WASHINGTON, D.C. – Special Counsel John Durham has petitioned a federal judge on March 4 to deny a motion brought by attorneys representing former lawyer Michael Sussmann to dismiss charges that he lied to FBI agents about his connection to the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and was possibly responsible for “influencing the FBI’s decision to initiate” the Trump-Russia investigation.
Sussmann was indicted in September 2021 over allegations that he lied to the FBI in 2016 when he had given evidence of a back channel link between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank with ties to the Kremlin; while claiming to represent himself only, prosecutors allege Sussman was actually presenting the evidence on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and an unnamed executive at a major tech company.
Sussmann has pleaded not guilty to making a false statement to a federal agent.
However, attorneys representing Sussmann in February asked U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell to dismiss the charges against their client, saying that he did not make any false statements to the FBI, and that the statement that is alleged to be false is “about an entirely ancillary matter” and is “immaterial as a matter of law.”
“Allowing this case to go forward would risk criminalizing ordinary conduct, raise First Amendment concerns, dissuade honest citizens from coming forward with tips, and chill the advocacy of lawyers who interact with the government,” Sussmann’s lawyers stated in court documents. “The Special Counsel’s unprecedented and unlawful overreach should not be countenanced, and the single count against Mr. Sussmann should be dismissed.”
Durham’s legal team – via a March 4th court filing of their own – stated that that the judge should not grant Sussmann’s legal representation’s demand for a dismissal, claiming that the defendant deliberately misled the FBI in order to negatively impact Donald Trump’s campaign.
“The defendant’s false statement to the FBI General Counsel was plainly material because it misled the General Counsel about, among other things, the critical fact that the defendant was disseminating highly explosive allegations about a then-Presidential candidate on behalf of two specific clients, one of which was the opposing Presidential campaign,” Durham’s team said. “The defendant’s efforts to mislead the FBI in this manner during the height of a Presidential election season plainly could have influenced the FBI’s decision-making in any number of ways.”
The decision is now up to Judge Howell whether the case against Sussmann shall proceed or not.