Not just any lawyer, but the one who officially represented the FBI itself when they went to court, James Baker, testified that yes, Michael Sussmann’s lie mattered. Durham is smiling but you can’t tell, because it’s hidden behind that mustache.
A material lie
The lie was “material.” That’s all Special Prosecutor John Durham wanted to hear because that’s what makes it a punishable crime. If James Baker knew that Michael Sussmann was on the payroll of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, he never would have had that meeting.
Things would have been very different had he known about Sussmann’s other client, too. Sussmann is charged with the crime of telling Baker that “he was not appearing before me on behalf of any particular client.”
The account card notes that Sussmann billed Hillary for his meeting with Baker. When he sat down, allegedly out of the goodness of his heart and not because he was working for anybody, he was also working for former Neustar executive Rodney Joffe.
Hearing either one of those names would have been a game changer for Baker. That means the lie was “material.” Case closed. At least, it appears that way to the prosecution. The judge may have different ideas.
When the FBI actually looked at the data Sussmann dumped on them, they thought it had been created by a “maniac” in a laughably obvious attempt to frame Donald Trump.
They didn’t know Peter Strzok already had a copy and planned to use it, legitimate or not in his Crossfire Hurricane vendetta. It was one lie after another.
Washington Examiner writes about “the since-debunked allegations of a secret back channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa-Bank.” They make it seem like it took awhile to figure that out. Minutes after experts looked at what they were being fed they knew it was total fabrication. That isn’t the lie that’s important.
When prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis asked Baker point blank if he “would have met with Sussmann if he’d known he was pushing the Alfa-Bank claims on behalf of the Clinton campaign,” Baker replied “I don’t think I would have.” Then he clarified he definitely would not have. “We look at the identity of the source of information and make an assessment of the reliability and credibility of that information. We would have looked at it differently.” In what way differently? “We would have taken more time with it. We would have subjected it to more scrutiny.”
They take tips from anybody but the source really does matter. According to Baker, “if the source was the opponent in the presidential election,” then “we would’ve looked at that information very, very carefully.” Hillary’s investigation was still open.
Baker testified he would have told Sussmann “if you’re meeting on behalf of Clinton, you shouldn’t come to see me.” He would have sent Sussmann to “meet with Midyear Exam case agents instead.” That is exactly why Sussmann chose to lie about it.
Also, Baker clarified to the court, if “I had understood Mr. Joffe’s connection to Neustar … then I would’ve wanted to have a team of attorneys with me.”
If he knew Sussmann told him a lie about not having clients, especially these clients, “then he might have wanted to have other FBI employees in the meeting or may have simply decided not to hold the meeting at all.“