Michael Sussmann, a lawyer who represented Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic Party, was acquitted by a federal jury on Tuesday of a single count of lying to the FBI, The Associated Press reported.
The decision is a major blow to special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the bureau’s scrutiny into former President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The case had been the biggest of Durham’s investigation, which has lasted three years and has done little to support Trump’s claims of a politically-motivated witch hunt into alleged ties between him and Russia.
Durham’s case against the former Perkins Coie partner had been controversial from the beginning. The special counsel’s office alleged Sussmann arranged a meeting in October 2016 with James Baker, then the FBI’s general counsel, to provide data purporting to show suspicious internet traffic between Trump and Alfa Bank, a Russian financial institution.
Prosecutors accused Sussmann of lying when he told Baker that he was not attending the meeting on behalf of any of his clients, which at the time included Clinton’s campaign and a cybersecurity researcher named Rodney Joffe, who had assembled the Alfa Bank data.
But Sussmann’s lawyers argued at trial that the case was thin, lacking any third-party witnesses to the one-on-one meeting or any contemporaneous notes. The defense team argued their client had not lied, that he was turning over the information to aid the FBI, and that even if the FBI did not know the source of the data, it had little material effect on their subsequent investigation.
The FBI ultimately concluded that it could not establish a link between Trump and Alfa Bank.