Jury deliberations began on Friday in the trial of former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, and according to the prosecution’s closing argument, the government has “proven beyond a reasonable doubt” that the attorney lied to the FBI and therefore, the only possible verdict is one of guilt, as Fox News reports.
The case is the first to come out of Special Counsel John Durham’s probe of the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, and in it, Sussmann is accused of falsely claiming that he was not working on behalf of any specific client when he brought claims of Trump links to a Russian bank to the FBI when in reality, he billed the Clinton campaign for time spent on the matter.
Closing arguments delivered
Once it became clear on Friday that Sussmann himself would not exercise his right to take the stand in his defense, Durham’s prosecutors as well as the defense team delivered their closing arguments to the jury.
As Politico noted, the government explained to the jury that the proof of Sussmann’s guilt in the matter presented in the case was “overwhelming,” with prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis even declaring, “There are sometimes close cases. This is not even close to a close case.”
Jonathan Algor, also part of the prosecution team, told the jury, “[t]he evidence has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Michael Sussmann made a false statement to the FBI,” adding, “[t]he defendant used his privilege as a high-powered Washington lawyer, a former [Justice Department] prosecutor…to bypass normal channels and expedite a meeting with the FBI general counsel.”
Algor emphasized Sussmann’s motive for the false statement of which he stands accused, saying, “He knew he had to conceal his connection to the Clinton campaign. He knew if he told [former FBI General Counsel James] Baker he was there on behalf of the Clinton campaign, the chances of an FBI investigation would be diminished.”
Contrary to the defense team’s assertion, Algor argued, Sussmann’s involvement “wasn’t about national security. It was about promoting opposition research against the opposition candidate Donald Trump,” and in closing, implored the jury to “return the only verdict supported by the evidence in this case – guilty.”
Defense claims “misdirection”
When Sussmann’s lawyers made their final arguments to the jury, they claimed their client was a victim of prosecutorial “misdirection” and evidence that was little more than “smoke and mirrors,” the Daily Wire noted.
Sussmann was then described by his legal team as “a serious national security lawyer who received what he believed to be credible data from a world-leading DNS expert,” a reference to Rodney Joffe, a tech executive Sussmann also represented.
Defense counsel Sean Berkowitz contended that “[t]he special counsel’s office bought a snow-making machine and blew that over the lawn, and they want you to think it snowed,” and declared, “Opposition research is not illegal. If it were, the jails of Washington, D.C. would be teeming over.”
Tip of the iceberg?
As “overwhelming” as the prosecution believes the evidence against Sussmann to be, reporting from the trial’s initial days revealed that the jury in the case contains upwards of three former Clinton donors, and court watchers such as law professor Jonathan Turley have suggested that the heavily liberal Washington pool from which jurors were drawn may significantly reduce the chances of conviction.
Even so, the Sussmann trial succeeded in yielding damning evidence from high-profile Democrat operatives that Mrs. Clinton herself approved the dissemination of materials supposedly substantiating a later-debunked Trump-Russia connection despite knowledge of real doubts about their reliability. A guilty verdict against Sussman, if obtained, will hopefully be just the beginning of Durham’s methodical exposure of the truth behind her involvement in one of the worst political dirty tricks in American history.