Did something very sleazy occur this week in the trial of former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann?
As we know, Sussmann is accused of making a false statement to the FBI on Sept. 19, 2016, by telling agents he wasn’t representing any client when he presented evidence to them alleging a link between Donald Trump and Russian firm Alfa Bank — a connection which turned out to be completely bogus. FBI agents found no evidence that such a communication channel existed, but Sussmann lied to federal agents when he claimed he was presenting the dirt on Trump on his own behalf as a concerned citizen. Sussmann was, in fact, employed by the Hillary Clinton campaign at the time.
Sussmann’s trial began this week, and things are clearly not going well for him. On Wednesday, his lawyers filed a motion to declare a mistrial after Marc Elias testified.
What caused them to do this? During cross-examination, Sussmann’s attorney Sean Berkowitz asked Elias if Sussmann had relayed the bogus dirt on Trump to the FBI on behalf of the Clinton campaign.
“To your knowledge, did Mr. Sussmann go to the FBI on Sept. 19th on behalf of the [Hillary for America] campaign?” Berkowitz asked.
“I think you’d have to ask Mr. Sussmann,” Elias replied. ” I mean, as far as I — I mean, I don’t know. From my standpoint, I would say no. But, like — ‘on behalf of’ [is] kind of a subjective intent thing.”
It was a remarkable response from Elias and naturally caught the attention of the prosecution, which questioned Elias on that statement under further questioning.
“Mr. Elias, I think when Mr. Berkowitz asked you about on whose behalf Mr. Sussmann may have gone to the FBI for that Sept. 19th meeting, you indicated that that’s something that would be in Mr. Sussmann’s knowledge,” Durham prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis began. The defense objected to the question, and the judge sustained it.
“How did you respond when you were asked about whether Mr. Sussmann went to the FBI on behalf of the campaign?” DeFilippis asked again.
After another defense objection was sustained, DeFilippis then asked, “What is the best way to determine what — on whose behalf an attorney is spending his time other than by asking them?”
“I was going to say, ask him,” Elias replied.
This exchange later prompted Sussmann’s legal team to request a mistrial. Sussmann’s attorneys argued that the prosecutor’s questions were “improper” and “directly suggested to the jury that in order to answer a key question in this case … Mr. Sussmann would need to testify,” which the defense has yet to make a decision on.
“Commenting, either directly or indirectly, on a defendant’s decision to testify or not testify is entirely improper,” Sussmann’s defense team argued.
But it wasn’t the prosecution that first made this suggestion — it was Elias, under defense questioning. Nor did Sussman’s attorneys move to strike the testimony at the time. One can’t help but wonder if the defense’s efforts to obtain a mistrial was a deliberate setup by Marc Elias, Sussmann’s former partner at Perkins Coie.
Elias is a well-known Democrat lawyer, who for sure had to know Sussmann’s defense team might invoke the 5th amendment in order to keep Sussmann from testifying. Also, Elias made the comments while being cross-examined by the defense, in response to a very direct question. Did Sussmann’s team know what Elias was going to do?
The request for a mistrial was denied.
Are Sussmann’s lawyers so desperate that they would attempt such a scheme? I think the answer is obvious. They have been trying to get the case against him dismissed, without success. They claimed that the charges against him were not only false but that they were based on an unsubstantiated verbal statement. Last month, however, Durham released smoking gun evidence — a text message Sussmann sent to an FBI agent repeating the false claim that he wasn’t working on behalf of a client.
Having previously failed to get the charges dismissed, Sussmann’s lawyers then fought Durham’s efforts to secure documents from the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign that they claimed were protected by attorney-client privilege.
Sussmann’s team desperately hoped to avoid a trial and has made a series of Hail Mary attempts to protect their client. Marc Elias is a known sleazebag whose legal practice goes hand-in-hand with his left-wing activism.
I think there’s no doubt Marc Elias knew what he was doing — the question is, was Sussmann’s legal team in on it?