Former Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann gave a triumphant statement from the steps of a Washington, D.C., courthouse on Tuesday after being acquitted of lying to the FBI.
Sussmann worked as an attorney at Perkins Coie in 2016 when it took on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign as a client. Special counsel John Durham indicted Sussmann last year on a single charge of lying to the FBI about his reasons for passing later-debunked claims of a Trump-Alfa-Bank connection onto the bureau.
“I told the truth to the FBI, and the jury clearly recognized this in their unanimous verdict today,” Sussmann said, according to Fox News. “I’m grateful to the members of the jury for their careful thoughtful service. Despite being falsely accused, I believe that justice ultimately prevailed in my case. As you can imagine, this has been a difficult year for my family and me. But right now we are grateful for the love and support of so many during this ordeal.”
Durham also released a statement after the verdict: “While we are disappointed in the outcome, we respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their service. I also want to recognize and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case.”
The court loss is a blow to Durham’s investigation, which was tasked with uncovering the origin of the Trump/Russia collusion conspiracy theory that hounded former President Donald Trump well into his presidency. Sussmann’s trial was the first major courtroom test of the special counsel.
Durham had charged Sussmann with lying to the FBI about his reasons for taking later-debunked evidence of a hidden backchannel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa-Bank to the FBI. Durham had alleged that Sussmann had represented himself to the bureau as a concerned citizen while acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign and tech executive Rodney Joffe.
While Durham failed to win a conviction, the trial revealed some previously unknown information about the beginnings of the Alfa-Bank hoax. Former Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook testified that Clinton herself approved dissemination of what Mook admitted was shaky data of a Trump-Alfa-Bank connection to reporters.
Testimony from FBI agent Curtis Heide revealed that FBI leadership may have mislead bureau agents about the source of the Alfa-Bank data. Heide, who was one of the agents tasked with looking into Sussmann’s evidence, testified that he was blocked from interviewing the data’s source, Sussmann. Heide and FBI agent Allison Sands initiated an investigation into the Alfa-Bank claims, citing a “referral” from the Justice Department, not Sussmann, according to electronic communications shown to the jury.