilty. The jury agreed. He did not take the stand in his own defense.

Sussmann had worked at the Justice Department in the past, and testimony from Baker last week stated that he had a badge that allowed him access to the FBI.

Both prosecution and defense accused each other of "magic tricks" during closing arguments, with the prosecution saying Sussmann was trying to make his crime disappear after the defense team argued Durham was trying to conjure up a crime.

After closing arguments Friday, the jury began its deliberations, which picked back up after Memorial Day weekend.

The prosecution entered into evidence a host of billing records attempting to show Sussmann repeatedly billed his work on the Alfa-Bank allegations to the Clinton campaign.

British ex-spy Christopher Steele created his discredited dossier on Trump after being hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was itself hired by Perkins and Marc Elias, the general counsel for Clinton’s campaign, with whom Sussmann worked closely in 2016.

Durham's team also presented evidence last week showing Sussmann billed Clinton’s campaign for the thumb drives he used to push the allegations to the FBI in 2016. Fusion also drafted one of the “white papers” Sussmann gave Baker. Sussmann met with Steele and with Fusion in 2016.

The prosecution repeatedly pointed to a text message which Sussmann sent Baker the night before their meeting, where they say he put the lie to the FBI down in writing. Baker said he did not find this text until this March — nearly six months after the Durham indictment.

“Jim — it’s Michael Sussmann. I have something time-sensitive (and sensitive) I need to discuss,” Sussmann wrote to Baker on Sept. 18. “Do you have availability for a short meeting tomorrow? I’m coming on my own — not on behalf of a client or company — want to help the Bureau.”

Baker met with him the next day, on Sept. 19, and testified in court that he was “100% confident” Sussmann told him in the meeting he was not there on behalf of a client.

“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 from the witness stand.

The defense team contended that Sussmann had not lied, and that even if he had, it had not mattered, claiming Durham was pursuing a conspiracy theory. A number of FBI screw-ups were on display during the trial.

Clinton herself personally signed off on sharing the since-debunked Trump-Russia allegations related to Alfa-Bank with the media during the 2016 election, according to testimony by her campaign manager, Robby Mook.

The FBI, the CIA, former special counsel Robert Mueller, a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, and Durham’s team have all cast doubt on or shot down the Alfa-Bank claims.

Durham’s team said in its opening and closing arguments that Sussmann was trying to generate an “October surprise” to hurt Trump and help Clinton.

On Halloween 2016, Clinton tweeted, “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.” She included a lengthy statement from campaign adviser Jake Sullivan (now President Joe Biden's national security adviser) titled "New Report Exposing Trump's Secret Line of Communication to Russia."

“This could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow,” Sullivan claimed in part, adding, "This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mysteries of Trump's ties to Russia."

“We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia as part of their existing probe into Russia's meddling in our elections,” Sullivan said. He continued pushing the Alfa-Bank claims on TV in 2017.

A former CIA officer testified during the trial that Sussmann similarly concealed his representation of Joffe from the agency when pushing Trump-Russia claims in February 2017.

The judge presiding over the case against Sussmann ruled that the prosecution could not bring up the fact Joffe had been cut off as a confidential human source in 2021.

Durham revealed this year that he had evidence Joffe “exploited” domain name system internet traffic at Trump Tower, Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and the Executive Office of the President.

The special counsel said Joffe also tasked researchers with mining internet data to establish “an inference” and “narrative” tying Trump to Russia. Durham said Joffe indicated he was doing this to please certain “VIPs” on the Clinton campaign.

Following the not guilty verdict against Sussmann, it remains to be seen whether Durham will pursue further indictments.

Durham has another active case against Christopher Steele’s alleged main source, Igor Danchenko, charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI about the information he provided to the former MI6 agent for his discredited dossier. That trial is slated to kick off in October.


The special counsel has obtained one guilty plea from former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted he falsified a document during the bureau’s efforts to renew FISA surveillance authority against Trump campaign associate Carter Page.


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Tags: News, John Durham, Washington D.C., Russia investigation, Clintons

Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Original Location: Sussmann found not guilty in blow to John Durham's investigation


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