Evidence muddies Durham case at Sussmann's FBI meeting

WASHINGTON – When a special advocate accused a prominent cybersecurity lawyer of lying to the FBI during a meeting in September 2016 on ...


WASHINGTON – When a special advocate accused a prominent cybersecurity lawyer of lying to the FBI during a meeting in September 2016 on Donald J. Trump’s possible ties to Russia, the indictment presented a long story but the direct evidence seemed scant.

The indictment indicated that the attorney, Michael A. Sussmann, had made a false statement by telling an FBI official that he was not representing a client by presenting the information. Mr. Sussmann, who pleaded not guilty, denied saying that. No one else was present and their conversation was not recorded, so the direct and clearly admissible evidence seemed to boil down to a single witness.

This week, additional evidence has emerged to the public that was not in the indictment – one of which appears to align with the charge against Mr. Sussmann by Special Advocate John H. Durham, who was appointed during the Trump administration, while several others appear to clash with her.

The material emerged in court records and at a status conference before a judge on Wednesday.

It is not clear whether all of the newly disclosed evidence will be admissible. But the scramble between prosecutors and defense attorneys could offer a glimpse into aspects of the trial, which they say will last around two weeks on Wednesday and Judge Christopher R. Cooper has said it could start in May or early June. .

Although the charge against Mr Sussmann is small, it received considerable political attention in part because Mr Durham concluded that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had helped heighten suspicion, which concerned possible secret communications between the computer servers associated with Mr. Trump’s business and the Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank. The FBI decided the suspicion was unfounded.

Accusing Mr Sussmann of telling the FBI official – James A. Baker, then general counsel for the office – that he had no clients, Mr Durham claimed that Mr Sussmann in fact represented both a technological framework and the Clinton campaign. Mr Sussmann, through his attorneys, denied telling Mr Baker he had no clients, while claiming he was only there on behalf of the executive and not the countryside.

Newly disclosed evidence, described in a deposit by Mr. Durham’s team on Tuesday evening, consists of handwritten notes from an FBI attorney Mr. Baker told about the meeting that day. The Durham file cited the notes as saying “no specific client”.

This evidence is similar to another set of handwritten notes previously cited in the indictment by another FBI official who also spoke to Mr. Baker after the meeting. The indictment cites those notes as listing Mr. Sussmann’s name, then a dash, then the name of his law firm, then a dash, then the words “says do not do this for any client”.

It is not clear whether such notes – or the testimony of FBI officials who took them – would be admissible in a trial under complex rules of evidence. These rules generally prohibit statements made outside of court as hearsay, but they make exceptions subject to judicial interpretation.

The indictment also states that in February 2017, Mr Sussmann met with the CIA and raised similar and related concerns, citing a post-meeting memorandum written by two agency employees that said he “did not represent a specific client”. Mr Durham described this as showing that Mr Sussmann had repeated a false statement.

But at Wednesday’s hearing, Mr Sussmann’s attorney, Sean Berkowitz, cited evidence handed over by prosecutors last week that blurs that picture by suggesting he may have told them he had a customer.

Emails from agency staff ahead of the meeting, Mr Berkowitz said, included statements such as “Sussmann said he represents a client who does not want to be known” and “the plan should be to convince Sussmann that it is in his and his client’s best interests to go to the FBI. ”A draft of the agency’s post-meeting memo also mentioned that Sussmann had a client, he said.

A prosecutor working for Mr Durham, Andrew DeFilippis, told the judge that “although we are not, you know, interested in a full factual debate in court,” an agency employee spotted the reference to a client in the memo project. and “corrected” for the final version. Mr. De Filippis did not address references to a client in previous emails.

The disclosures followed a court filing Monday by Mr Sussmann’s defense team who revealed conflicting things Mr. Baker had said under oath on the key interaction in Justice Department interviews, which Mr Durham’s team revealed to them last week.

In the 2019 and 2020 interviews, Mr Baker recalled the interaction in two different ways that each clashed with the version of the indictment. In the first, he said Mr. Sussmann told him that the cyber experts who developed Alfa Bank’s theory “were his clients.” In the second, he said that Mr Sussmann never said whether he represented anyone and that Mr Baker did not ask for anything, but assumed he did not have a client.

In Tuesday’s court filing, Mr Durham’s team accused the defense of “choosing” the evidence and presenting a “skewed presentation”.

The 2019 and 2020 interviews “took place years after the events in question, and Mr. Baker made these statements before he had a chance to refresh his memory with contemporary or near-contemporary notes,” he said. they stated, adding that he had since “affirmed and then reaffirmed his now clear recollections of the accused’s false statement.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Evidence muddies Durham case at Sussmann's FBI meeting
Evidence muddies Durham case at Sussmann's FBI meeting
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