Jury selected in Sussmann trial, with opening statements, witness testimony set to begin Tuesday
The jury was selected on Monday in the trial of former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, with opening statements and witness testimony set to begin Tuesday.
The trial, taking place in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is Special Counsel John Durham's first in his probe into the origins of the now-discredited Trump-Russia collusion narrative.
Durham charged Sussmann in September 2021 with allegedly lying to the FBI five years earlier when he told the bureau's then-General Counsel James Baker that he was not working on behalf of any client while providing him with since-debunked allegations about then-candidate Donald Trump.
Sussmann is pleading not guilty to the charge, claiming that he did not bill "the Clinton Campaign for his meeting with the FBI in September 2016." If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.
Judge Christopher Cooper, appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, is presiding over the trial.
On Monday, the judge, prosecution, and defense narrowed down the potential jurors to a pool of 38 by striking the rest for cause, such as prejudice for or against one of the parties or hardship, like scheduling and work conflicts.
Potential jurors were questioned about their donations to 2016 presidential campaigns and whether they would be able to set aside their views of both political parties' candidates and judge the case fairly.
The remaining group of 38 was then whittled down to 16, with four of the jurors serving as alternates. With jury selection completed, jurors were sworn in shortly after 5 p.m.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin Tuesday at 9 a.m. following the judge's instructions to the jury regarding the trial. The prosecution listed five witnesses they hope to call to the stand on Tuesday, including FBI agent David Martin and top Democrat election lawyer Marc Elias.
The defense had objected to Martin's testimony, claiming it would be used to discuss the importance of Sussmann's allegedly false claim that he was not representing any clients when providing the FBI with since-debunked allegations about Trump and Alfa Bank. Such testimony would thus "fall outside the bounds of what the Court ruled it would allow and instead veer into impermissible testimony," the defense argued, according to the New York Post.
Cooper said he would give guidance before opening statements Tuesday morning regarding the scope of Martin's testimony.
Durham, who was present at the trial, observed the jury selection while examining and writing his notes. Sussmann consulted his notes and legal counsel during jury selection. He occasionally moved around in his chair, fidgeted with his mask and tie, and leaned forward as the jurors were questioned.
There was occasional joking banter between the judge and lawyers and the rest of the court during jury selection.
Sussmann, a former federal prosecutor, told the FBI that the Trump Organization had a secret communications channel with the Kremlin through Russia's Alfa Bank. The FBI, CIA, Trump-Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller and others have debunked the claim.
Durham says Sussmann was working at the time on behalf of two clients, the Clinton campaign and then-Neustar tech firm executive Rodney Joffe. The special counsel argues that in a text message from Sussmann to Baker, the former Clinton campaign lawyer said he wasn't representing any clients.
However, Durham alleges that Sussmann "repeatedly billed the Clinton campaign for his work" on the Alfa Bank allegations and that he admitted to approaching the FBI at the instruction of a client in his testimony to Congress.
The trial is expected to last for two weeks.