Michael Sussman, legal professional with ties to Clinton campaign, acquitted in first Durham investigation trial - CBS news

Washington – A District of Columbia jury has acquitted Michael Sussmann, a sought after Democratic legal professional, on one count number of lying to investigators right through a Sept. 19, 2016, assembly all through which he conveyed now-debunked facts that purportedly linked Trump Tower to Russia's Alfa financial institution. 

Michael Sussmann turned into accused via particular tips John Durham — a holdover from the Trump administration — of hiding his ties with a expertise government and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign when he introduced the allegations to then-FBI frequent tips Jim Baker.

Durham changed into tasked with probing allegations of misconduct by those investigating former President Donald Trump's alleged ties with Russia. Sussmann become the primary of Durham's handful of defendants to stand trial. 

After the trial ended, Sussman study a statement with his reaction to the decision: "I told the fact to the FBI and the jury checklist clearly respect that with their unanimous verdict today, i am grateful to the participants of the jury for his or her careful and thoughtful carrier. regardless of being falsely accused. i'm relieved that Justice subsequently prevailed in my case." He additionally spoke of it had been a "intricate 12 months" for him and his household, and he thanked his pals and felony group. 

Durham stated nothing when he left the court docket, but noted in an announcement, "while we're disappointed within the outcome, we respect the jury's decision and thank them for their carrier."

Prosecutors tried to argue that Sussmann began lying the evening earlier than the assembly on Sept. 18, 2016, when he texted Baker to request they talk. He allegedly wrote, "i am coming on my own – not on behalf of a client or enterprise," textual content messages published all the way through the trial read, "[W]ant to help the Bureau." Durham's group alleged Sussmann came ahead now not as a result of he wanted to "support the Bureau," however fairly, to assist two consumers who had hired his law company, Perkins Coie. 

nevertheless, the government didn't charge Sussmann with mendacity in that textual content message, and jurors had been advised not to trust it when acquitting the defendant. 

The trial on the one count spanned almost two weeks, as prosecutors called over a dozen witnesses starting from Baker himself to Hillary Clinton's presidential crusade manager, Robby Mook. 

Baker informed jurors the memos and thumb drives containing the information Sussmann introduced him were regarding, and he seen the information as a "expertise countrywide safety possibility." The FBI in the end determined the allegations of a link between Trump and the Russian financial institution have been unsubstantiated. 

"[Sussmann] stated, 'i'm no longer here on behalf of any particular customer," Baker recalled in testifying about Sussmann's remark to him at that 2016 meeting at FBI headquarters, "i am one hundred% assured that he mentioned that in the assembly." 

under direct examination, Baker informed the jury Sussmann turned into a "friend," and he had no intent to doubt representations about his factors on the time. Sussmann failed to ask Baker to do anything else with the facts, Baker testified, but he took the allegations to the FBI's head of counterintelligence, bill Priestap, who turned into often known as as a witness. Priestap's notes have been a key part of the trial's evidentiary record. 

defense attorneys probed Baker'a reminiscence, highlighting discrepancies in his recounting of the 2016 meeting and previous congressional testimony right through which Baker said he thought Sussmann had, in fact, initiated the assembly on behalf of a client. 

These apparent discrepancies in Baker's memory may have contributed to Tuesday's not responsible verdict. 

The particular tips's prosecutors concentrated testimony not just on the September 2016 assembly, but also on a broader, uncharged "joint venture" between Sussmann, his tech government client Rodney Joffe who had introduced him the Alfa financial institution facts, and the Clinton campaign, including its opposition research enterprise Fusion GPS. These political connections contributed to Sussmann's motivation to allegedly deceive the FBI, prosecutors mentioned, and would have affected how the FBI investigated the allegations.

although, these allegations were now not legal add-ons of the prices against Sussmann, and jurors had been now not tasked with determining their validity. 

Witnesses like the Clinton campaign's universal tips and former Sussmann colleague Marc Elias and an ex-Fusion GPS employee testified that they have been gaining knowledge of Donald Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election and the Alfa financial institution data become mentioned. Sussmann allegedly acted as an intermediary of sorts between Joffe, the information analysts, and members of the media, Elias and others mentioned. Sussmann didn't testify in his personal protection, but his prison team did not contest his verbal exchange with participants of the media concerning the facts. 

Prosecutors accused Sussmann of hiding his connection to his alleged valued clientele with a purpose to make the facts seem greater official. however Elias, Mook, and others countered this argument and testified beneath oath that the campaign in no way licensed or steered Sussmann to carry the facts to the FBI's attention, mentioning that doing so truly would have put the crusade at a disadvantage as a result of they did not trust federal investigators on the time. 

Durham's group additionally sought to hyperlink Sussmann's billing entries, receipts, and communications at once to the Clinton crusade, telling the jury that he had billed work and material tied to the Alfa financial institution allegations to the Clinton campaign. 

"It wasn't about national security. It become about promoting opposition analysis concerning the opposition candidate, Donald Trump," prosecutors talked about in closing arguments on Friday, "Your general feel tells you that."

"someone performing in decent faith, a person who is aware of the legislation would no longer say and do the things that Mr. Sussmann did on Sept. 19." 

specifically, Sussmann didn't invoice his taxi trip to FBI headquarters on Sept. 19 to the Clinton crusade, the facts confirmed, and jurors requested to view that checklist right through their deliberations. 

Sussmann's protection, youngsters, without difficulty raised doubts in regards to the government's case, as Tuesday's verdict suggests. 

"This was a case about misdirection," they observed, a "magic trick." 

"The time for political conspiracy theories is over," Sean Berkowitz argued, "opposition analysis is not unlawful," later instructing the jury to disregard the uncharged behavior Durham's team laid out and in its place focal point on the alleged lie, the veracity of the witness testimony, and the knowledge effect Sussmann's alleged conduct had on FBI investigators. 

Sussmann's connection to the Democratic national Committee and the Clinton campaign turned into "tattooed on his brow," Berkowitz claimed, ties Baker and other FBI investigators doubtless knew about after they tracked down the allegations. 

The trial's high-profile and polarizing nature got here no longer simply from its connection to the two former 2016 political foes, but from contentious court filings full of accusations of politics and overbreadth earlier than trial and arguments throughout trial about what proof can be entered into the checklist. 

judge Christopher Cooper, who oversaw the jury trial, tailored testimony in an apparent try and limit such polarization, barred prosecutors from discussing the accuracy of the Alfa bank records and noted the jury could best consider Sussmann's Sept. 19 statement to Baker and never the text message the evening earlier than, when determining his guilt. 

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