Regulation

Sussmann’s defense lawyer calls Durham prosecution an ‘injustice’

An attorney defending Michael Sussmann, the lawyer with deep ties to the Democratic Party charged with lying to the FBI in 2016, called the prosecution by the Trump-era special counsel John Durham an “injustice” on the first day of arguments in Sussmann’s trial Tuesday.

Michael Bosworth, a member of Sussmann’s defense team, argued in his opening statement that his client had no reason to lie about who his clients were when he met with the FBI’s top lawyer in 2016.

Sussman met with the FBI to present data that appeared to show suspicious internet traffic connecting former President Trump’s business with the Russian financial institution Alfa Bank.

Bosworth portrayed Sussmann as a veteran federal prosecutor and cybersecurity lawyer whose reputation as a partner at the major law firm Perkins Coie depended on the relationships he had established at the FBI and other agencies in the national security establishment.

“Michael Sussmann didn’t lie to the FBI,” he said. “Michael Sussmann wouldn’t lie to the FBI.”

“His whole livelihood depended on his credibility with these agencies and he’d never throw that away.”

Bosworth added, “As jurors you have the extraordinary responsibility … to prevent injustice. This case is an injustice.”

Sussmann was indicted last year with a single count of making a false statement to the FBI in a September 2016 meeting with James Baker, then the bureau’s general counsel. Durham, who was tapped by the Trump administration to investigate the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign, alleges that Sussmann falsely told Baker that he was not participating in the meeting on behalf of any client. However, at the time he was representing the Hillary Clinton campaign and a cybersecurity researcher named Rodney Joffe.

During the meeting Sussmann turned over data and a white paper purporting to show unusual internet traffic between an email server associated with the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank. The FBI looked into the data and found that it could not substantiate such a link.

Deborah Shaw, a federal prosecutor in Durham’s office, said in her own opening arguments on Tuesday that Sussmann intentionally concealed his clients during the meeting with Baker to further a Clinton campaign scheme to orchestrate an October surprise to damage Trump’s election chances.

“This was not a mistake or a slip of the tongue, it was a concerted effort to conceal his clients,” Shaw told the jury. “You’re going to see … how it misled officials into thinking he was acting as a good citizen.”

“The FBI should never be used as a political pawn,” she added.

During the two-week trial, the jury is expected to hear from several current and former FBI officials and former Clinton campaign operatives. Prosecutors said they expect to call Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic attorney and former general counsel to Clinton’s 2016 campaign, to testify as early as Tuesday afternoon.

Prosecutors will have to convince the jury not only that Sussmann lied by saying that he was not representing any clients in the meeting with Baker, but also that the alleged lie materially affected how the FBI looked into the data.

Following opening arguments on Tuesday, the prosecution called two FBI officials to the stand. One of them, Special Agent Scott Hellman, who investigates cyber crimes, testified that he had assessed the data turned over by Sussmann following the meeting with Baker.

Hellman said he and his supervisor found that the data and an accompanying white paper did not support the idea that an email server associated with the Trump Organization had a secret communication channel with Alfa Bank.

“There was not enough data there to make the conclusion that there was any communication … between the Trump Organization and Russia,” Hellman said.

Updated at 2:08 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump FBI Hillary Clinton Michael Sussmann

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