It was recently reported that the federal judge overseeing the trial of a 2016 Clinton campaign lawyer charged by special counsel John Durham of lying to the FBI has decided to limit evidence allegedly showing a “joint venture” to spread a false narrative about then-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
On Saturday, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper, an Obama appointee, ruled that Durham’s office must limit evidence and testimony that he planned to use in the trial of Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann to show the combined effort involving Hillary Clinton’s campaign, several Democratic operatives, a private political opposition research firm, and a number of technology researchers, National Review reported.
The outlet added:
Sussmann has been charged with making a false statement to a federal agent during a September 2016 meeting with the FBI. The Perkins Coie lawyer allegedly failed to disclose his clients, including Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, to the FBI when he offered information in 2016 that he claimed demonstrated a secret channel between the Trump Organization and Kremlin-allied Alfa Bank. The claim has since been debunked.
During the meeting, Sussmann allegedly falsely claimed that he was not at the meeting on behalf of any client. Perkins Coie represented the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee at the time.
Durham’s prosecutors had asked Cooper to issue a ruling ahead of the trial, set to begin later this month, that Sussmann was “acting in concert toward a common goal” with Clinton operatives, the researchers, and others.
If Cooper had granted the request, then prosecutors would have been able to introduce a number of additional emails and information that included those sent between Sussmann and the Clinton campaign, then-Perkins Coie partner Marc Elias, tech executive Rodney Joffe, and other researchers allegedly working in tandem to spread a since-debunked claim about ties between Trump and the Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank.
But in a 24-page order, Cooper said giving prosecutors permission to include evidence of the political conspiracy would be a “time-consuming and largely unnecessary mini-trial” since Sussmann has not been charged with a conspiracy.
“The Court will exercise its discretion not to engage in the kind of extensive evidentiary analysis that would be required to find that such a joint venture existed, and who may have joined it,” Cooper wrote.
“While the Special Counsel has proffered some evidence of a collective effort to disseminate the purported link between Trump and Alfa Bank to the press and others, the contours of this venture and its participants are not entirely obvious,” he added.
Letting Durham’s prosecutors present evidence attempting to link Sussmann to the conspiracy, when he is not charged with that particular crime, would “essentially amount to a second trial on a non-crime,” the judge wrote.
Not all of Cooper’s rulings have gone for the defense. Last month, he denied a motion from Sussmann to dismiss the case against him. In a court filing, Cooper outlined the charges against Sussmann brought by the Durham impaneled grand jury last year.
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“Specifically, Sussmann allegedly told Baker that he was not attending the meeting on behalf of any client when, in fact, he had assembled and was conveying the information on behalf of two specific clients: (1) a technology-industry executive named Rodney Joffe and (2) the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign,” Cooper wrote.
“The FBI opened an investigation based on the information Sussmann provided, but ultimately determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the existence of a communication channel between the Trump campaign and the Russian bank,” Cooper wrote. “Sussmann has pled not guilty to the charge and denies lying to the FBI.”
Cooper wrote that Sussmann’s “sole argument for dismissal” of his case is that “even taking the allegations in the Indictment as true, his purported misrepresentation to Baker was immaterial as a matter of law and therefore cannot support a conviction” under U.S.C. 1001 – making false statements to a federal agent.
“The court will deny the motion,” Cooper wrote, noting that the standard for materiality under U.S. code is “whether the statement has ‘a natural tendency to influence, or is capable of influencing, either a discrete decision or any other function of the [government] agency to which it was addressed.’”