A lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign was acquitted Tuesday of lying to the FBI after she pushed information to cast doubts on Donald Trump and Russia in the 2016 election.
In the case of Michael Sussman, the jury deliberated on Friday afternoon and Tuesday morning before reaching its decision.
The case was special counsel John Durham’s first courtroom test since his appointment three years ago to discover government misconduct during an investigation into possible links between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign. The verdict represents a setback for Durham’s work, especially since Trump supporters saw the investigation as a way to protest wrongdoing by the FBI.
The lawsuit focused on whether Sussman, a cybersecurity lawyer and former federal prosecutor, hid from the FBI that he was representing Clinton’s campaign when he presented computer data he said was Russia-based Alphabet. A possible secret backchannel was shown between the bank and Trump’s business company. Trump Organization. The FBI investigated but quickly determined there was no suspicious contact.
The Bureau’s then-general counsel and the government’s star witness, James Baker, testified that he was “100% convinced” that Sussman had told him he was not representing any clients during the meeting. Prosecutors say he was in fact acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign and another client, and that he hid that information to make it seem more credible and to promote the possibility of an investigation by the FBI.
Sussman’s attorney denies that he lied, saying it was impossible to know for sure what he told Baker because he was the only participant in the meeting and none of them took notes.
He argued that if Sussman said he was not acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign, it was technically accurate because he had not asked the FBI to take any specific action. And he said that even if he made a false statement, it was ultimately irrelevant because the FBI was already investigating Russia and the Trump campaign and would have looked at the Alpha Bank data no matter the source.
During the two-week trial, jurors heard from current and former FBI officials, who described the validity of the data as well as efforts to assess former Clinton campaign aides.
The original Trump-Russia investigation, conducted for two years by former special counsel Robert Mueller, found several attempts by Russia to interfere on the part of the Trump campaign, but did not establish that both sides were trying to influence the election. had worked together.
After Mueller’s assignment was complete, then-Attorney General William Barr named a new Justice Department prosecutor, then-Connecticut U.S. Attorney Durham, to investigate whether the FBI or any of the other agencies violated the law because the government launched its investigation into Russian election interference and the Trump campaign.
Durham remains at work in the Biden administration. He has brought up three cases so far, although the only trial has been brought against Sussman. A former FBI lawyer, Kevin Klinesmith, was given probation in 2020 after pleading guilty to altering emails related to surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide, and a Russian analyst who has slammed Democratic-funded ties to Russia. Contributed to a dossier of research. And Trump awaits trial on charges of lying to the FBI about his sources of information.