(PresidentialHill.com)- According to trial testimony, Hillary Clinton’s campaign didn’t approve a lawyer to meet with the FBI and share information on Donald Trump and Russia.
Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, is accused of lying to the FBI when he gave the bureau’s senior lawyer data that would purportedly reveal suspicious connections between a Russia-based bank and Trump’s company.
Prosecutors claim Sussmann misled the FBI by saying he wasn’t there for a client when he was there for the Clinton campaign and a technology executive who gave him the data.
Marc Elias, the campaign’s top lawyer, said Sussmann didn’t ask his permission to go to the FBI. Elias claimed no one on the campaign authorized Sussmann to meet with the FBI.
He said he wouldn’t have supported going to the FBI because he felt the bureau hadn’t been aggressive enough in stopping leaks of Russia-hacked emails stolen from the Clinton campaign. He also felt then-Director James Comey had put a “thumb on the scale” against Clinton during an earlier investigation into her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
Elias said he didn’t think the FBI would be impartial to anything anti-Trump or pro-Clinton.
The defense team questioned Sussmann to distance him from the Clinton campaign and prove he hadn’t lied to the FBI about representing a client at the September 19, 2016 meeting.
Sussmann showed James Baker, the FBI’s then-general counsel, a computer analysis showing possible interaction between Alfa Bank and Trump Organization servers. If true, that information would have been crucial because the FBI was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia coordinated to impact the election.
The FBI identified no backchannel or anything suspicious in the data.
Authorities said that as a private practice lawyer, Sussmann frequently billed the campaign for meetings and legal work.
When Baker testified at the end of the day, prosecutors entered a text Sussmann sent him the night before the meeting requesting a sit-down on an undefined sensitive topic and said he would be going alone and not on behalf of a client.
Defense lawyers told jurors Sussmann never lied and that prosecutors couldn’t establish what he said because only he and Baker attended the meeting, and neither took notes.
Prosecutors are trying to bolster Baker’s credibility as a witness and recall by showing the jury the text message.
John Durham, a special counsel appointed by the Trump administration to investigate potential misconduct by government officials and others during the FBI’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible ties to the Trump campaign, brought the case against Sussmann.
Durham has brought three criminal cases, but Sussmann’s is the first to go to trial. An FBI lawyer accused of manipulating an email reached a plea deal in 2020, and an analyst is charged with lying to the FBI.