The Sussmann Trial Is a Mueller Legacy

Attorney Michael Sussmann arrives in federal court in Washington, April 27.


Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press

Special counsel John Durham’s case against Michael Sussmann is scheduled to be heard on Monday. On April 25, Judge Christopher Cooper banned the government from using much of the Central Intelligence Agency information related to Mr. Sussmann’s activities. However, the trial will tell us a lot about the conspiracy to create the story of collusion with Russia and its ugly appearance, Crossfire Hurricane.

It is also a reminder of the damage Robert Mueller has done to the Federal Bureau of Investigation during his 12-year tenure as director. Then, as special counsel, Mr. Mueller was cast as the protagonist driving the collusion narrative, months after Mr. Sussmann’s fateful September 2016 conversation with the FBI’s General Counsel. James Baker at headquarters office.

Mr. Mueller became FBI director a week before the 9/11 attacks. In their assessment, he was determined to transform the “culture” of the FBI and turn the office into an “intelligence operations” organization. That entails many changes, many of which have bad consequences. One is to replace agency executives with “experts” in head office locations. Perhaps the move raised the short-term technical proficiency in those positions, but it came at a cost – losing its long-term commitment and invaluable knowledge of the institution and its culture.

Thus, during the tenure of Mr. Mueller and his successor, James Comey, we have seen non-agents run public affairs and congressional affairs and serve as general counsel. . These positions were previously held by special agents.

According to a September 2021 indictment by Mr. Sussmann, the then-FBI General Counsel, an unlicensed person, accepted false direction from one of the top attorneys at Perkins Coie, the law firm. for Hillary Clinton’s election campaign. An agent will know how to interview Mr. Sussmann. But Mr. Baker, sitting alone with Mr. Sussmann in his office in the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover Headquarters Building, didn’t even think about bringing an agent into the room. Mr. Sussmann was charged with lying to the FBI during that meeting.

According to the indictment, Mr Sussmann went to Mr Baker’s office and swirled around the story that he was acting as a “good citizen”, not as a lawyer for those opposing the election of Donald Trump. , providing potentially damaging information to Mr. FBI special agents are trained to interview witnesses and suspects and spend most of their working careers doing so. An agent may have grasped Mr. Sussmann’s motives and recorded the interview on an FD-302 interview report form, an appropriate way to document what might become evidence.

What makes Mr. Baker’s lack of action all the more aggravating is that he was informed by a text message a day in advance by Sussmann that he wanted the visit so he could bring sensitive information to the attention of the FBI. According to the April 4, 2022 text, filed by Mr Durham in court, Mr Sussmann also specifically said, in a September 18, 2021 text to Mr Baker, that he was “coming on his own – without changing” customer face. . This is the nature of his alleged lie.

Mr. Sussmann has pleaded not guilty. What will he protect? If it were only his words against Mr. Baker, when there were only the two of them in the room, Mr. Sussmann could simply deny the accusation of lying. Once Mr Durham’s investigation recovered Mr Sussmann’s note, sent the day before the meeting, that the defensive avenue was closed.

But Mr. Durham’s task would have been easier – or completely unnecessary – if Mr. Mueller had not messed with the FBI’s culture of “truth-swearing” law enforcement. Replacing savvy agents with a lawyer working in the room has exposed its shortcomings.

Mr. Baker is a retired FBI agent and legal attaché.

Editorial Review: Paul Gigot interviews Kim Strassel, editor of the Wall Street Journal. Image: AP / Getty Images Synthesis: Mark Kelly

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Appears May 16, 2022, print. The Sussmann Trial Is a Mueller Legacy

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