In a blow to former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann’s case, brought by Special Counsel John Durham, a federal judge has denied Sussmann’s request to “strike” portions of Durham’s Feb. 11 filing.
Among the items Sussmann’s legal team wants to go is Durham’s “Factual Background” section, which the defense claims would “taint” potential jurors.
“I’m not going to strike anything from the record,” said U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Christopher Cooper during a Thursday status hearing. “Whatever effect the filing has had has already passed.”
In the filing, Durham accused Sussmann of trying to connect then-candidate Donald Trump to Russia-based Alfa Bank with information gleaned from a tech executive and passed to two government agencies.
Durham's filing Feb. 11, "Factual Background," reveals that Sussman "had assembled&conveyed the allegations to FBI on behalf of at least two clients, including a tech executive (Tech Exe1)at a U.S.-based internet comp (Internet Comp1)&the Clinton campaignhttps://t.co/Ri1coUpaid pic.twitter.com/UPsZX3XqxR
— Hiding In Lying Jacks Beard (@4JOC1) February 16, 2022
The exec, who has since come forward and revealed himself to be Rodney Joffe, is neither named in Durham’s file nor has he been charged with any crime. However, Durham does claim that he, Sussmann, and associates “‘exploited’ internet traffic about a ‘particular healthcare provider,’ Trump Tower, Trump’s Central Park West apartment building and the Executive Office of the President of the United States” to push the Trump-Russia narrative, according to Fox News.
Durham points to billing records and claims Sussmann “repeatedly billed the Clinton campaign for his work” on crafting the Alfa Bank inferences.
For Sussman’s legal team, Durham’s filing constitutes “prejudicial” and “false” information. Durham’s document, they argue, did “more than simply file a document identifying potential conflicts of interest.”
“Rather,” Sussmann’s attorneys claim, “the special counsel has again made a filing in this case that unnecessarily includes prejudicial — and false — allegations that are irrelevant to his motion and to the charged offense, and are plainly intended to politicize this case, inflame media coverage and taint the jury pool.”
In a separate filing, Durham defended the inclusion of the facts in question, arguing they are “central to proving” Sussman’s “alleged criminal conduct.”
Though Judge Cooper may have agreed with Durham, he did indicate that he is tired of the drama surrounding this case, stating the current exchange struck him “as a sideshow,” according to the Washington Examiner.
“I extend the presumption of good faith to all counsel, especially the government counsel,” Cooper said. “For that and other reasons, I’m not going to strike from the record. First, I’m not in a position to assign ill motives. Second, much if not all of the challenged material will likely be coming out anyway. And finally, whatever effect the filing has had has passed, and striking it will not un-ring the bell and probably will make the bell ring even louder.”
Ringing bells aside, Cooper did not think Durham’s information was necessary.
“I agree with the defense that it was not necessary for me, let alone Mr. Sussmann, to understand the potential conflicts. … I didn’t need any of that ancillary information to do that. … So I don’t understand why the information was included,” the judge said.
“This particular dustup strikes me as a sideshow, in a sense,” Cooper concluded, adding that “the factual record could’ve been a consent motion agreed to by both sides, and we could’ve done it in 20 minutes in a status conference.”
At the heart of Durham’s original indictment of Sussmann is an alleged 2016 lie Sussmann told to then-FBI General Counsel James Baker while attempting to link the Trump Organization to Kremlin-tied Alfa Bank via a “covert communications channel.” With the 2016 Presidential election less than two months away, Durham claims, Sussmann told Baker he wasn’t working “for any client” when, in fact, he was working at the behest of candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Another hearing on the matter is set for March 31.
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