A lawyer representing Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign was cleared Tuesday of lying to FBI about information he provided that would have led to suspicions regarding Donald Trump and Russia.
The case against Michael Sussmann represented John Durham's first courtroom trial since his three-year-old appointment to investigate government misconduct in the investigation into possible ties between Russia, Trump and the 2016 campaign.
This verdict is a setback for Durham's efforts, particularly since Trump supporters look to the probe as a way to expose the egregious bias of law enforcement officers who investigated Trump's campaign. This verdict will raise questions about the cost of the investigation and the purpose of Durham's criminal cases. It is especially concerning since Durham's three criminal cases so far have not been able to establish any conspiracy to frame Trump, or to derail his candidacy.
Sussmann spoke to reporters outside the courthouse following the delivery of the verdict. He stated that he had "told truth to FBI" and that the jury recognized this with their unanimous verdict today.
Before reaching its verdict, the jury deliberated for many hours on Friday afternoon and Tuesday morning.
He said, "Despite being falsely charged, I am relieved to see that justice prevailed in the case."
Durham stated that he and his team were disappointed by the verdict, but they respect the decision of the jury. Durham thanked his investigators and prosecutors for their "dedicated efforts to seek truth and justice in this matter."
The trial was narrowed to one issue: whether Sussmann (a cybersecurity attorney and former federal procuror) concealed from the FBI that Clinton was his campaign's representative when he sent computer data that showed a possible backchannel of secret communication between Russia's Alfa Bank and Trump Organization.
The FBI was already investigating possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia. They quickly reviewed the data, but found no suspicious computer contact.
James Baker, the FBI's former-general counsel and star witness, testified that he was confident that Sussmann had informed him that he wasn't representing any client at a September 2016 meeting.
Prosecutors claimed that Sussmann was acting for the Clinton campaign and another client (a technology executive) and that he concealed that information to make it more credible and increase the chance of having the FBI investigate. They pointed out a text message Sussmann had sent Baker the night before, in which he asked for a sit down and stated that he would be attending on his own and not for any client.
Jurors were not told by lawyers for Sussmann that Baker lied. They claimed it was impossible to determine with certainty what Baker said in the meeting, as they were the only participants.