Michael Sussmann’s legal time could call Eric Lichtblau as defense witness

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Lawyers for Michael Sussmann, a lawyer with ties to the Democratic Party who is set to stand trial for allegedly lying to the FBI in the stormy final days of the 2016 presidential campaign, said they plan to call a former New York Times reporter as a witness to help show Sussmann is not guilty.

Sussmann reportedly told the FBI’s top lawyer in September 2016 that he had information to share about possible cyber links between Republican candidate Donald Trump’s company and a Russian bank. He faces a single count of lying to the FBI because he allegedly claimed he was not bringing the information to them on behalf of a client, but was doing so at the request of two of his clients. : Hillary Clinton’s campaign team and a technology manager named Rodney. Joe.

The trial is due to begin next week in DC federal court. Sean M. Berkowitz, an attorney for Sussmann, said in court Monday that the defense team plans to call former Times reporter Eric Lichtblau to testify about his communications with Sussmann and Joffe.

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Berkowitz said in court that after speaking with lawyers for the Times, his team does not expect the news agency to object to Lichtblau testifying on these matters. But he said the Times was concerned about the possibility of Lichtblau being asked about independent research he had done on computer topics related to Sussmann’s efforts. Contacted by phone for comment, Lichtblau asked his attorney, who declined to comment. A Times spokeswoman also declined to comment.

In court, Berkowitz said he expected Times lawyers to file something with the court on the matter at some point this week.

Berkowitz also said he plans to call Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who has reviewed the FBI’s handling of investigations into Hillary Clinton and a former Donald Trump campaign adviser, and released very critical reports of the work of the FBI in these two cases.

Berkowitz said he would call Horowitz as a witness to talk about how Sussmann provided “information to the Inspector General that also implicated Mr. Joffe.”

The Sussmann trial will be a closely watched legal showdown pitting John Durham, a special counsel for the Trump administration, against a longtime Democratic attorney. The former president and his supporters trumpeted the case against Sussmann as evidence the FBI abused its investigative powers and mistreated the Republican presidential candidate, while Democrats argued Durham is pursuing conspiracy theories on the “deep state”.

John Durham has an excellent reputation for investigating corruption. Some fear his work for Barr will tarnish him.

Sussmann pleaded not guilty. In a motion to dismiss the case, he argued that even if he did what Durham alleged, it would not be a federal crime because the question of who his clients were was irrelevant to the FBI. . As part of their evidence, Sussmann’s attorneys said they reviewed more than 300 FBI emails that show the bureau understood Sussmann worked for Democratic campaign entities.

The Durham team argues that had the bureau known that Sussmann was working on behalf of two clients with political interests, officers might have asked more questions about the source of his information or taken different investigative steps. .

The information Sussmann presented to the FBI was computer data showing potentially nefarious computer connections between the Trump Organization, which is the former president’s business entity, and a Russian financial institution known as Alfa Bank. The FBI investigated the matter but ultimately concluded that the computer data showed nothing illegal or problematic.

Durham was asked by then-Attorney General William P. Barr in 2019 to review the FBI’s 2016 investigation into Trump’s campaign and determine whether it was conspiring with Russia. Barr appointed him special adviser shortly before leaving office.

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