The special counsel investigation of John Durham was dealt a major setback this week when the prosecution of famous Democratic attorney Michael Sussmann was acquitted.
The judgment is expected to further tarnish an already tainted probe, and it begs the issue of what comes next for the Trump-era prosecutor.
John Durham’s office said that Sussmann was at the core of a 2016 plan to persuade the FBI to investigate then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, and the two-week trial ended with a unanimous not guilty finding from a federal jury.
It was a big defeat for a three-year-old probe that had been accused of attempting to supply Trump with political ammo.
John Durham Pressurized To End The Probe
Former Attorney General William Barr entrusted John Durham with investigating the origins of the FBI investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign amid claims of collusion with Russia during the Trump administration.
John Durham’s investigation began as Trump claimed he was the victim of a smear campaign planned by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 opponent and the FBI.
Despite a 2019 Justice Department auditor general report concluding that the FBI was appropriate in beginning the Trump investigation, the prosecutor was appointed as a special counsel by the end of Trump’s term, allowing his probe to proceed after President Biden took office. Durham has filed charges against three people, including Sussmann, but has yet to present any fresh evidence to back up Trump’s assertions.
The decision to press charges against Sussmann had been questioned by several legal observers.
Sussmann was accused of fraudulently saying that he was not operating on behalf of any of his customers when he gave the data, which at the time included Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The FBI eventually concluded that there was no relationship between Trump and the Russian bank.
Some experts questioned the decision to charge Sussmann, citing the lack of third-party witnesses to the disputed encounter, which occurred over six years ago, making it difficult to establish the lie to a jury.