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WASHINGTON DC- Special Counsel John Durham’s team delivered closing arguments at Michael Sussmann’s trial on Friday morning, saying the evidence “proved beyond a reasonable doubt” that Sussmann made a false statement to the FBI. Sussman had said he was not reporting denied allegations of a secret communications channel between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank in the office on behalf of a client, when in fact he had billed the presidential campaign for ‘Hillary Clinton for her time and work on the issue.
Federal prosecutor Jonathan Algor delivered the government’s closing argument on Friday morning, presenting their final case to the jury.
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Sussmann was charged with one count of making a false statement to the FBI when he met with FBI General Counsel James Baker on September 19, 2016. The government alleges that Sussmann told Baker that he did not carry any allegations linking candidate Donald at the time. Trump to the Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank on behalf of any client, but rather as a citizen concerned about national security.
Sussmann pleaded not guilty to the charge.
But the government has argued that billing records, testimony and other written evidence prove that Sussmann billed the Clinton campaign for its work on the issue, and said throughout the trial that he billed the Clinton campaign for the FBI meeting.
“The evidence has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant Michael Sussmann made a false statement to the FBI,” Algor said. “Defendant used his privilege as a top Washington attorney, former DOJ prosecutor…to circumvent normal channels and expedite a meeting with the FBI General Counsel.”
“He knew he had to hide his connection to the Clinton campaign and to Rodney Joffe,” Algor said. “He knew that if he told Baker he was there on behalf of the Clinton campaign, the chances of an FBI investigation would be diminished.”
Algor went on to point out that the allegations were “not about national security” but about “researching the opposition against candidate Donald Trump.”
Algor laid out the misrepresentation charge, alleging that Sussmann’s statement to Baker at the meeting was the misrepresentation, saying evidence shows the statement was “false when it was made and he knew it was fake”.
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Algor referred to the “materiality” of the misrepresentation, saying jurors are required to decide whether Sussmann’s misrepresentation was capable of influencing the FBI.
“The government is not required to prove that the statement influenced the FBI, only that it could have influenced the FBI,” Algor told jurors.
“How do we know it was important?” Algor asked. “Baker said he didn’t know if he would have taken the meeting if he had known. [Sussmann was representing the Clinton campaign].”
Algor pointed to Baker’s testimony, in which he said he would have suspended the investigation, consulted with FBI management, and invited others to attend the meeting with Sussmann on September 19, 2016, due to the fact that it took place “a month and a half before the presidential election.”
Algor reminded the jury that a government witness, former FBI agent Allison Sands, had also raised concerns, saying she would have wanted to know the “motives”.
Algor presented a number of billing records and emails to the jury on Friday, beginning July 29, 2016 and continuing through October 2016, revealing that Sussmann had repeatedly billed the Clinton campaign for work on the research. opposition of Alfa Bank against Trump.
The government also reminded jurors of a key text message Sussmann sent to Baker the day before his FBI meeting on Sept. 19, 2016. Durham’s team alleges Sussmann put his “lie in writing” in his Sept. September 2016 at Baker. .
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The text message read: “Jim – this is Michael Sussmann. I have something urgent (and sensitive) that I need to discuss,” the text message said, according to Durham. “Are you available for a short meeting tomorrow? I come alone – not on behalf of a client or company – I want to help the Bureau. Thank you.”
Baker replied, “OK. I’ll find a moment. What might work for you?”
Algor on Friday said the text message contained “43 words” and said “20” of those words were “a lie”.
“The defendant’s own words, his own actions, are damning,” Algor said. “The evidence has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Sussmann made a false statement to the FBI.”
“You should return the only verdict supported by the evidence in this case – guilty,” Algor concluded.
Sussmann decided not to testify for his defense, and his defense began delivering closing arguments Friday morning.
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