Prosecutors and defense duel in closing arguments for Sussman trial

WASHINGTON – Prosecutors and defense attorneys offered sharply opposing views on Friday in closing arguments for the politically charged trial of Michael Sussman, a cybersecurity attorney associated with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

the case against mr. Sussman includes a narrow charge — an accusation of lying to the FBI at a 2016 meeting — but one fraught with partisan overtones. It’s also a test for the special counsel who brought it on, John H. Durham, because it’s the first case he’s brought to trial since he was appointed three years ago to look into the Trump and Russia investigation for any wrongdoing.

Two prosecutors told the jury that there was no doubt that Mr. Sussman lied to the FBI to conceal its agents – including the Clinton campaign – in a September 2016 meeting, which focused on suspicious data that cybersecurity experts said indicated the possibility of a secret communications channel between Russia and someone close to Donald J. Trump.

“It was not about national security,” said one of the plaintiffs, Jonathan Algor. It was about promoting opposition research against the opposition candidate – Donald Trump.

But defense attorney, Sean M. In fact, Sussman said, whether it was wrong and whether it mattered if it was there on behalf of clients because the FBI would have investigated the information regardless. Each, he said, was a path to creating reasonable doubt and voting for acquittal.

“Mr. Sussman’s freedom is at stake. The time for political conspiracy theories is over. Time to talk about the evidence.”

A verdict is expected on Tuesday.

The case centers on alien internet data discovered by cybersecurity researchers in 2016 after it became public that Russia had hacked Democrats and Mr. Trump encouraged the country to hack into Ms. Clinton emails. The researchers said the data may reflect a secret communications channel that uses servers for the Trump Organization and Alpha Bank, a bank linked to the Kremlin.

The researchers began working with Rodney Joffe, a CTO who was an expert on the kind of internet data they were examining. the master. Goofy brought doubts to mr. Sussman, who at the time represented the Democratic National Committee on matters related to Russia’s hacking of its emails. Partner in Mr. Sussman’s law firm, Mark Elias, was the general counsel for the Clinton campaign.

the master. susman and mr. Arguments at the trial showed that Joffe tried to persuade reporters – including Eric Lichtebleau, then of the New York Times – to write about the matter. the master. Sussman continued to inform Mr. Elias reported on those efforts and discussed the matter with an opposition research firm employed by the Clinton campaign through Mr. called Elias Fusion GPS; The company has drafted a paper on the Kremlin’s relations with Alfa Bank that Mr. Sussman later gave the FBI

the master. Sussman recorded these efforts in the law firm’s billing records with time spent working on the Clinton campaign, Mr. Sussman said. Discover Durham.

in September. 18, 2016, shortly after receiving an email claiming that Mr. Trump was upset by an article related to Russia that was published soon, Mr. Trump. Sussman sent a text message to James A. Baker, the FBI’s general counsel, requested a meeting the next day. He noted that he came not on behalf of any agent, but to help the FBI

the master. Durham team accused mr. Sussman made the same claim when he met the next day with Mr. Baker. In fact, prosecutors say, mr. Sussman was hiding two of his clients – Mr. Goofy and the Clinton campaign.

the master. Algor told the jury Friday that the attempt was a plot to engineer an “October Surprise,” meaning a game-changing discovery late in the campaign, by having the FBI open an investigation so reporters could write about it.

The FBI – which has already opened its investigation to examine possible ties between Mr.’s associates. Trump and Russia for other reasons – briefly considered the suspicions of Alfa Bank and quickly dismissed them.

In late October, Slate published an article on the matter, but did not mention any FBI investigation. On the same day, The Times published an article co-written by Mr. Lichtblau who mentioned the suspicions of Alfa Bank but stated that the FBI had not yet found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.

Closing arguments focused on whether Mr. Sussman repeated what he said in his text message to Mr. Baker at their meeting the next day – a critical technical thing, because he is only charged with what he said in the meeting itself.

the master. Algor and another attorney general, Andrew Devilps, told the jury that the evidence left no doubt that Mr. Sussman repeated for mr. Baker directed that he was not there on behalf of any client.

but mr. Berkowitz pointed to Mr. Baker’s mixed memories of that meeting. He noted that mr. Durham was investigating Mr. Baker for having committed an unrelated crime but has not been charged, hinting that the witness had a motive to remember what the prosecutor wanted to hear: “No wonder he was thrown on the podium.”

the master. Berkowitz also argued that it was true that Mr. Sussman was not there on behalf of any client. while mr. The defense attorney said Sussman has two clients with interests in Alfa Bank. Sussman wasn’t calling for the FBI to take some steps on their behalf — or any step at all.

Faced with this notion, prosecutors emphasized it on 9/11. 13, mr. Sussman purchased the thumb drives from Staples which later cashed in on the Clinton campaign. in September. At the 19th meeting, he gave the thumb drives to the FBI Mr. DeFilippis called it “hard evidence”.

the master. Berkowitz scoffed at this evidence—the Staples receipt, he pointed out—saying that it was a time when Mr. Sussman was doing all kinds of work for the campaign. Also confirmed that mr. Sussman did not charge his campaign expenses to get in his taxis to an FBI meeting, nor did he record the “FBI meeting” in billing records, as was the case for such meetings.

and mr. Berkowitz cited the testimony of Mr. Elias and Mrs. Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mock said they did not direct or authorize Mr. Clinton. Sussman went to the FBI and saw no interest in the campaign. They tested that they only wanted the Times to publish an article; the master. Baker tested that the FBI asked Mr. Lichtblau to hold off publishing anything until he can investigate first.

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