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Durham probe: Former FBI officials set to take position in Sussmann trial, as defense plans to plead mistrial


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Former FBI General Counsel James Baker is set to testify again Thursday morning in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in the trial of Michael Sussmann for continued questioning by Special Counsel John Durham’s team and defence.

The government is also expected to call former FBI officials Bill Priestap and Trisha Anderson to the stand for questioning.

Priestap served as the FBI’s deputy director for counterintelligence from 2015 to 2018. Anderson was the bureau’s senior deputy general counsel for national security.

Fox News reported earlier this year that Priestap testified before the convened grand jury as part of Durham’s years-long investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation.

FBI LAWYER JAMES BAKER TESTIFIES HE’S ‘NOT TO GET’ SUSSMANN: ‘THIS IS NOT MY INVESTIGATION, IT’S YOURS’

James Baker, who served as general counsel for the FBI, left the office in 2018.
(Official FBI Photo)

Sussmann’s defense on Wednesday evening signaled its intention to seek a mistrial on Thursday morning – a request that U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, who is presiding over the trial, said he was ‘not inclined to’ to grant.

Sussmann’s attorney, Sean Berkowitz, said Wednesday afternoon that he plans to argue for a mistrial on Thursday, due to back-and-forth stemming from the hours-long questioning and testimony of former Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias.

At one point during cross-examination by the defense, Elias was asked if Sussmann turned himself in to the FBI in September 2016 with data alleging a secret communication channel between Donald Trump and Russian bank Alfa on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign.

“I think you should ask Mr. Sussmann,” Elias said.

Later, the prosecution presented Sussmann’s response — a decision the defense says violates Sussmann’s rights.

Cooper on Wednesday, however, said the defense “should be prepared to deal with witnesses [tomorrow]and said he was “not inclined to dismiss the lawsuit”.

Meanwhile, the government is expected to start Thursday by questioning Baker, who falls at the center of the trial.

SUSSMANN-DURHAM TRIAL: MARC ELIAS SAYS HE TOLD CLINTON CAMPAIGN OFFICIALS ABOUT OPPO GPS MERGER AGAINST TRUMP

Sussmann was accused of making a false statement to the FBI when he told Baker in September 2016, less than two months before the presidential election, that he was not working “for any clients” when he asked and attended a meeting where he presented “purported data and ‘white papers’ that allegedly demonstrated a secret communication channel” between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, which has ties to the Kremlin.

Durham’s team alleges that Sussmann actually worked for two clients: Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a technology manager, Rodney Joffe. Following the meeting with Baker, Sussmann billed the Hillary Clinton campaign for her work.

Sussmann pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Baker first spoke on Wednesday afternoon and explained that the 2016 reunion was originally requested by Sussmann via text to his home phone on September 18, 2016.

Durham probe: Former FBI officials set to take position in Sussmann trial, as defense plans to plead mistrial

Bill Priestap, Deputy Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, testifying at a Judiciary Committee hearing on alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
(Reuters, file)

Durham, in a filing in the weeks leading up to trial, referred to those text messages, stating that “the day before the defendant met with the attorney general, the defendant conveyed the same lie in writing and sent the following text message to the General Counsel’s personal mobile.”

DURHAM RELEASES TEXT MESSAGE FROM FORMER CLINTON LAWYER MICHAEL SUSSMANN, SAYS HE PUT ‘LIE IN WRITING’

Baker testified that he forgot the text conversation and found it in response to a government request earlier this year. Baker said that in March Durham asked him to “research” emails and other communications he may have had with Sussmann.

“I’m not looking for Michael and it’s not my investigation, it’s yours,” Baker told the prosecution. “No one had asked me to go get this material before that.”

Baker testified that after finding the text messages, he notified the government through his lawyer “as quickly as possible”, and said FBI agents “came to my house” that same afternoon.

Durham probe: Former FBI officials set to take position in Sussmann trial, as defense plans to plead mistrial

John Durham and Michael Susmann.
(Perkins Coie)

Baker explained his relationship with Sussmann, saying the two were “friends” who stayed in touch, but testified he was “a bit surprised” to receive the text messages.

DURHAM-SUSSMANN TRIAL: THE JUDGE “NOT INCLUDED” IN DECLARING MISTRIAL, DESPITE THE ATTEMPT OF THE DEFENSE

“I was a little surprised to get it from Michael, I was wondering how he got my personal cell number, but Michael is a friend so it didn’t really scare me,” Baker said. “I trust Michael, it seemed to me at the time that it was very important and so I thought I had to meet him straight away.”

The government presented the text messages to the jury for review on Wednesday.

The text message read: “Jim – this is Michael Sussmann. I have something urgent (and sensitive) that I need to discuss,” the text message said, according to Durham. “Are you available for a short meeting tomorrow?” I come alone – not on behalf of a client or a company – I want to help the Bureau. Thank you.

Baker replied, “OK. I’ll find a moment. What might work for you?”

Sussmann replied, “Anytime except lunchtime, you call it.”

“2:00 in my office? Do you have a badge or do you need help getting into the building?” Baker replied

“I have a badge. Please remind me of your room number,” Sussmann said.

SUSSMANN-DURHAM TRIAL: LAWSUIT SAYS CLINTON’S LAWYER USED FBI TO CREATE ‘OCTOBER SURPRISE’ AGAINST TRUMP

Baker explained Wednesday that he thinks Sussmann might have a badge to admit him to FBI headquarters because of the work he often does with clients and law enforcement.

The Durham team, in their opening statement on Tuesday, argued that the Sussmann case is about “privilege”.

“Privilege of a lawyer who thought he could lie to the FBI without consequences; privilege of a lawyer who thought that for the powerful, the normal rules did not apply,” pleaded government prosecutors on behalf of the government.

The government argued that in bringing the “serious allegations” to the FBI, Sussmann “bypassed normal channels and went directly to the best lawyer in the FBI”, referring to Baker.

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