Lawyers for former Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann, who was indicted last year by Special Counsel John Durham for allegedly lying to the FBI in 2016, had sought to have the entire case dismissed in a pre-trial motion filed last month.
A federal judge on Wednesday, however, rejected that motion to dismiss and ordered the case to proceed to trial as originally scheduled, the Daily Caller reported.
Sussmann is alleged to have falsely told then-FBI General Counsel James Baker that he was not working on behalf of any client when he handed over detrimental — and later proven false — information about then-candidate Donald Trump, when he was acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign at that time.
Motion to dismiss denied
Business Insider reported that Sussmann’s attorneys had argued in the motion to dismiss that even if their client had lied to the FBI about who he may or may not have been working for at that time, such a lie would not have been “material” or have any influence on whether or not the FBI moved forward with the information provided alleging untoward connections between Trump and a Russian bank.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper saw things differently, though, and denied that motion in a six-page ruling issued Wednesday that allows the case to proceed to trial on the previously scheduled date of May 16.
Judge Cooper addressed the “materiality standard” of the Sec. 1001 charge Sussmann faces and noted that Sussmann’s lawyers had adopted an “overly narrow” view of the statute that disregarded the possibility that the commission of relevant information by Sussmann may have played an influential role in the FBI’s investigation.
“As the Special Counsel argues, it is at least possible that statements made to law enforcement prior to an investigation could materially influence the later trajectory of the investigation. Sussmann offers no legal authority to the contrary,” the judge wrote.
Cooper went on to outline the disputed facts and narratives of both the prosecution and defense in the case and said, “The battle lines thus are drawn, but the Court cannot resolve this standoff prior to trial.”
The judge ultimately concluded, “So, while Sussmann is correct that certain statements might be so peripheral or unimportant to a relevant agency decision or function to be immaterial under § 1001 as matter of law, the Court is unable to make that determination as to this alleged statement before hearing the government’s evidence. Any such decision must therefore wait until trial.”
Judge had already denied another major motion from Sussmann’s defense
Fox News reported that this is at least the second major setback for Sussmann’s defense team in the past two months as Judge Cooper had also denied a motion during a hearing in March asking him to “strike” from the record a “factual background” section that Durham had included in a February filing in the case.
That “factual background” had, by and large, laid out significant portions of the broader anti-Trump conspiracy in 2016 that Sussmann had played a role in. Sussmann’s lawyers had argued that the information presented was prejudicial and would “taint” a jury, but Judge Cooper had disagreed and allowed the challenged section to remain in the case record.
As noted in Cooper’s order, and barring any additional filings that may change the judge’s mind, Sussmann’s trial for providing false statements to federal investigators is set to commence on May 16.