A trial for former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann has begun Monday after a long investigation by Special Counsel John Durham into the Trump-Russia probe.
Fox News reported that the trial began “at 9 a.m. in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with jury selection and U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper presiding”.
Sussmann has been charged with making a false statement to the FBI and has pleaded not guilty.
Sussmann allegedly told FBI General Counsel James Baker in September 2016 that he was not doing work “for any client” when he attended a meeting and presented “purported data and ‘white papers’ that allegedly demonstrated a covert communications channel” between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank.
Durham claims Sussmann lied, “falsely stating to the general counsel that he was not providing the allegations to the FBI on behalf of any client”.
In a filing, Durham alleges that “the night before the defendant met with the general counsel, the defendant conveyed the same lie in writing and sent the following text message to the general counsel’s personal cellphone”.
“Jim — it’s Michael Sussmann. I have something time-sensitive (and sensitive) I need to discuss,” the message said. “Do you have availability for a short meeting tomorrow? I’m coming on my own — not on behalf of a client or company — want to help the Bureau. Thanks”.
Durham said the data “exploited” included domain name system (DNS) internet traffic relating to “a particular healthcare provider, Trump Tower, Donald Trump’s Central Park West apartment building and the Executive Office of the President of the United States (EOP)”.
Durham also said the data was exploited “by mining the EOP’s DNS traffic and other data for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump”.
Judge Cooper said the prosecution can present evidence and question witnesses about the DNS data but the evidence Durham and the prosecution can present against Sussmann has been limited, reported Fox.
Tom Fitton, president of the conservative Judicial Watch activist group, said “If Sussmann, one of Hillary Clinton’s top campaign lawyers, is convicted, it will further confirm that Trump is a crime victim”.
Washington, D.C., lawyer Jim Trusty said Durham “has a pretty strong case” against Sussmann. “But you never know if a jury will rebel against [false-statement allegations] that are not accompanied by more serious crimes”.
The trial is expected to last two weeks.