The judge in charge of Special Counsel John Durham’s prosecution of former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann ruled in an order entered over the weekend that the evidence suggesting a “joint venture” between the defendant and the campaign will be limited.
Sussmann has been charged with lying to FBI General Counsel James Baker regarding material he handed over to him in September 2016. The data claimed to show that the Trump campaign was linked to Russian Alfa Bank. Sussmann allegedly lied when he told Baker that he was not working on behalf of any client in regard to the disclosure.
Durham alleges that Sussmann was, in fact, billing the Clinton campaign for his time and effort bringing the FBI in on investigating the bogus Russian claims. He also billed for his work with tech executive Rodney Joffe in compiling the materials. Prosecutors claim he was working at the Perkins Coie law firm at the time, representing the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
The order entered on Saturday by U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper put restrictions on the evidence that Durham’s legal team will be allowed to introduce at Sussmann’s trial that is set to begin on May 16 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The judge pointed out that Sussmann is not charged with a criminal conspiracy in the case. Although proof of a co-conspirator can sometimes be introduced at trial in that situation, the judge ruled that if the conspiracy is not formally charged, “extensive presentation of evidence” about the conspiracy is likely to confuse jurors and cloud the actual issues at trial.
The judge found the problem presented by Durham’s claim is that he wanted to produce evidence that Sussmann is part of an “uncharged and unlawful joint venture.” Durham had requested to submit emails and information about communications between Sussmann and the Clinton campaign, Joffe, and Marc Elias, a Perkins Coie partner.
That evidence would tend to show that Sussmann was substantially involved in gathering and disseminating information about Trump and Alfa Bank.
The group led by Sussmann was allegedly assisted by research firm Fusion GPS, which in turn hired former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Steele produced the debunked dossier of data claiming to show Trump had ties with the bank.
Judge Cooper wrote in his order that the “contours of this venture and its participants are not entirely obvious.”
Sussmann’s attorneys argued that he presented the material to Baker “as a matter of national security” and not to benefit the Clinton campaign just weeks before the 2016 presidential election. Durham contends the opposite.