Court Battles

Lawyer indicted in Durham probe asks court to dismiss charge

A lawyer who faces a criminal charge stemming from special counsel John Durham’s probe into the FBI’s investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign on Thursday asked a federal judge to dismiss the case against him. 

Michael Sussmann requested the dismissal of his single criminal count of making a false statement to the FBI, calling it in court papers “a case of extraordinary prosecutorial overreach.”

“Allowing this case to go forward would risk criminalizing ordinary conduct, raise First Amendment concerns, dissuade honest citizens from coming forward with tips, and chill the advocacy of lawyers who interact with the government,” Sussmann argued in a 29-page motion to dismiss filed in a Washington, D.C.-based federal court.

Sussmann, a national security attorney, pleaded not guilty following his indictment in September accusing him of lying during a 2016 meeting with a top FBI lawyer concerning the Trump Organization’s alleged links to a Russian bank. 

Durham has alleged that Sussmann hid his relationship with the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — the main political rival of then-candidate Trump — when he presented the FBI with findings from a cybersecurity firm alleging suspicious internet activity between Trump’s business and the Russian bank.

The FBI later concluded there was insufficient evidence to establish that a secret back-channel existed between the two entities.  

In his Thursday dismissal request, Sussmann again denied any wrongdoing related to his September 2016 meeting with James Baker, then-general counsel of the FBI, arguing that both the FBI and Baker knew the political nature of his work, given their awareness that Sussmann counted the Democratic National Committee among his clientele.   

Sussmann also argued in his filing to U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, an Obama appointee, that his supposed false statement had no legal significance in the FBI’s decision to look into the suspicious cyber activity, since subsequent press reports detailed the same information.

“At the end of the day, Hillary Clinton herself could have publicly handed over the Russian Bank-1 Information and the FBI would still have investigated it,” Sussmann’s filing argued.  

The latest development comes days after Sussmann’s lawyers accused Durham of using the case to amplify a right-wing media narrative depicting Trump as having been unfairly persecuted by law enforcement.

Tags Durham investigation Hillary Clinton John Durham

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