Former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann was acquitted Tuesday of lying to the FBI when he fed it false information about supposed “collusion” between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia during the 2016 campaign.
Sussmann gave the FBI data that had been produced by researchers working with the campaign and that purported to link Trump to Russia via Alfa Bank. The accusation was soon found to be groundless, but was part of the overall “Russia collusion” conspiracy theory that the Clinton campaign used to smear Trump during the campaign and after his victory.
Sussmann was accused of presenting himself to the FBI as a concerned citizen, when he was working for Clinton. The jury included up to three donors to Hillary Clinton, and the Obama-appointed judge narrowly limited prosecutors’ evidence.
The defense argued that even if Sussmann was found to have given the FBI inaccurate information about his motivations, the lie was immaterial to the investigation that followed. Durham argued that the FBI protected Sussman’s sources as a result of the alleged lie, and that investigators would not have pursued the Alfa Bank tip had they known the source of the data.
Observers agreed that the evidence against Sussmann was convincing, but that he might prevail based on “jury nullification” — an effort by the jury to reject the charges, regardless of guilt, because of their political sympathies with the defendant.
Columnist Byron York of the Washington Examiner observed in the hours before the verdict was delivered on Tuesday:
There is no doubt Sussmann lied to the FBI. There is no doubt he is guilty. But the trial is taking place in Washington, perhaps the deepest-blue jury pool in the United States. Durham’s prosecutors are “facing a jury that has three Clinton donors, an AOC donor, and a woman whose daughter is on the same sports team as Sussmann’s daughter,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said recently on Fox News. “With the exception of randomly selecting people out of DNC headquarters, you could not come up with a worse jury.”
So those are two major revelations from the Sussmann trial: Elements in and around the Clinton campaign sought to weaponize the FBI, and the FBI welcomed the effort — all in the name of defeating the Republican nominee for president.
So the Clinton strategy worked. No, it did not make Clinton president of the U.S. The voters just did not want that. But it did enormous damage to the Trump presidency and the Trump administration.
The acquittal is a defeat for Special Counsel John H. Durham, who was appointed to investigate the “Russia collusion” hoax, which was created by the Clinton campaign, took root in the FBI, and undermined the incoming Trump administration.
Still, Durham succeeded in revealing that Clinton herself personally approved the leak of the Alfa Bank hoax to the media. The Alfa Bank hoax was intended as an “October surprise” to damage Trump in the days before voters headed to the polls.
Durham’s investigation will continue, and in October he will prosecute Igor Danchenko, a researcher who allegedly was the source for former British spy Christopher Steele, who worked for Fusion GPS to produce the fraudulent “Russia dossier” on Trump. The Sussmann trial confirmed that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid Fusion GPS, through Democrat election lawyer Marc Elias. However, Durham’s ability to obtain further indictments may be limited.