Durham says Clinton lawyer engaged in a ‘political deceit’ when giving Trump dirt to FBI
Special prosecutor urges court to reject Michael Sussmann’s request for dismissal, says alleged lie to FBI was material to Russia probe.
Former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann engaged in “political deceit” during his contacts with the FBI and deprived agents of critical information that could have influenced the course of the Russia probe, Special Counsel John Durham declared in a new filing asking a court not to dismiss his criminal case.
Sussmann recently asked the trial judge to dismiss a charge of lying to the FBI, arguing his alleged false statement to the FBI was not material to the case and was protected by the First Amendment. The lawyer is accused of lying to the FBI when he claimed he was not working on behalf of any clients when he delivered dirt on then-candidate Donald Trump to the FBI general counsel alleging the GOP nominee had a secret computer channel to the Kremlin.
In fact, FBI agents found no evidence that the computer channel existed, and Sussmann was in fact working on behalf of the Clinton campaign and a computer executive aligned with the campaign when he approached the FBI, his indictment last fall alleged.
Durham responded Friday with a sweeping rebuke of Sussmann’s conduct in 2016 and 2017, saying as a former Justice Deparyment lawyer he knew that giving false information to the FBI undercut the tenets of the legal system.
"Far from finding himself in the vulnerable position of an ordinary person whose speech is likely to be chilled, the defendant – a sophisticated and well-connected lawyer – chose to bring politically-charged allegations to the FBI’s chief legal officer at the height of an election season,” Durham wrote the judge.
“He then chose to lie about the clients who were behind those allegations. Using such rare access to the halls of power for the purposes of political deceit is hardly the type of speech that the Founders intended to protect,” he added. “The Court should therefore reject defendant’s invitation to expand the scope of the First Amendment to protect such conduct.”
You can read the full court filing here.
Durham also revealed that he plans to deliver testimony at trial from FBI and government witnesses that Sussmann’s false statement was material and relevant and could have influenced the course of the Russia collusion case.
“The expected testimony of multiple government witnesses will refute the defendant’s argument that the defendant’s false statement was immaterial,” Durham wrote. “As noted above, the government expects that current and former FBI employees will testify at trial that understanding the origins of data and information is relevant to the FBI in multiple ways, including to assess the reliability and motivations of the source.
“None of this is novel. An evaluation of a source can (and often does) influence the FBI’s decisions regarding its initial opening decisions and subsequent investigative steps. That alone is sufficient to establish materiality.”
You can read Sussmann's indictment here.