Sussmann won't testify in own defense in Durham case, as trial moves to closing arguments

Sussmann, a 2016 Clinton campaign lawyer, faces a charge of providing a false statement to FBI in September 2016.

Published: May 26, 2022 8:46am

Updated: May 26, 2022 1:12pm

Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann will not testify on his own behalf in his Washington, D.C., trial in which he faces a charge of lying to the FBI, his defense team said Thursday.

Special Counsel John Durham last year charged Sussmann with making a false statement to the agency when he allegedly told then-FBI General Counsel James Baker that he was not working on behalf of any client when providing him with since-debunked allegations about a secret communications channel between Russia's Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. 

Durham has presented evidence that Sussmann said he was coming to the FBI in September 2016 as a concerned citizen but that he was in fact working at the time on behalf of two clients — the Clinton campaign and tech firm executive Rodney Joffe. 

Durham's investigation centers of the origins of the Russian collusion narrative, which alleged then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. 

Sussmann is pleading not guilty to the charge. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.

On Wednesday, Sussmann's legal team told the court they were still considering whether to put their client on the stand. 

They reportedly said the decision centered on whether the judge in the case would bar prosecutors from asking their client about pre-indictment negotiations between the sides, specifically about materials submitted to the government before charges against Sussmann were filed, according to Fox News.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper was set to decide on that motion by Thursday morning.

Sussmann defense attorney Sean Berkowitz said earlier this week the decision on whether to have his client testify depended on Cooper's ruling, Fox also reported. 

Berkowitz also read into evidence some notes of the special counsel's interview of Baker earlier this month, which said that he didn't believe Sussmann's text saying he wasn't representing a client affected his decision to meet. Instead, Sussmann's assertion that the issue was time-sensitive and sensitive, along with Baker's trust in Sussmann, is why the FBI general counsel scheduled the meeting for the next day, rather than going through his executive assistant.

The notes were read into evidence because they contradicted Baker's statement on the witness stand that Sussmann representing a client would have affected his decision regarding the meeting.

The prosecution concluded its case on Wednesday. Closing arguments are expected to start Friday, with jury deliberations beginning either that afternoon or Tuesday.

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