A federal jury on Tuesday found Michael Sussmann, an attorney for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, not guilty of lying to the FBI.
What You Need To Know
- A federal jury on Tuesday found Michael Sussmann, an attorney for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, not guilty of lying to the FBI
- The case was the first brought to trial by special counsel John Durham, whom Trump appointed in 2019 to investigate potential FBI wrongdoing in opening its probe into possible illegal ties between Trump and Russia
- The verdict represents a setback for Durham’s work, especially since Trump supporters had looked to the probe to expose what they contend was sweeping wrongdoing by the FBI
- Sussman was accused of lying to the FBI when he shared concerns about potential ties between The Trump Organization and a bank in Russia
The case was the first brought to trial by special counsel John Durham, whom Trump appointed in 2019 to investigate potential FBI wrongdoing in opening its probe into possible illegal ties between Trump and Russia.
Sussman was accused of lying to the FBI when he shared concerns about potential ties between The Trump Organization and a bank in Russia. Prosecutors said he lied during a September 2016 meeting with an FBI official when he said he was not working on behalf of any client, concealing that the Clinton campaign and a technology executive were actually behind the allegations.
Speaking to reporters after the verdict was rendered, Sussman said that he "told the truth to the FBI, and the jury clearly recognized that with their unanimous verdict today."
"Despite being falsely accused, I am relieved that justice ultimately prevailed in this case," he added.
Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer, approached the FBI about what he believed was suspicious internet server activity between the Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank and The Trump Organization, the real estate company owned by Donald Trump, then Clinton’s opponent in the presidential election. The FBI investigated and quickly determined the claim was unsubstantiated.
While the scope of the Sussmann case was narrow, Trump pointed to it as proof that the investigation into his campaign was a “deep state” conspiracy against him.
That investigative report, by special counsel Robert Mueller, identified “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,” but stopped short of accusing Trump of any crimes.
The verdict represents a setback for Durham’s work, especially since Trump supporters had looked to the probe to expose what they contend was sweeping wrongdoing by the FBI.
Durham said in a statement Tuesday that though he and his team were disappointed in the outcome, they respected the jury's decision. He thanked the investigators and prosecutors on his team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case."
In a message posted on the social media platform Truth Social shortly after the verdict was read, Trump wrote: “Our Legal System is CORRUPT, our Judges (and Justices!) are highly partisan, compromised or just plain scared.”
The trial began in mid-May. The jury deliberated on Friday afternoon and Tuesday morning before reaching its verdict.
The defense maintained Sussmann was not working on behalf of a client when he met with the FBI but instead was merely raising concerns about a potential national security threat. Sussman’s lawyers say the Clinton campaign never directed him to take the matter to the FBI. The defense, however, acknowledged Sussmann was representing the Clinton campaign when he separately tipped off a New York Times reporter about his suspicions.
Prosecutors seized upon that inconsistency in making their case. They argue that Sussmann hoped an FBI investigation would make the newspaper more likely to publish an article that would be unflattering to the Trump campaign.
Weeks ago, James Baker, the former FBI official who met with Sussmann, testified he was “100% confident” Sussmann told him he was not representing a client.
Baker told top FBI officials about the evidence Sussmann claimed to have. Had he known Sussmann was working for the Clinton campaign, he would have “made a different assessment” because it would have raised “very serious questions” about the “credibility of the source,” Baker testified.
Sussman’s lawyers said his representation of Democratic interests was well-known to Baker before the meeting.
The defense also argued that Baker’s memory of the nearly 6-year-old meeting is “clear as mud.” During cross-examination, defense attorney Sean Berkowitz highlighted that Baker told the Justice Department’s inspector general in a 2019 interview he believed Sussmann was acting on behalf of “some number of people that were his clients.”
And while the defense’s position was that Sussmann was not working for clients at the time of the meeting, it called as a witness a former Justice Department official, Tashina Gauhar, who testified last week that she wrote in her notes from a briefing that the Trump Organization-Alfa Bank allegations were brought to the FBI by an attorney “on behalf of his client.”
Gauhar said she didn’t recall who made the comment, but if she had written that down, “that’s what I would have heard at the briefing.”