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Jury chosen in trial of Michael Sussmann, accused of lying to FBI during 2016 campaign
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A jury is due to hear opening statements in the trial on Tuesday from Michael Sussmann, a lawyer accused of lying to the FBI in 2016 when he brought the bureau’s allegations against Donald Trump.

After a day of questioning potential jurors, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper convened a panel to hear the case brought by Special Counsel John Durham against Sussmann, an attorney who represented Democrats including the campaign Clinton.

In September 2016, Sussmann provided potential evidence of computer communications between Trump’s company and a Russian bank. the lawyer is accused of lying when he claimed not to provide the information on behalf of a particular client, when prosecutors say he worked for the Clinton campaign and a tech company executive.

The FBI investigated the computer allegation and decided there was nothing suspicious about the data. But Durham blamed Sussmann’s alleged deception for causing the FBI to treat the tip more seriously than if it had known it was from a Democratic campaign. Sussmann has denied the charge and his lawyers insist that even if he lied about his clients, the lie was irrelevant because the FBI was well aware that Sussmann worked for the Democrats.

Throughout Monday’s voir dire, jurors were asked if they could set aside any strong feelings about the 2016 election and decide Sussmann’s case based solely on the evidence presented in court. Sometimes the discussion sparked candid exchanges.

“I remember the 2016 election was kind of a mess and there was a lot of shenanigans,” said one woman who said she didn’t like Trump at all.

At another point, when a different potential juror was faced with questions about the intensity of his political views, the judge reminded everyone what it wasn’t about.

“We’re not here to question the 2016 election,” Cooper said. “Donald Trump is not on trial. Hillary Clinton is not on trial.

But by its very nature, the case will delve into some of the still-debated issues of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Misrepresentation charge against Sussmann laid by Durham, a holdover from the Trump administration that spent years investigating whether US agencies unfairly investigated Trump’s campaign in 2016. The two-week trial will explore the often opaque world of campaign research, lawyers and the role played by the FBI in this election, when Trump and Hillary Clinton were vying for the presidency, and when federal agents conducted very different investigations around each of them.

The Sussmann case is the first of Durham’s special counsel work to go to trial. Previously, a former FBI agent pleaded guilty to altering a government email, and another trial is scheduled for the fall for a Washington-area researcher accused of lying to the FBI about how he had raised allegations against Trump in 2016.

washingtonpost

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