Attorney Michael Sussman’s release sentence was a blow to Special Adviser John Durham, who was appointed by former Attorney General William Barr during the Trump administration to investigate any misconduct in the FBI’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign sided with Russia.
“Although we are committed to the decision, we respect the decision of the arbitral tribunal and thank them for their service,” Mr Durham said in a statement.
Sussmann was accused of lying to former FBI senior attorney James Baker during a September 19, 2016 meeting, when he said he did not represent any clients when he sent technical data and white paper claiming that the Trump organization was secretly in contact with the Russian bank, Alfa-Bank.
His bodyguard told the FBI that Sussman had given his law firm evidence that he did not represent the law firm Clinton’s campaign, and that he did not represent the campaign for this meeting.
However, the Durham team said that Sussmann actually represented two clients: Rodney Joff, the technical executive who personally oversaw research into Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Trump Alpha-Bank tip. The research shared with the FBI was later denied.
Trump, on his Truth social media site, slammed the arbitral tribunal’s decision, saying there was no evidence that the legal system was “corrupt”.
The case against Sussman was first investigated by Durham, and was seen as an important test because it was based on a false statement that there were only two people in a room.
Baker, Durham’s star witness, gave contradictory testimony before Congress and the Attorney General’s Inspector General about his memories of whether Sussman met him on behalf of particular clients.
However, during the trial, Baker testified that he was “100% sure” that he did not represent any of the clients – which was reinforced by a text message sent by Sussman the day before their meeting, in which Sussman told Baker. : “I own – not on behalf of customer or company”.
In a statement after the hearing, Sussman said, “I told the FBI the truth, and the jury today clearly agreed with their unanimous verdict.
“I thank the jury for their careful and thoughtful service. Despite the false accusations, I am relieved to have finally won justice in this case,” he said.
During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Sussmann, a former partner in law firm Perkins Coie, as a privileged and powerful lawyer who sought to use his political connections to spread damage and misinformation about Trump to support Clinton ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
They said Sussman’s billing records also showed that he represented the Clinton campaign in the Alpha-Bank case.
However, Sussman’s bodyguard denied that he lied to Baker, and said he had never been ordered by the Clinton campaign to share the alpha-banking tip with the FBI.
Several witnesses, including former senior Clinton campaign adviser Mark Elias, testified that Sussman never asked for permission to share this tip and that it was not in the best interests of the campaign.
In a statement on Tuesday, Susman’s lawyers called the case an example of an “extraordinary excess case.”
“There is no substitute for political evidence and there is no place for politics in our justice system,” they added.