Former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann asked a federal judge Thursday to dismiss the charges filed against him by special counsel John Durham, who is investigating the Justice Department’s actions in the early stages of the Trump-Russia collusion probe.
In a court filing Thursday, Mr. Sussmann’s lawyers said the charges against him are bogus and an example of “prosecutorial overreach.”
“The special counsel’s unprecedented and unlawful overreach should not be countenanced and the single count against Mr. Sussmann should be dismissed,” the attorneys with Latham & Watkins wrote.
A spokesperson for Mr. Durham declined to comment on the filing.
Mr. Sussmann has pleaded not guilty to one charge of lying to the FBI by not disclosing to a bureau official that he was working for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign when bringing them tips of a Trump-Russia link.
During the September 2016 meeting with then-FBI general counsel James Baker, Mr. Sussmann told the bureau about alleged secret communications between the Trump campaign and a Russian bank.
Those suspicions were later determined to be unfounded.
In his indictment, Mr. Durham said Mr. Sussmann’s alleged failure to disclose his ties to the Clinton campaign was material because it misled the FBI “about the political nature of his work.”
Mr. Durham said that had the FBI known that Mr. Sussmann was billing the Clinton campaign for the meeting, it would have treated the information differently.
Mr. Sussmann’s attorneys say that their client did not lie, but even if he did mislead the FBI about his ties to the Clinton campaign, it was an “ancillary matter” that did not affect the FBI’s decision to investigate former President Donald Trump.
“At the end of the day, Hillary Clinton herself could have publicly handed over the Russian Bank-1 information and the FBI would still have investigated it,” the lawyers wrote, noting the FBI routinely accepts anonymous tips.
They also say Mr. Durham does not allege that the FBI would not have opened an investigation if Mr. Sussmann disclosed that he was meeting with Mr. Baker on behalf of the Clinton campaign.
“The closest the indictment comes is the suggestion that Mr. Sussmann’s supposed client relationships were ‘relevant’ because they ‘might have’ led the FBI to take ‘additional or incremental steps,” they wrote.
Mr. Sussmann’s lawyers also say that the special counsel did not disprove the purported links between Mr. Trump and Russia’s Alfa Bank that he turned over to the FBI.
The lawyers add that Mr. Sussmann is not charged with providing a false tip the FBI and Mr. Durham never alleges that Mr. Sussmann should have known the information was false.
The FBI concluded there was no merit to the allegations of secret communications between Trump and Alfa Bank. Special counsel Robert Mueller did not mention it in his massive report.
“My belief at this point is it’s not true,” Mr. Mueller said of the secret server communications during congressional testimony in 2019.
Attorneys for Mr. Sussmann do not address the recent claims by the special counsel that link him to tech experts who “exploited” their access to Mr. Trump’s internet traffic at the White House and his residences.
Mr. Durham said the experts mined Mr. Trump‘s internet traffic to create “an inference” and “a narrative” tying Mr. Trump to Russia.