August 9, 2022

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Michael Sussman: The jury begins deliberations in the trial of Hillary Clinton’s ex-lawyer

Michael Sussman: The jury begins deliberations in the trial of Hillary Clinton's ex-lawyer

Sussman is charged with one count of making a false statement to the FBI. The 12-member jury, made up of seven women and five men and including five people of color, deliberated for about four hours on Friday before leaving for the three-day weekend.

During closing arguments, special prosecutors said there was “compelling” evidence that Sussman “hidden” his connections to the Clinton campaign and hid his work under the guise of cybersecurity to promote a baseless insinuation between Trump and Russia for the FBI.

“It was not a matter of national security,” Prosecutor Jonathan Algor told the jury. It was about advancing opposition research on opposition candidate Donald Trump.”

Prosecutors allege that Sussman lied to then-FBI General Counsel James Baker on September 19, 2016, while passing information on possible links between the Trump Organization and Alpha Bank, which is linked to the Kremlin. Sussman is accused of falsely telling Baker that he was not there on behalf of any client, even though, according to Durham, he was there on behalf of Clinton. (The FBI found no illicit activity after a four-month investigation.)

The case is the first major courtroom test for Durham, the Trump-era attorney general who spent three years searching for misconduct in the FBI’s Russia investigation, but failed to deliver the indictments Trump predicted.

A conviction may bolster Durham’s credibility, while an acquittal could acquit his critics, who say he is conducting a politicized investigation into flimsy theories.

Sussman’s lawyers accused Durham on Friday of trying to “mislead” a jury by training and coercing witnesses to obtain a conviction in a case that “makes no sense whatsoever” and “should not have been brought” in the first place.

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“The time for political conspiracy theories is over,” defense attorney Sean Berkowitz said during closing arguments. “It’s time to talk about the evidence.”

He alleged that Durham “attempted to break” a key witness by threatening prosecution, and picked up a large trove of emails and government documents to fit his case against Sussman.

“Any evidence that doesn’t fit their theory of tunnel vision, they ignore,” Berkowitz said.

He also refuted the prosecution’s focus on “opposition research” during his closing remarks, which showed meticulously how Sussman worked with Clinton’s top campaign attorney and campaign-funded researchers to collect and disseminate anti-Trump material to the media.

“Opposition research is not illegal,” Berkowitz said. “If that were the case, Washington, D.C. prisons would be overcrowded.”

Sussman, who has pleaded not guilty, could face up to five years in prison if convicted, although there is no guarantee he will spend any time behind bars and likely receive a lower sentence as a first-time offender.

The two-week trial reconsidered many of the most Controversial moments From the 2016 presidential election, witness testimony from two senior Clinton campaign officials, and a group of senior FBI and Justice Department officials who handled the Trump and Russia investigation.