Lawyer Michael Sussmann has become the villain in the probe by special counsel John Durham, and he's fighting back in a new court filing. Donald Trump’s former attorney general, Bill Barr, appointed Durham to investigate the origins of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Sussmann was the lawyer for the Democratic Party after it was hacked by Russian-affiliated hackers. In a court filing last week, Durham lodged a slate of claims about Sussmann that sent the right-wing media into a tizzy. Most have misconstrued the filing to say that Trump was spied on by Hillary Clinton. The reality is that Sussmann believed that the former Office of President Barack Obama was spied on sometime between 2014 and 2017, and reported it to the CIA on Feb 8, 2017.
Relaying excerpts from Sussmann's filing from Thursday, legal analyst Marcy Wheeler quoted that Sussmann says that at no point in the Durham filing does Durham say that Sussmann's claim was false.
"The only decision the FBI was trying to make was the decision whether to commence an investigation," the filing says.
A footnote explains, "The possibility of a false statement influencing the initiation of a government investigation in Hasen (at issue here) stands in stark contrast to the much more common occurrence of a false statement possibility influencing an ongoing investigation (not at issue here)."
Wheeler pointed to what she believes was the most substantive points in the filing, that Durham's indictment explains that FBI General Counsel Jim Baker and Bill Priestap, who was previously the assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, knew the information that Durham says Sussmann hid from the FBI. Sussmann claimed that he was there not representing a client, but then billed the Clinton campaign for the time for the meeting.
This is the reason that Durham indicted Sussmann, claiming he lied to the FBI. Trump and the GOP appear to believe that if the FBI knew a Clinton lawyer was making the claims it could have influenced their decision to investigate.
"Moreover, even the Indictment's own allegations undermine any claim that the false statement could have been material. The Indictment alleges that the FBI 'might have' taken 'additional or incremental steps' had it known of Mr. Sussmann's purported clients. But there is no reason the FBI would have acted differently if it learned of Mr. Sussmann's supposed relationship with the Clinton Campaign. The FBI was already aware of what the Indictment described as the 'political nature of his work,'" says the Sussmann filing.
Comparing Sussmann's claim against Baker's deposition on Oct. 2018 to a Congressional committee, it's clear that the two men had a “personal relationship," and that's why Baker took the meeting. He said that he immediately gave the information from Sussmann to investigators because he was "quite concerned."
"At the end of the day, Hillary Clinton herself could have publicly handed over the Russian Bank-1 Information and the FBI would still have investigated it. And if Mr. Sussmann had not met with Mr. Baker and Newspaper-1 published its article as anticipated... the FBI surely would have initiated its investigation then as well," the filing continues.
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