WASHINGTON. When the special attorney accused a prominent cybersecurity lawyer of lying to the FBI during a September 2016 meeting about Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia, the indictment was lengthy, but direct evidence seemed sparse.
The indictment said that attorney Michael A. Sussmann made a false statement by telling the FBI officer that he did not represent the client when submitting information. Mr Sassmann, who pleaded not guilty, denies this. There was no one else, and their conversation was not recorded, so direct and clearly admissible evidence seemed to boil down to a single witness.
Additional evidence that was not on the indictment began to surface this week in the public eye – one of which appears to coincide with the indictment against Mr Sussmann brought forward by special attorney John H. Durham, who was appointed during the Trump administration, in while several others seem to contradict this.
The material was published in court documents and at a status meeting in front of a judge on Wednesday.
It is unclear whether all newly disclosed evidence will be admissible. But the clash between prosecutors and lawyers could provide a preliminary glimpse into aspects of the trial, which they said Wednesday will last about two weeks, and Judge Christopher R. Cooper said it could begin in May or early June.
While the accusation against Mr Sussmann is narrow, it has received considerable political attention in part because Mr Durham concluded that Hillary Clinton’s campaign helped allay suspicions that a possible secret connection between computer servers linked to Mr Trump, and Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank. The FBI found the suspicions unfounded.
Accusing Mr. Sussmann of having told the FBI official – James A. Baker, then the bureau’s general counsel – that he had no clients, Mr. Durham argued that Mr. Sussmann actually represented technology and the Clinton campaign. Mr Sussmann, through his lawyers, denied that he had told Mr Baker that he had no client, while claiming that he was there only on behalf of the executive branch and not on behalf of the campaign.
One of the recently released evidence, described in the documentation of Mr. Durham’s group on Tuesday night, consists of handwritten notes from an FBI attorney with whom Mr. Baker spoke about the meeting that day. The Durham dossier is quoted as saying that the footnotes say “no specific client.”
This testimony is similar to a different set of handwritten notes previously quoted in the indictment by another FBI officer who also spoke to Mr. Baker after the meeting. In the indictment, these notes include Mr. Sussmann’s name, then a dash, then the name of his law firm, then a dash, and then the words “don’t do this for any client.”
It is unclear whether such tapes – or the testimony of the FBI officers who recorded them – would be admissible in court under complex evidentiary rules. These rules usually prohibit statements made out of court as hearsay, but make exceptions that can be interpreted by judges.
The indictment also said that in February 2017, Mr. Sussmann met with the CIA and expressed similar and related concerns, citing a memorandum following a meeting between two agency employees, which said that he “does not represent a specific client.” Mr. Durham portrayed this as evidence that Mr. Sussmann repeated a false statement.
But at Wednesday’s hearing, Mr Sussmann’s lawyer, Sean Berkowitz, cited evidence handed over by prosecutors last week that skews that picture, suggesting that he may have told them instead that he had a client.
According to Mr. Berkowitz, emails from agency staff prior to the meeting included statements such as “Sussmann said he was representing a client who didn’t want to be known about him” and “the plan should be to convince Sussmann that that it is in his interest and in the interest of his client. contact the FBI, ”he said,“ the agency’s draft memorandum after the meeting also mentions that Mr. Sussmann has a client.
Durham’s prosecutor, Andrew DePhillippeys, told the judge that “although we are, you know, not interested in full discussion of the facts in court,” an agency official noticed a reference to the client in the draft memorandum. and “corrected” it for the final version. Mr. De Phillipis did not mention the client in earlier emails.
The revelations follow a statement to court on Monday by Mr Sussmann’s defense team that revealed conflicting things Mr Baker said under oath about a key engagement during interviews with the Department of Justice that Mr Durham’s team brought them to light. last week.
In 2019 and 2020 interviews, Mr Baker recalled this interaction in two different ways, each of which contradicted the indictment’s version. In the first, he said that Mr. Sussmann told him that the cyber experts who developed Alfa Bank’s theory “were his clients.” In the second, he said that Mr. Sussmann never said if he represented anyone, and Mr. Baker did not ask, but assumed that he did not have a client.
In a court record on Tuesday, Mr. Durham’s team accused the defense of “careful selection” of evidence and “distorted portrayal.”
The 2019 and 2020 interviews “took place years after the events in question, and Mr. Baker made these statements before he had the opportunity to refresh his memories with contemporary or near-simultaneous recordings,” they said, adding that he has since “Confirmed and then reaffirmed his now clear recollection of the defendant’s false testimony.”