“I’m 100% assured that he mentioned that within the assembly,” Baker mentioned of the one-on-one session at FBI headquarters. “My reminiscence on this level, sitting right here at present, is evident.”
Jurors additionally noticed a textual content message that Baker mentioned he found on his telephone earlier this 12 months through which Sussmann requested the assembly a few “time-sensitive (and delicate)” concern and mentioned he was “coming alone — not on behalf of a shopper or firm — need to assist the Bureau.”
Nevertheless, the indictment doesn’t cost Sussmann with mendacity in a textual content message, solely on the in-person assembly.
And Baker conceded on Thursday that he’d made an “inconsistent” assertion concerning the crucial truth of Sussmann’s statements there on no less than one prior event, and that his reminiscence on the purpose had developed over time. By the tip of the day, Baker’s general testimony supplied important fodder for Sussmann’s protection and maybe sufficient uncertainty to provide the affordable doubt that would result in Sussmann’s acquittal.
Durham’s prosecutors contend that Sussmann’s alleged lie was important as a result of disclosing any position the Clinton marketing campaign or the DNC had within the materials or the choice to ship it to the FBI would have modified how investigators responded to the data.
A member of Durham’s group instructed the jury in opening statements that Sussmann’s actions had been a part of an effort to make use of the FBI as a “political instrument” to launch an investigation that may injury Trump politically by producing an “October shock.”
Jurors have already heard testimony that key consultants on the FBI concluded inside lower than a day that the proof didn’t help the existence of the suspected information hyperlink between a server with Donald Trump’s title within the deal with and one other server operated by Alfa Financial institution, a Russian financial institution owned by allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Nevertheless, Sussmann isn’t charged with submitting false information or studies to the FBI, solely with the alleged false denial about his purchasers. And Sussmann’s protection has argued that he had no purpose to doubt the person who introduced him the info, Rodney Joffe, a know-how specialist and enterprise government broadly revered within the web area.
To date, Durham’s group has produced appreciable proof from law-firm billing information and testimony that researchers working for Clinton and the DNC had been acutely within the alleged Alfa Financial institution hyperlink and that Sussmann labored on the identical regulation agency dealing with these points for the Democratic committees, Perkins Coie.
Nevertheless, the case that Sussmann was performing on behalf of these entities when he went to the FBI stays largely circumstantial.
One level prosecutors scored on Thursday was exhibiting jurors a letter to the editor from a high Perkins Coie lawyer who denied that Sussmann met with the FBI on behalf of the Clinton marketing campaign or the DNC, however appeared to acknowledge that the assembly was for another shopper.
“Mr. Sussmann’s assembly with the FBI Basic Counsel James Baker was on behalf of a shopper with no connections to both the Clinton marketing campaign, the DNC or every other Political Legislation Group shopper,” Perkins Managing Associate John Devaney wrote in the October 2018 letter published in the Wall Street Journal.
Jurors have already heard that Joffe and his agency Neustar had been purchasers of Sussmann, so Devaney’s assertion steered that Sussmann was performing for them and that he may need lied if he instructed Baker or others he wasn’t performing on their behalf.
However protection lawyer Sean Berkowitz famous that it was Sussmann who texted Baker a photograph of Devaney’s letter to the Journal — a seemingly weird act if Sussmann knew it contained a falsehood that Baker would possibly effectively acknowledge.
“Any thought why Mr. Sussmann would ship you, to your information, one thing that you just say contradicts what he instructed you a few years earlier than?” Berkowitz requested Baker throughout cross-examination Thursday afternoon.
“I don’t know,” Baker mentioned. “It’s a must to ask him.”
One other thriller that jurors realized about Thursday was how and why high FBI and Justice Division officers apparently obtained a briefing in March 2017 that the data Sussmann delivered to the FBI got here from a lawyer representing a shopper, if Sussmann instructed Baker the alternative.
Berkowitz confirmed Baker and the jury notes that division lawyer Tashina Gauhar took at that session that point out the position of some shopper in bringing ahead the data.
“‘Legal professional’ delivered to FBI on behalf of his shopper …. additionally suggested others in media. NYT,” Gauhar wrote.
Baker was current at that assembly, however he mentioned on Thursday he had no reminiscence of the “shopper” concern developing.
Berkowitz requested Baker why, if somebody mentioned on the assembly that the Alfa Financial institution info didn’t come from a lawyer representing a shopper, he didn’t simply right them on the spot since he was the one who first obtained the data on the FBI.
“Do you keep in mind standing up and saying, no, you’ve obtained it flawed he didn’t have any purchasers?” the protection lawyer requested.
“No, I don’t keep in mind doing that or pondering that,” Baker mentioned.
Each the prosecution and protection additionally mentioned with Baker that he’d been the main target of a separate investigation Durham carried out into an alleged leak that seems to have concerned a 2016 New York Occasions report about broad-based e-mail surveillance that Yahoo carried out on the demand of the U.S. authorities.
Baker supplied scant particulars concerning the probe however confirmed that Durham ran it and mentioned it concerned a phone dialog he and a high FBI public affairs official had with a journalist “throughout which I made a certified disclosure of data that I understood on the time to now not be labeled.”
Baker mentioned he understood the disclosure to have been permitted upfront by the FBI director and the director of Nationwide Intelligence, however different witnesses gave conflicting and or unsure accounts. No motion was finally taken, however the probe wasn’t formally closed till after Durham obtained a brand new task in 2019 to look into the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.
Baker mentioned his potential legal responsibility within the earlier investigation hadn’t coloured his solutions to Durham within the inquiry that led to the Sussmann prosecution as a result of he had an obligation to reply honestly and since Durham’s assessment of the alleged leak was basically full by the point he was moved onto the brand new Russia-related probe.
Nevertheless, Sussmann’s protection did present jurors a textual content through which Baker appeared to lament Durham’s new portfolio.
“Now I get to be investigated for one more 12 months or two by John Durham!!! Pretty,” Baker wrote to a buddy, Ben Wittes, in Might 2019.
Jurors additionally noticed one other candid textual content message Baker despatched Sussmann in October 2018, declaring that Baker’s questioning by a Home committee trying into points associated to Trump and Russia “sucked.” Baker mentioned he was taken unexpectedly in the course of the contentious two-day session when Republican lawmakers began specializing in Sussmann’s go to to convey the Alfa Financial institution claims.
“It sucked. It was horrible. It sucked at a number of ranges,” Baker mentioned on Thursday, seeming freshly disturbed by having to recount the expertise. “As a citizen of the USA, it’s upsetting and appalling to see members of Congress behaving the best way that they had been behaving. It was very upsetting to me.”
Berkowitz requested Baker whether or not being known as to testify within the present case in opposition to Sussmann, whom Baker has known as a buddy, was additionally a “horrible” expertise.
“That is extra orderly,” Baker mentioned as he pointed at his chair. “It’s horrible, however orderly.”