- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 26, 2022

The defense rested its case Thursday after deciding not to put Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann on the witness stand to counter the charge that he lied to the FBI in 2016 when peddling a false story about Trump-Russia collusion.

The decision not to call Mr. Sussmann came one day after prosecutors on special counsel John Durham’s team showed jurors their strongest evidence yet that Mr. Sussmann was on the clock for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign on the day he met with the FBI to pass along a conspiracy theory about then-candidate Donald Trump.

The decision not to put Mr. Sussmann on the stand suggests that his lawyers are confident in the case they presented to the jury during the one day of testimony by the defense’s witnesses.

It also avoids exposing Mr. Sussmann to aggressive questioning from prosecutors about the evidence they presented to the jury during eight days of testimony from the prosecution’s witnesses. 

“I understand from counsel that the defense will not be calling Mr. Sussmann, is that correct?” asked U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper. 

“That’s correct,” Sussmann attorney Sean Berkowitz replied. 

SEE ALSO: Prosecution rests in Sussmann trial as defense mulls putting the defendant on witness stand

The judge asked Mr. Sussmann if he had spoken and consulted with his defense team about the decision not to take the stand. “I have, Your Honor,” he replied.

Judge Cooper then asked Mr. Sussmann if he still wished not to testify.

“Yes, your Honor,” Mr. Sussmann replied.

Judge Cooper scheduled closing arguments for Friday, which will likely push jury deliberations and a possible verdict to at least Tuesday because of the Memorial Day holiday.

That leaves both sides with a limited window for summing up their cases to the jury because Judge Cooper plans to end court at 2:30 p.m. on Friday to start the holiday weekend.

Mr. Sussmann is charged with lying to the FBI by telling top bureau lawyer James A. Baker during a meeting on Sept. 19, 2016, that he was not working on “behalf of any client” when he pitched a false theory that Trump Organization computer servers were secretly communicating with Russia’s Alfa Bank.

SEE ALSO: Joffe business partner says he was tasked with tying Trump associates to Russia

Prosecutors said Mr. Sussmann met with the FBI on behalf of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and technology executive Rodney Joffe in a bid to sabotage Mr. Trump’s run for the White House.

Defense attorneys argued that Mr. Sussmann came to the FBI on his own as a good citizen. They also say Mr. Sussmann’s ties to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee were well known to the FBI and Mr. Baker.

It is the first trial stemming from Mr. Durham’s probe of the origins of the FBI’s investigation of Trump-Russia collusion.

If Mr. Sussmann took the stand, he would be forced to explain his text and verbal statements to Mr. Baker that his meeting was not on behalf of the Clinton campaign. He would also have to explain the documents that jurors saw on Wednesday that showed he was on the clock.

Expense reports and billing records were admitted into evidence showing he billed the Clinton campaign for three hours on the day he met with the FBI, though the records did not specify the exact hours when he was working on the campaign’s behalf.

Jurors also saw expense reports reflecting $58.56 billed to the Clinton campaign for thumb drives on Sept. 13, 2016 — six days before he presented the FBI with anti-Trump accusations detailed on two thumb drives. However, the receipt reflected that he bought multiple thumb drives that day, raising the question of whether they were all billed to the Clinton campaign.

The stunning disclosures in federal court in Washington put Mr. Sussmann’s legal team on the defensive. Mr. Berkowitz signaled that his client may take the stand Thursday to explain the billing records, a strong indication that his team is worried about the impact of the evidence on the jury.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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