Sixteen witnesses testified in Durham’s seven-day case. Sussmann’s attorneys are now starting their case, and they haven’t ruled out that Sussmann may testify in his own defense.
From the start, DC District Court Judge Christopher Cooper insisted the case would not be plagued by its inevitable “political overtones.” His hopes were quickly dashed.
A witness was asked on Tuesday about other well-known figures in the Trump-Russia investigation, including George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, who worked for Trump’s campaign in 2016.
But Cooper chastised the Durham team on Wednesday for ignoring their “safeguards” and going overboard with a few questions to witnesses about whether Sussmann’s underlying tip was potentially rigged.
Dispute over billing records
Jurors saw Sussmann’s billing records, which showed how he billed the Clinton campaign for phone calls, meetings and other work related to the Trump-Russia allegation.
“There’s no reference to the FBI in that entry, is there?” defense attorney Michael Bosworth asked Durham paralegal Kori Arsenault, who was on the witness stand. “There isn’t,” she said.
Bosworth pointed to expense reports showing that Sussmann did not charge the Clinton campaign for taxis to and from the FBI building, but instead charged his then-law firm, Perkins Coie. Bosworth also pointed out that when Sussmann previously met with FBI officials on behalf of other independent clients, he usually explicitly marked “meeting with FBI” in his billing records.
A rookie led the FBI’s Trump-Alfa investigation
“There was no evidence – from all the US companies we spoke to, the (internet) logs we looked at, as well as the (internal) report from the Alfa-Bank servers – there was no no evidence that this secret communication channel existed,” said former FBI agent Allison Sands, who led the investigation, even though she only had three months of total experience as an FBI agent.
These latest Durham witnesses address the issue of “materiality” that is essential to a conviction.
Prosecutors would need to convince the jury of a few key elements of the alleged crime, including that Sussmann lied and that the alleged lie had a real impact on the work of the FBI. The defense says Sussmann didn’t lie to cover up his political clients, but even if he did, it couldn’t have bothered the FBI because the bureau was already well aware of his Democratic ties.
Defense at the center of attention
Sussmann’s attorneys said they would call witnesses who can speak positively about his character and a former Justice Department official who took notes that could be exculpatory.
It’s unclear if Sussmann will speak, which would be a high-risk, high-reward move. He could counter Baker’s testimony by telling the jury emphatically that he didn’t lie, and he could also talk about his career as a cybersecurity lawyer who has regularly helped the US government. But the Durham team would have an equal chance of questioning him and would probably bring a grill.
If Sussmann does not testify, closing arguments could take place this week, clearing the way for jury deliberations.
This story has been updated with additional details.