A federal judge has limited evidence that purports to show a “joint venture” that included the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign and tried to discredit her rival Donald Trump for colluding with Russia.
There were wins and losses on both sides as a result of the ruling in the case against Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for the campaign who did not disclose his clients to the FBI when he tried to connect Trump to Russia-owned Alpha Bank via a now-discredited back channel.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, appointed by former President Barack Obama, wrote in the 24-page ruling that Sussmann “is not charged with a conspiracy” and that the court was not too interested in going through the intensive process it would take to establish that Sussmann, the Clinton campaign, Clinton campaign general counsel and Perkins Coie partner Marc Elias, the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, Joffe, and several computer researchers working at Joffe’s direction were all involved in the effort.
“Moreover, while the Special Counsel has proffered some evidence of a collective effort to disseminate the purported link between Trump and Alfa Bank to the press and others, the contours of this venture and its participants are not entirely obvious,” the judge claimed. “The Court is particularly skeptical that the researchers — who were not employed by Mr. Joffe, Fusion GPS, or the Clinton Campaign, and most of whom never communicated with Mr. Sussmann — shared in this common goal.”
Emails not allowed
Durham was seeking to get emails into evidence that established the connections between the parties, but those will not now be allowed to enter the case.
The ruling was not completely in Sussmann’s favor, however, and Cooper seemed open to seeing where the evidence goes.
“The government may attempt to connect the dots between the various participants in the collection and use of the Alfa Bank data … But as it stands now, the government must steer clear of evidence regarding the accuracy of the data, which the defense does not plan to place at issue, and whether Mr. Joffe’s role in the collection effort was somehow ‘objectionable’ or illegal,” Cooper ruled. “Nor will the Court conduct a time-consuming and largely unnecessary mini-trial to determine the existence and scope of an uncharged conspiracy to develop and disseminate the Alfa Bank data.”
The FBI, the CIA, special counsel Robert Mueller, a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, and Durham’s team have all expressed or shown that the Trump-Alpha Bank link is dubious at best, if not outright false.
Cooper wrote that concealing the involvement of the Clinton campaign gave Sussmann a motive for denying to the FBI that he was working for a client in disseminating the information.
The defense in the case plans to argue that “Mr. Joffe obtained and analyzed the relevant data independently of Mr. Sussmann and the Clinton Campaign,” Cooper said.
Cooper said, “The jury is entitled to hear both these narratives. The parties may therefore bring out otherwise admissible trial evidence supporting their competing theories regarding the gathering and use of the data. Permissible areas of inquiry include how the data came into being and who was involved in its collection and analysis, as well as how Mr. Sussmann came to possess the data, what he did with it, and why.”
The case against Sussmann seems to be pretty airtight, but will it show that Clinton knew anything about what was going on? That’s the important thing, it seems.