Michael Sussmann’s trial for lying to the FBI in regards to the debunked Alfa Bank story targeting Donald Trump has featured several twists and turns. Earlier in the proceedings, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager, Robby Mook, admitted that the failed presidential candidate had personally agreed to the dissemination of the disinformation.
After years of obfuscation, that represented the first direct connection to Clinton, who has long presented herself as an innocent bystander, just sharing what she saw in the news. But while she personally agreed with giving the Alfa Bank story to reporters, the next question was whether she also gave her stamp of approval to giving it to the FBI?
That’s where Michael Sussmann comes in. While he denied working on behalf of any client when he took the disinformation to the FBI, Special Counsel John Durham brought the literal receipts on Tuesday, proving that he had billed Clinton on that very same day for a “confidential project.”
Government prosecutors on Wednesday presented the jury with Michael Sussmann’s billing records, which they say prove he charged the Hillary Clinton campaign for his meeting with then-FBI General Counsel James Baker where he shared allegations of a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank.
The prosecution’s final witness was Kori Arsenault, a paralegal with Special Counsel John Durham’s office. Arsenault worked on much of the government’s exhibits and helped to explain the records to the jury.
The prosecution on Wednesday morning produced the record from Perkins Coie that they say proves the law firm billed “Hillary for America” for the meeting Sussmann had with Baker at FBI headquarters on Sept. 19, 2016.
On the bill, also dated Sept. 19, 2016, the Clinton campaign is listed as the client, the time is listed as 3.3 hours, and the memo states: “work and communications regarding confidential project.”
The short view of this is that it pretty clearly indicates that Sussmann was, in fact, working for Clinton when he went to the FBI. The bill is for a specific amount of time on the same day that the meeting in question took place. That would seem to confirm that he did lie to then-General Counsel James Baker when he pretended to be a concerned third party and not a political operative. Further, it shows that Clinton herself, as the leader of her campaign, didn’t just approve the false story going to the media, but also to the FBI.
The long view of this is that it’s another direct link to Clinton herself. I’ve long maintained that Sussmann’s prosecution is just a building block. In proving that Sussmann delivered false information to the FBI on behalf of the Clinton campaign, Durham can now work backward to the origination of the plot. Further, he can move the other way as well, targeting FBI officials who knowingly participated in the plot. At least one such investigation is already underway. Sussmann, being the one who brought Clinton and the FBI together, is the first shoe that must drop.
There’s a lot more left to come as the defense makes its counter. Further, with a jury stacked in Sussmann’s favor, including a juror who donated to Clinton and another that says they can’t be impartial regarding Donald Trump, there’s just no way to predict how this will turn out. Durham could do everything right and still not be able to secure a conviction. Still, the evidence that the Clinton campaign hatched a false conspiracy theory and fed it to the FBI for political gain is overwhelming.