Jury selected in Durham-Sussmann trial: Opening arguments, testimony from Democratic lawyer Marc Elias to come

Posted 38 days ago


A jury was seated Monday in the trial of former Clinton attorney Michael Sussmann — the first trial stemming from Special Counsel John Durham’s years-long investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe — and opening arguments are expected to be presented by both the government and the defense Tuesday morning, as well as testimony from Democratic lawyer Marc Elias.

U. S. District Judge Christopher Cooper on Monday presided over the first day of the Sussmann trial, which consisted of nearly eight hours of jury selection.

Special Counsel John Durham was in the courtroom for the entirety of jury selection, but was not seated with the prosecution team. Instead, Durham sat in the first row of the courtroom, behind the government’s table.

Sussmann is charged with making a false statement to the FBI and has pleaded not guilty.

The jury includes one federal government employee who told the judge they donated to Democrats in 2016 and another government employee who told the judge they "strongly" dislike former President Trump—both of those jurors told the judge they could be impartial throughout the trial. The jury also includes a teacher, an illustrator, a mechanic and more.

The overwhelming majority of jurors selected told Cooper they had not heard of the case prior to jury service.

"Picking a jury is more of an art than a science," Cooper said Monday, urging the individuals who were not selected to serve on the jury to "take nothing from the fact that you’re being excused."

Cooper, in dismissing the jury Monday evening, instructed jurors against doing "any independent research about the case," and instructed them not to discuss the case even amongst fellow jurors.

Representing the government are federal prosecutors Andrew DeFilippis, Michael Keilty, Deborah Brittain Shaw, and Jonathan Edgar Algor IV.

Both the prosecution and the defense are expected to deliver opening arguments Tuesday morning, beginning at 9 a.m. ET.

The government is expected to call several witnesses to testify after opening arguments Tuesday, including former Clinton lawyer Marc Elias, who formerly served with Sussmann at Perkins Coie.

Perkins Coie is the law firm through which the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton campaign funded the anti-Trump dossier.

The unverified dossier, which contained allegations of purported coordination between Trump and the Russian government, was authored by Christopher Steele, an ex-British intelligence officer, and commissioned by opposition research firm Fusion GPS.

Cooper acknowledged Monday that Elias had testified before the grand jury as part of the government’s case, but said he had not yet read his grand jury testimony.

The government is also expected to call two FBI special agents to testify Tuesday.

With regard to COVID-19, Cooper warned the prosecution and the defense to take care when outside the courtroom, due to rising cases of coronavirus in Washington D. C.

"We may have to take a break, or even worse," Cooper warned, should someone involved in the case test positive.

Durham and the government allege Sussmann told FBI General Counsel James Baker in September 2016 — less than two months before the 2016 presidential election — that he was not doing work "for any client" when Sussman requested and attended a meeting where he presented "purported data and ‘white papers’ that allegedly demonstrated a covert communications channel" between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, which has ties to the Kremlin.

Durham and the government allege Sussmann lied in the meeting, "falsely stating to the general counsel that he was not providing the allegations to the FBI on behalf of any client."

Durham, in a filing in the weeks leading up to the trial, said "the night before the defendant met with the general counsel, the defendant conveyed the same lie in writing and sent the following text message to the general counsel’s personal cellphone."

"Jim — it’s Michael Sussmann. I have so... (Read more)