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Capitol Hill Politics

Lawyer accused in Russia investigation stands trial

WASHINGTON (Transatlantic Today) — A federal prosecution for a counsel for Hillary Clinton’s presidential election campaign is set to begin on Monday. He is accused of lying to the FBI during an investigation into possible links between Russia and Donald Trump in 2016. 

According to ABC NEWS, the lawsuit against Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer who represented the Clinton campaign in 2016, is the first court case emerging from special counsel John Durham’s active investigation, and it will assess the power of evidence he and his team have collected while scrutinizing the initial days of the Russia-Trump investigation for potential wrongdoing. 

Acquittal would almost obviously motivate Trump voters who have long looked to Durham to reveal what they perceive as biased persecution of the former president.

Sussmann is charged with deceiving the FBI’s then-general attorney throughout a meeting in September 2016 in which he provided research indicating what he claimed was a worrisome backchannel of communication between Trump Organization computer servers and Alfa Bank in Russia. 

Prosecution said Sussmann lied by claiming he wasn’t at the meeting on behalf of any one client when, in fact, he was representing two: the Clinton campaign as well as a technology executive who assisted in the data collection. 

Durham’s team contends that if the FBI had been given the truth, it would have influenced the bureau’s evaluation of the Alfa Bank asserts when deciding whether to investigate. The FBI investigated the matter but discovered nothing untoward in the end. 

Sussmann’s attorneys dispute he lied, but argue that the alleged deception is irrelevant in any case because there’s no proof that what the FBI did or didn’t know regarding his political ties influenced its decision-making. 

On Monday, jurors will be chosen in federal court in Washington. In a nod to the trial’s highly charged character, prospective jurors are being questioned if they voted in 2016 and if they or anybody close to them was involved in the investigation into possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign. 

Durham was appointed by then-Attorney General William Barr in 2019 to investigate any wrongdoing while the US government investigated alleged collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign to manipulate the election result. A prior special counsel inquiry, led by Robert Mueller, found no evidence of an illegal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign, while it did determine that Russia attempted to help Trump win the election. 

Durham’s investigation has led to 3 criminal prosecutions, but only one has gone to trial: the one against Sussmann. 

Kevin Clinesmith, a former FBI lawyer, pled guilty in 2020 to tampering with an email connected to secret FBI monitoring of Carter Page, an ex-Trump campaign aide. The FBI used an anti-Trump document dubbed as the “Steele dossier” to petition for warrants to listen in on Page. The dossier included unsubstantiated assertions and speculations. 

Durham accused a Russia expert who was a contributor for the dossier of lying to the Authorities of his own information sources, one of whom was a longstanding Hillary Clinton backer, last year. Igor Danchenko has entered a no contest plea. The matter is still pending, with a trial date set for October.

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