Michael Sussmann Trial: What We Know About the John Durham Probe

The trial of Michael Sussmann, a lawyer charged with making a false statement to the FBI in 2016, is set to begin Tuesday in what will be the first case from special counsel John Durham to go before a jury.

Sussmann, who worked with Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, is accused of lying during a meeting he requested with the FBI's general counsel so that he could share information that, he alleged, showed covert communications between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank. The meeting took place on September 19, 2016, weeks before the presidential race between Clinton and Donald Trump, according to a Justice Department news release announcing Sussmann's indictment in September 2021.

Durham was appointed special counsel in October 2020 by then-Attorney General William Barr. He was told to "investigate whether any federal official, employee, or any other person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law-enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns, individuals associated with those campaigns, and individuals associated with the administration of President Donald J. Trump," according to Barr's order.

During the September 19, 2016, meeting, Sussmann allegedly "falsely stated" to the FBI's general counsel that he was not presenting allegations of secret communications between the Russian bank and the Trump Organization on behalf of a client.

"This false representation led the General Counsel to understand that Sussmann was providing information as a good citizen rather than a paid advocate or political operative. In fact, Sussmann assembled and conveyed the allegations to the FBI on behalf of at least two clients, including a U.S. technology executive and the Clinton Presidential Campaign," the Justice Department release said.

Sussmann Trial to Begin
The trial of Michael Sussmann, a lawyer charged with making a false statement to the FBI in 2016, starts Tuesday and is the first case from special counsel John Durham to go before a jury. Above, Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer who represented Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2016, leaves a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo

The indictment alleges that Sussmann actually worked with the technology executive, other cyber-researchers and a U.S.-based investigative company to assemble the information that he presented to the FBI and the media.

Neither the release nor the actual indictment document refers to the Russian bank, the technology executive, the investigative company and other relevant individuals or parties by name, but other court filings and media reports have identified them. The technology executive, for example, was identified as Rodney Joffe, and the investigative firm was pinpointed as Fusion GPS.

"The technology executive, for his part, exploited his access to non-public data at multiple internet companies and enlisted the assistance of researchers at a U.S.-based university who were receiving and analyzing internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract designed to identify the perpetrators of malicious cyber-attacks and protect U.S. national security," the release said.

The indictment also alleges that researchers were asked to find this internet data "to establish 'an inference' and 'narrative' that would tie then-presidential candidate Donald Trump to Russia, and which the executive believed would please certain 'VIPs.'" Sussmann, his law firm and Joffe allegedly coordinated with officials in Clinton's campaign in these efforts, the release said.

"It is further alleged that Sussmann's false statement misled FBI personnel and deprived the FBI of information that might have permitted it more fully to assess and uncover the origins of the relevant data and analysis, including the identities and motivations of Sussmann's clients," the release said.

The release added that the FBI ultimately concluded that there was not enough evidence to back the allegations of covert communications between the Trump Organization and the Russian bank, which CNN identified in a report as Alfa Bank, the largest private bank in Russia.

Opening statements in Sussmann's trial, which is expected to last about two weeks, are scheduled to be given Tuesday, NBC reported.

Newsweek reached out to prosecution and defense lawyers in the trial for comment.