This week, former Clinton Campaign attorney Michael Sussman was found not guilty on one count of lying to the FBI.
In some respects, the verdict was surprising, while in others it wasn't.
The evidence presented at trial was overwhelming.
By many accounts, Michael Sussman had indeed lied to the FBI about his reasons for meeting with FBI general counsel James Baker.
He did so to cover up his part in an elaborate role to weaponize the FBI against candidate Donald Trump.
On the other hand, the trial, to use G. Gordon Liddy’s term, was "stacked and packed."
Several Clinton campaign donors were seated on the jury and the presiding judge, an Obama appointee, issued rulings that prohibited Durham’s case preventing him from showing how Sussman’s false statement fit in as part of a far larger narrative.
This greatly affected the trial’s outcome.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Sussman sent a text to James Baker, explaining that he had time sensitive information he wanted to hand over.
Sussman explicitly denied that he was doing this on behalf of any client but simply wanted to "help the bureau."
The information Sussman then passed to the FBI in this private meeting presented loose evidence that the Trump Organization had suspicious connections with Kremlin-affiliated Alfa Bank in Russia.
That Donald Trump had an ulterior agenda which threatened national security.
But in truth, Sussman was acting as an agent of the Hillary Clinton campaign and wanted to manipulate the FBI into aiding his efforts for an "October surprise."
What unfolded was one of the largest smear campaigns against a candidate and sitting U.S. president. Working with friendly reporters and news organs, the Clinton campaign fabricated the Russian collusion and the Alfa Bank hoaxes.
By publicizing the fact that the FBI was actually investigating Trump, the smear spread rapidly in the media, ultimately leading to the creation of a special counsel investigation.
The evidence of Trump’s involvement with Putin wasn’t just shaky, it was obviously phony. Unfortunately, the judge's rulings made it harder to present the whole picture to the jury.
The wife of Judge Christopher "Casey" Reid Cooper (no relation to the author of this column), Amy Jeffress, represents former FBI lawyer Lisa Page (who was caught texting her lover fellow FBI agent Peter Strozk that Trump was an "idiot" and expressing support for presidential nominee Hillary Clinton).
One might think with this obvious conflict of interest, Judge Cooper might have bent over backwards to make sure he was fair.
But his rulings prevented the jury from seeing that the Alfa Bank narrative, like the Russian collusion claim (which was finally shown to be a hoax), was the genesis for John Durham’s appointment.
Under the threat of perjury, Sussman testified to Congress in 2017 — five years ago — that he was in fact acting on behalf of a client when he met with Baker. This should have ended the question about his lie as it directly contradicted his earlier statement to the FBI.
After the acquittal, the female foreman accidentally said the quiet part out loud.
"Personally, I don’t think it should have been prosecuted because I think we have better time or resources to use or spend to other things that affect the nation as a whole than a possible lie to the FBI. We could spend that time more wisely."
Surprisingly that wasn’t the attitude taken about Gen. Michael Flynn for his "lie" about discussions with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S.
The Sussman trial revealed even more.
The FBI agents who opened the Alfa Bank inquiry, Curtis Heide and Allison Sands, had incorrectly reported that the Alfa Bank connection came from the Department of Justice rather than from Sussman.
They would later testify in that this was a mere "typo," but coincidentally this typo meant that the FBI took this investigation much more seriously than it otherwise would have.
Dirty tricks may or not be illegal, but they absolutely cross the legal line when they involve the FBI with the use of false claims. In many ways the Trump campaign was a victim of "political swatting," using the FBI instead of local police.
Thus, it's essential that those involved in this scheme face the music — including bit players like Sussman. Tragically, residents of D.C. were more interested in acting as cheerleaders in awe of the audacity and creativity of the Russia hoax plot, than jurors committed to following the law.
That was very risky.
The benefits of dealing Durham a setback are greatly outweighed by the risks of the infection of jury nullification spreading outside Washington, D.C.
Consider the case of the attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, who was indicted by the DOJ during the Obama administration. He’s charged with securities fraud. Since the trial will be held in Texas (if it ever happens), what’s to stop Texans serving on the jury from ending deliberations after only 30 minutes and voting to acquit because " . . . we have better time or resources to use or spend to other things that affect the nation. . . ."
Jury nullification is a poison that having been unleashed by the left could harm everyone.
Regardless of political sympathies, our legal system works best when all citizens — whether in blue or red states — truly do their duty and not simply follow their political allegiances.
The scheme to use the FBI to knee cap Trump’s presidential campaign is indeed explosive. If the effort to uncover the wrongdoing leads to widespread shenanigans by courts and juries, our very republic is threatened.
Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and Co-Chair of the Black Leadership Network Project 21. Previously a visiting assistant professor of law at George Mason University School of Law, his research focus was on U.S. intellectual property rights policy, the role of the United States Supreme Court in the American constitutional system, political forecasting, the legislative process, and federal labor law. Dr. Cooper has also served in senior capacities in the George W. Bush adminstration. He is the author of "How Trump is Making Black America Great Again." Read Horace Cooper's Reports — More Here.
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