The long-awaited trial of Democratic Party fixer Michael Sussman is under way. Sussman is charged with one count of lying to the FBI, the lie being that when he came to the Bureau with fake information about Donald Trump and Russia’s Alfa Bank, he was acting as a public-spirited citizen and not on behalf of any client.
Today former FBI general counsel James Baker testified that Sussman told him that “he was not appearing before me on behalf of any particular client.” Further, when Sussman set up the meeting with Baker with a text message, he said he would be “coming on my own — not on behalf of a client or company — want to help the Bureau.” As a result, the FBI treated Sussman as a confidential source and not as a lawyer representing a party with an axe to grind.
In fact, Sussman was acting for the Hillary Clinton campaign, trying to help her win the presidential election by smearing Donald Trump with a fabricated claim. We know this for certain because he billed the Clinton campaign for his time.
So Sussman is obviously guilty. One thing I don’t know, perhaps because I have not paid a lot of attention to the parties’ pre-trial filings, is how far the trial will go into the whole Trump-Russia hoax. Arguably, the broader context isn’t very relevant. Sussman told a material lie to the FBI. That means he is guilty, and his guilt is easily proved. This could be a very short trial.
The extent to which Sussman’s lie, and the false information he brought to the Bureau on behalf of the Clinton campaign, were part of a broader conspiracy against Trump by the Democratic Party and elements of the FBI, the CIA and the liberal press, is arguably irrelevant, and I assume the jury won’t hear much about it. So I don’t expect the Sussman trial to shed much light on aspects of the Trump-Russia hoax that we don’t already know about.
The only other suspense in the case relates to the jury. Presumably it consists entirely of Democrats, and in D.C., at least some of those Democrats are probably hysterical partisans. Many observers doubt whether a Democratic jury will vote to convict a Democratic Party operative of lying about Donald Trump to try to win the election for Hillary Clinton, no matter what the evidence shows.
Having spent much of my life around juries, and being a strong defender of the jury system, I lay odds at about 60/40 that the jury in the Sussman case will do its duty.