Defense attorneys for a Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer who stands accused by special counsel John Durham of lying to the FBI to promote the Trump-Russian collusion case said that newly uncovered evidence will clear their client.
Attorneys for Michael Sussmann, a lawyer who worked for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee, said transcripts of Justice Department interviews undercut the criminal charges filed by Mr. Durham.
Mr. Sussmann is accused of concealing his ties to the Clinton campaign when he peddled a story about a Trump-Russia connection to the FBI during the 2016 presidential race.
In a court filing late Monday, the attorneys said the new evidence “underscores the baseless and unprecedented nature of this indictment and the importance of setting a prompt trial date so that Mr. Sussmann can vindicate himself as soon as possible.”
The newly disclosed evidence also appears to contradict statements from former FBI general counsel James Baker, who has agreed to testify on behalf of the prosecution. If defense counsel plans to target Mr. Baker’s statements, it would set up the trial as a he-said, he-said row among the only two people in the room at the time of the meeting.
Mr. Sussmann has pleaded not guilty to one count of lying to the FBI.
Federal prosecutors say Mr. Sussmann lied to Mr. Baker at a September 2016 meeting where he provided information that purportedly connected the Trump Organization with Russia’s Alfa Bank. The allegations were later debunked.
Mr. Sussmann allegedly told Mr. Baker that he was not working on behalf of any client, but merely passing along the information as a “good citizen,” according to court documents.
But Mr. Sussmann was in fact working for a tech industry executive and the Clinton campaign at the time of the meeting, the indictment said. He is alleged to have billed the Clinton campaign for the time he spent with Mr. Baker.
Prosecutors say if Mr. Sussmann had told Mr. Baker that he was meeting with him on behalf of the Clinton campaign, the FBI would have been more skeptical of his claims and allocated resources differently.
In Monday’s court filing, Mr. Sussmann’s lawyers say evidence provided last week by the government contradict the version of his FBI meeting included in the indictment.
The newly disclosed evidence is two partly redacted files of Mr. Baker’s interviews with the Justice Department. The court filing included several pages of a transcript of Mr. Baker’s interview and a report summarizing what the top FBI official said.
In the transcript, Mr. Baker recalled that Mr. Sussmann said the information was brought to him by experts in the tech industry.
The information was “related to strange interactions that some number of people that were his clients, who were, described as I recall it, sort of cybersecurity experts, had found.”
According to the interview summary, Mr. Baker said the issue of whether Mr. Sussmann was representing a client never came up and he simply assumed Mr. Sussmann was not representing a client.
“Baker said that Sussmann did not specify that he was representing a client regarding the matter, nor did Baker ask him if he was representing a client,” the summary said. “Baker said it did not seem like Sussmann was representing a client.”
However, the indictment counters some of those claims.
Mr. Baker later told the FBI’s top counterintelligence official Bill Priestap about the meeting. Mr. Priestap’s handwritten notes say that Mr. Sussmann told the FBI that he “said not doing this for any client.”
Attorneys for Mr. Sussmann asked a federal judge to move up the date of his trial. While the federal government wants to start the trial on July 25, Mr. Sussmann’s attorneys say it should begin on May 2.
Mr. Durham was appointed in 2019 to probe allegations of wrongdoing by the FBI during the early stages of its investigation into alleged links between Russia and President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
So far, Mr. Durham has scored one guilty plea. He has also indicted Mr. Sussmann and Igor Danchenko, a Russian analyst who was a source for the so-called Steele dossier, on charges of lying to the FBI. Mr. Dhanchenko has pleaded not guilty.