Trump-Era Special Counsel Loses First Test in Court

Former Clinton attorney Sussmann acquitted of lying to the FBI in regard to Russia probe
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 31, 2022 12:30 PM CDT
Trump-Era Special Counsel Loses First Test in Court
Special counsel John Durham, the prosecutor appointed to investigate potential government wrongdoing in the early days of the Trump-Russia probe, leaves federal court in Washington, Monday, May 16, 2022.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

A lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign was acquitted Tuesday of lying to the FBI when he pushed information meant to cast suspicions on Donald Trump and Russia in the run-up to the 2016 election. The case against Michael Sussmann was the first courtroom test of special counsel John Durham since his appointment three years ago to search for government misconduct during the investigation into potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign, per the AP. The verdict represents a setback for Durham’s work, especially since Trump supporters had looked to the probe to expose what they contend was egregious bias by law enforcement officials who investigated the former president and his campaign.

The jury deliberated on Friday afternoon and Tuesday morning before reaching its verdict. Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict was delivered, Sussmann said he “told the truth to the FBI, and the jury clearly recognized that with their unanimous verdict today.” He added: “Despite being falsely accused, I am relieved that justice ultimately prevailed in this case.” In a separate statement, Durham said 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."

The trial focused on whether Sussmann, a former federal prosecutor, concealed from the FBI that he was representing Clinton’s campaign when he presented computer data that he said showed a possible secret back-channel between Russia-based Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. The FBI investigated but determined that there was no suspicious contact. The bureau’s then-general counsel and the government’s star witness, James Baker, testified he was “100% confident” that Sussmann had told him that he was not representing any client during the meeting. Lawyers for Sussmann deny he lied, saying that it was impossible to know with certainty what he told Baker since they were the only participants in the meeting and neither of them took notes.

(More John Durham stories.)

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