Michael Sussmann trial: Former FBI official takes the stand


(NewsNation) — Jury deliberations are expected soon in the trial of Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer accused of making a false statement to the FBI — a case that’s part of an ongoing special counsel investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.

Sussmann is accused of lying to the FBI by denying that he was representing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign interests and that of another client when he presented information meant to cast suspicions on Donald Trump and possible links to Russia.

The prosecution should wrap up sometime this week and then the defense will move forward with their case.

Prosecutors say that Sussmann lied to the FBI when he shared claims of secret communications between a Trump organization computer server and one belonging to Alfa Bank, the largest private bank in Russia.

Sussmann believed the evidence would support claims of Russian interference in the 2016 election when Trump ran against Clinton.

Prosecutors say when Sussmann met with the FBI, he was asked directly if he was coming forward with the information on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

Sussmann said he told them he was just a concerned citizen and was not acting on behalf of any client when he passed on the information. But Sussmann, who was a lawyer, had done legal work for the Clinton campaign.

Monday’s testimony cast fresh doubt on Sussmann’s claim. Bill Priestap, the now-retired head of the FBI Counterintelligence Division, took the stand, reading from his notes taken around the time of the FBI’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

One note read, ”Michael Sussman … not doing this for any client.”

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook testified Friday that Clinton approved the decision to leak information to the media about a Russian connection to the Trump campaign.

But Mook added that the campaign never approved of anyone going to the FBI.

The FBI investigated those claims and found no evidence of the former president being involved with the Russians.

Trump has long claimed that Clinton and her campaign spied on him during the 2016 election, and many people believe that if Sussmann is in fact found guilty, that in some way will validate the former president’s claims.

A guilty verdict would add fuel to a conspiracy theory that Clinton and her campaign tried to frame Trump as colluding with Russia. 

NewsNation spoke with James Trusty, a former chief of the Department of Justice Organized Crime and Gang section about some of the big questions being asked with this case. 

“I think there’s a lot of people that have been kind of blacked out from the attention of this. And they have finally turned their attention to saying, you know, what, what was going on with the Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign, allegations of Russia collusion, and I think an important part of the puzzle, FBI collusion,” Trusty said. “You know, were the FBI victims of false statements or were they willfully blind or even open-eyed in their approach to accepting this, to use it for political purposes?”

Additionally, NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Monday spoke with Stacy Arruda — a retired FBI special agent — who says if Sussman lied, no matter the reason, he’ll face penalty.

“It is a crime to lie to the FBI and if it’s proven that he did lie, then he would be liable for his actions. It doesn’t matter what the motive was for the lie. That’s the crux of this whole trial: did he or did he not lie, not the reason he lied,” Arruda said on the program.

The jury will have the case, possibly later this week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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