Judge limits some Durham evidence ahead of Sussmann trial

"Circumstantial" evidence shows Sussmann is connected to the data gathering effort, the judge said.

Updated: May 8, 2022 - 11:16pm

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A federal judge is limiting some of the evidence Special Counsel John Durham can use during the trial of Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann to show a "joint venture" involving Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, Democratic operatives and others.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, an Obama appointee, acknowledged in his opinion Saturday obtained by The Washington Examiner that the government's argument that "data was gathered as part of a concerted effort to collect and disseminate derogatory opposition research about Donald Trump" in a “purported joint undertaking" with Sussmann, the Clinton campaign, Perkins Coie attorney Marc Elias, Fusion GPS and others.

"The Court will exercise its discretion not to engage in the kind of extensive evidentiary analysis that would be required to find that such a joint venture existed, and who may have joined it, in order to admit these emails," Cooper ruled.

"For starters, Mr. Sussmann is not charged with a conspiracy," he wrote. "Moreover, while the Special Counsel has proffered some evidence of a collective effort to disseminate the purported link between Trump and Alfa Bank to the press and others, the contours of this venture and its participants are not entirely obvious."

The since-discredited theory was that the Trump Organization had a secret communications channel with the Kremlin throughRussia’s Alfa Bank. The link has been discredited by the FBI, CIA, special counsel Robert Mueller and others.

"The government has proffered the existence of at least some circumstantial evidence connecting Mr. Sussmann to certain aspects of the data gathering effort," the judge wrote.