WASHINGTON, DC – Michael Sussmann, who was accused of lying to FBI agents about his connection to the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, was acquitted by a jury on Tuesday, seemingly throwing a temporary wrench into the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel John Durham into the origins of the now-debunked investigation into collusion between former President Donald Trump and Russian officials.
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, Durham’s team alleged Sussman was actually presenting the evidence on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and an unnamed executive at a major tech company.
Sussmann had pleaded not guilty to a single count of making a false statement to a federal agent; after a two week trial and over one day of deliberations, the jury found that prosecutors had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Sussmann lied to the FBI about working for Clinton’s presidential campaign when he approached agents with evidence purporting the connection between Trump and Russia.
Sussmann issued a statement after the jury’s verdict, claiming that he had been accused falsely by Durham.
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“I told the truth to the FBI, and the Jury clearly recognized this in their unanimous verdict today,” he said. “I’m grateful to the members of the jury for their careful thoughtful service. Despite being falsely accused I believe that Justice ultimately prevailed in my case. As you can imagine this has been a difficult year for my family and me. But right now we are grateful for the love and support of so many during this ordeal.”
Durham, in turn, also issued a statement, saying that he was “disappointed” with the decision, and expressed appreciation for his team that had led the prosecution of Sussmann.
“While we are disappointed in the outcome, we respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their service,” Durham said. “I also want to recognize and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case.”
Some experts felt that Sussmann’s acquittal was not surprising, given that the trial was held in Washington D.C. – a deeply-blue region – and, according to the Washington Examiner, multiple jurors in the case had ties to the Democratic party, or had publicly expressed “dislike” for Trump.
“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,” the outlet reported. “With the exception of randomly selecting people out of DNC headquarters, you could not come up with a worse jury.”
Durham was appointed in 2019 by then-Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate the origins of the FBI’s original investigation into the Trump campaign; his next case in that regard is the upcoming October prosecution of Igor Danchenko, the man who was the main source for information in former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s so-called “Steele Dossier,” documents containing allegations of wrongdoing against Trump that have since been discredited.
In March, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) fined the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for lying about payments that went towards Steele’s debunked dossier.