A federal jury today delivered what is widely being called a major setback to special counsel John Durham’s effort to get to the bottom, or at least part of the bottom, of the partisan Democratic plot to bring down the Trump administration. It acquitted lawyer Michael Sussmann on the charge that he lied to the FBI in 2016 while acting on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign, thus causing it to pursue a false investigation.
I must say: I thought this might happen. The Washington Post has long posited a defense that I regarded as cynical and depressing, but it felt like something a jury, especially a C.C. jury, might swallow. Sussman’s lies to the FBI didn’t matter, and neither did Hillary Clinton’s efforts to use what she knew was false information to sic the FBI on Trump. The FBI already knew that the case against Trump was weak and based on garbage, but it didn’t matter. Like so many others, it was determined to keep digging until they got him. And like the Sheldon-maddening argument on “Big Bang Theory” that nothing Indiana Jones does in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” matters (the Ark ends up buried anyway), if Sussman’s lie didn’t have any impact, it’s all “no harm, no foul.” The “Deep State” FBI was already so committed to bringing down Trump that it didn’t need fake clues to justify its investigation investigation. The FBI, like most of the D.C. establishment, was so certain that Donald Trump was…well, cue “The Birds” lady…
that it would would have launched the investigation anyway. Clinton’s garbage via Sussman was just one of many excuses they could use.
The fact is that anti-Trump hysteria may have doomed this trial from the start. I don’t know how the feds could pick an unbiased jury that would give Donald Trump any reason to feel exonerated or be willing to begin to inflict accountability on the corrupt Clintons in the District of Columbia.
it’s sad but true: bias makes you stupid, and bias leads to a lot of terrible jury verdicts. O.J. was guilty as Hell. Derek Chauvin didn’t set out to kill George Floyd, and it was never proven that he caused Floyd’s death.
1. I wasn’t in the courtroom, and neither were you. It is impossible for me to say that the jury made the wrong call from this distance.
2. I hate the moral luck component of the “no harm, no foul” approach in criminal law, but there’s no way around it. If Sussman (and Clinton) didn’t trigger a destructive law enforcement attack on then-candidate Trump’s campaign, legitimacy and character, they still intended to. They are exactly as despicable, but not as culpable.
3. Sussmann’s attorney, Sean Berkowitz, told the jury that the prosecution was trying to turn a brief 30-minute meeting more than five years ago into a “giant political conspiracy theory.” Of course, there is no theory: there was a conspiracy, and to a great extent, it worked. The mainstream media has been throwing up dust for those five years, because the news media was part of the conspiracy. A large segment of the public, and I’d guess about 90% of the population of Washington D.C., has been effectively brainwashed by Big Lie after Big Lie. If they don’t think Trump did what the Mueller investigation set out to prove, they think he deserved to be obstructed anyway because…well, listen to “The Birds” Lady.
4. Charles Lipson writes at The Spectator,
There is sickening evidence that the presiding federal judge, Christopher Cooper, seated a jury he knew would strongly favor Sussmann, not because they liked Sussmann but because he represented Hillary Clinton and opposed Donald Trump…[b]y improperly seating three jurors who donated to the very candidate Sussmann was trying to help.
Those jurors all said they could be fair to the satisfaction of the judge. Special Counsel John Durham’s team argued they should be excluded for “cause,” but the judge disagreed, and I would have to. Donating to Clinton’s campaign doesn’t, by itself, show that a juror couldn’t conclude that her opponent was illegally torpedoed. We know a lot more now about just how corrupt Clinton was (is). The prosecution had the cards stacked against them: you can’t strike a juror because of race, yet every black potential juror who hadn’t been living in a cave had been bombarded with propaganda that Donald Trump is a racist. As far as most of the jury poll was concerned, the prosecution might as well have been siding with the KKK.
5. The Times is already spinning despicably. Its headline: “Michael Sussmann Is Acquitted in Case Brought by Trump-Era Prosecutor.” John Durham isn’t a “Trump-Era prosecutor,” he’s a decades long prosecutor of impeccable credentials and a record of non-partisan integrity.
5. I can’t disagree with Lipson’s conclusion:
Despite Sussmann’s not-guilty verdict, his trial revealed the rank odor of Washington politics. It suffuses our courts, our law enforcement bureaucracy, and the mainstream media. It reeks of insider dealing and extreme partisan bias. That stench should alarm anyone concerned about America’s ability to govern itself democratically. That governance requires trust in our institutions, including confidence our courts can resolve legal issues with fairness and integrity…
Nonetheless, this is still just one more episode in the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, the longest-running ethics disaster in U.S. political history.