The campaign lawyer for Democrat Hillary Clinton, Michael Sussman, was found not guilty yesterday, of lying to the FBI in the first trial of special counsel John Durham’s investigation. The federal jury in Washington, DC deliberated for six hours over two days before reaching its decision.
The verdict is a major setback for Durham and his Justice Department prosecutors, who have spent three years investigating Trump-Russia collusion. He claimed Sussmann lied to him during a 2016 meeting in which he gave the FBI information about Donald Trump and Russia.
The Sussmann case revolved around his meeting with James Baker, a friend who was the FBI’s general counsel in September 2016. Sussmann provided information that led to a four-month FBI investigation into a possible internet backchannel between the Trump Organization and the Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank.
Both companies denied the claim, and the FBI found no illegal cyber links. Prosecutors claimed Sussmann lied to Baker on purpose by claiming he came only as a concerned citizen and not on behalf of any clients, and that Sussmann hid his ties to Democrats in order to “manipulate the FBI” and concoct an “October surprise” to help Clinton win.
The government reminded jurors while presenting their final closing arguments that Sussmann’s intent to lie to the FBI was expressed in a text message sent to Jim Baker the night before his meeting with the FBI — on September 19, 2016. The text message read, “Jim — it’s Michael Sussmann. I have something time-sensitive (and sensitive) I need to discuss. 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. Thanks.”
Donald Trump lashes out in response to the verdict
Former President Donald Trump responded to the verdict yesterday through his social media platform Truth Social, expressing his disappointment, and calling the justice system “corrupt”.
“Our Legal System is CORRUPT, our Judges (and Justices!) are highly partisan, compromised or just plain scared, our Borders are OPEN, our Elections are Rigged, Inflation is RAMPANT, gas prices and food costs are ‘through the roof,’ our Military ‘Leadership’ is Woke, our Country is going to HELL, and Michael Sussmann is not guilty.”– wrote the former President in a post.
John Durham followed up Trump’s response with a rather curt statement, saying that even though he was disappointed with the outcome, he respected the lawmakers’ decision.
“While we are disappointed in the outcome, we respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their service. I also want to recognize and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for theo=ir dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case.” -read the statement Durham.
“I’m shocked the DC Clinton donor jury let Clinton’s lawyer off…HAHAHA just kidding, absolutely no one is shocked,” tweeted the former president’s son Donald Trump Jr. “Hunter Biden off next then Paul Pelosi etc. We all know how this goes by now…Only people not tied to the establishment DC swamp ever face accountability.” -he wrote further.
Jury seems biased in favour of Clinton
Legal experts said they were not surprised by the verdict and that Durham was already behind the eight ball due to pre-trial rulings by Judge Christopher Cooper and potential bias among the jury members.
“The Durham prosecutors were facing extremely adverse conditions in this trial,”, says professor Johnathan Turley of George Washington University Law School. “Judge Cooper imposed strict limits on the scope of the evidence and possible examinations that prevented the prosecution from showing the origins of this information and the broader role of the Clinton campaign.” -he added.
“The jury composition was also challenging,” Turley added. “In a city that voted over 90% for Clinton, this was a nightmare jury pool. The judge also rejected requests to bar a couple of jurors who raised legitimate concerns over their objectivity for the prosecution. However, the prosecution faced a virtual obstacle course of adverse rulings and other challenges,” he reiterated.
Cooper overruled prosecutors’ objections to seating a man who had donated to Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign during jury selection, noting the prospective juror had “expressed a high degree of confidence” that he could be impartial.
Former federal prosecutor James Trusty expressed concerns about the jury, pointing out that three of the panellists had previously voted for Clinton and contributed to her campaign.
Sussmann’s trial lasted two weeks, including jury deliberations that lasted more than a day. According to The Freedom Times, the jury concluded that “Special Counsel John Durham’s team had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Sussmann’s statement was a lie.”
According to Fox News, the jury also decided that Durham’s team failed to prove that Sussmann was working for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign or had a contract with technology executive Rodney Joffe when he brought flash drives and a “white paper” to the Justice Department officials, alleging a Trump-Russia connection.