The first trial brought by special counsel John Durham has ended in an acquittal for Democratic attorney Michael Sussmann, and one legal expert explained why the case should never have been prosecuted.
Sussmann, a cybersecurity attorney who did some work for Hillary Clinton's campaign, was charged with lying to FBI agents in a case that smacked of prosecutorial overreach and political motives, argued former U.S. Attorney Dennnis Aftergut in a column for The Bulwark.
"It seemed that Durham was trying to justify the public money he’d wasted boosting Trump’s false narrative that it was the big, bad Clinton campaign behind the Trump-Russia investigation," Aftergut wrote.
Sussman had approached a friend at the FBI with a tip, which he insisted was not offered “on behalf of any client," about alleged communications between the Trump Organization and servers at the Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank, which was about to be reported in the media, but Durham failed to prove the attorney had revealed his suspicions as part of his legal work for Clinton's campaign.
“There is a difference between having a client," argued Sussmann's lawyer, "and doing something on their behalf.”
James Baker, the attorney's friend and the FBI's general counsel, testified that Sussmann helped him identify the reporter working on the story so the FBI could try to stop it before it jeopardized an investigation, and former Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook testified that the tipoff may have delayed publication of a story that would help her chances.
"What’s more, the prosecution had Sussmann’s client-billing sheets," Aftergut wrote. "While he charged the Clinton campaign for 'work on confidential project' the day he spoke to Baker, the billing entry did not mention the FBI. Previously, Sussmann had specifically billed other clients in other matters for 'meeting with FBI' when he did so on their behalf."
"Reasonable doubt screamed out," he added.