A former Perkins Coie cybersecurity lawyer has been acquitted of a single count of lying to the FBI in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election.
A one-count indictment filed Sept. 16, 2021, by Special Counsel John Durham accused Michael Sussmann of making “a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement or representation in a matter before the jurisdiction of the executive branch.”
The alleged lie, according to Durham, was that Sussmann claimed he was acting as a private citizen while giving a tip to the FBI about about Donald Trump. Durham’s prosecutors asserted that Sussmann was really acting on behalf of Hillary Clinton and a tech executive subsequently identified as Rodney Joffe.
The verdict is a major defeat for Durham and his Justice Department prosecutors, who have spent three years looking for wrongdoing in the Trump-Russia probe. He claimed Sussmann lied during a 2016 meeting in which he passed a tip to the FBI about Donald Trump and Russia.
The Sussmann case was the first major courtroom test for Durham, and the acquittal may bolster Durham’s critics, who believe he’s running a politicized probe into flimsy theories.
Trump has treated Durham’s probe as a political weapon, stoking excitement in the right-wing ecosystem that Durham will deliver Watergate-caliber indictments against Clinton loyalists and the “deep state” government agents who supposedly conspired against him. He has even suggested that Sussmann’s and other Democrats’ conduct should be “punishable by death.”
Durham’s efforts to “investigate the investigators” are ongoing, and have outlasted the Russia probe itself, which was taken over by special counsel Robert Mueller and convicted six Trump associates, including his lawyer, his 2016 campaign chair, and a senior White House official.