Special Counsel John Durham slammed Clinton lawyer Michael Sussmann’s “absurd” bid to have charges that he lied to the FBI dropped against him.
In a scathing court filing, Durham accused Sussmann of misleading the FBI in 2016 by passing on “highly explosive allegations” about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump without disclosing his links with the Clinton campaign.
“The document opposes Sussmann’s attempt to have a change of lying to the FBI thrown out. His attorneys argued in a motion that Durham’s case was largely unprecedented and might ultimately deter other tipsters from coming forward. They used the example of a jilted ex-wife who might think twice about reporting her ex-husband’s extensive gun-smuggling operation,” The Daily Mail reported.
“In their motion to dismiss, they say Sussmann was not accused of giving false information to the FBI – but of lying about whether or not he was approaching the bureau for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. That, they argued, is ‘immaterial as a matter of law,’” the outlet added.
Durham’s team responded by calling his claims “absurd” and asked the federal court in the District of Columbia to proceed.
“Far from finding himself in the vulnerable position of an ordinary person whose speech is likely to be chilled, the defendant – a sophisticated and well-connected lawyer – chose to bring politically-charged allegations to the FBI’s chief legal officer at the height of an election season,” Durham wrote in his court filing.
“He then chose to lie about the clients who were behind those allegations. Using such rare access to the halls of power for the purposes of political deceit is hardly the type of speech that the Founders intended to protect,” Durham added.
“And far from being immaterial, they went on to say that ‘the defendant’s false statement was capable of influencing both the FBI’s decision to initiate an investigation and its subsequent conduct of that investigation,” the filing continued.
Lawyers for Sussmann, who has been charged by Durham in his probe into the origins of the ‘Russiagate’ investigation with making a false statement to a federal investigator, are demanding the court “strike” the segment because they claim it will “taint the jury pool.”
The Sussmann motion comes on the heels of a bombshell filing by Durham that honed in on potential conflicts of interest in relation to the former Clinton attorney’s representation after he has been charged with making a false statement to a federal investigator.
In the February 11 filing in a section titled “Factual Background,” Durham said that Sussmann “had assembled and conveyed the allegations to the FBI on behalf of at least two specific clients, including a technology executive (Tech Executive 1) at a U.S.-based internet company (Internet Company 1) and the Clinton campaign.”
It also alleged that Sussmann’s “billing records reflect” that he “repeatedly billed the Clinton Campaign for his work on the Russian Bank-1 allegations.”
The filing showed that the Tech Executive and Sussmann met and talked to another law partner, who was serving as General Counsel to the Clinton campaign. That attorney, sources said, is Marc Elias, who worked at the law firm Perkins Coie.
In his response to the Sussmann legal team filing to strike not just the “factual background” but to dismiss the charge against their client, Durham said there is “no basis” for a court to grant the request, noting that the background is “central to proving” Sussmann’s “alleged criminal conduct.”
He also noted that some of that was essential to laying out the potential conflicts that were the central point of his Feb. 11 filing.
“As an initial matter, defense counsel has presumed the Government’s bad faith and asserts the Special Counsel’s Office intentionally sought to politicize this case, inflame media coverage, and taint the jury pool,” Durham’s filing said.
“That is simply not true,” he states, noting that his Feb. 11 filing “included two paragraphs of limited additional factual detail in its Motion for valid and straightforward reasons.”
“First, those paragraphs reflect conduct that is intertwined with, and part of, events that are central to proving the defendant’s alleged criminal conduct,” Durham wrote.
“Second, the Government included these paragraphs to apprise the Court of the factual basis for one of the potential conflicts described in the Government’s Motion, namely, that a member of the defense team was working for the Executive Office of the President of the United States (“EOP”) during relevant events that involved the EOP,” Durham wrote.
“If third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the Government’s Motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the Government’s inclusion of this information,” he added.
“In light of the above, there is no basis to strike any portion of the Government’s Motion,” Durham wrote, noting further that the government will be filing motions in which it will “further discuss these and other pertinent facts to explain why they constitute relevant and admissible evidence at trial.”