Special counsel John Durham on Friday urged a federal judge not to dismiss a charge against a lawyer who lied to the FBI about representing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

 

Michael Sussmann was representing the Hillary Clinton campaign when in 2016 he passed along information to then-FBI General Counsel James Baker. His lawyers say the documents “raised national security concerns” while prosecutors describe them as purportedly detailing a covert channel between a Russian bank and the business of Donald Trump, Clinton’s rival at the time.

 

Sussmann was charged with lying to the FBI because he falsely told Baker he was not providing the allegations to the FBI on behalf of any client, despite presenting the information on behalf of the Clinton campaign, prosecutors say. Sussmann has pleaded not guilty to making a false statement to a federal agent.

 

In a filing, Sussmann’s lawyers moved to dismiss the charge, claiming their client “did not make any false statement to the FBI,” but even if he had, “the false statement alleged in the indictment is immaterial as a matter of law. Allowing this case to go forward would risk criminalizing ordinary conduct, raise First Amendment concerns, dissuade honest citizens from coming forward with tips, and chill the advocacy of lawyers who interact with the government,” the filing stated.

 

“The Special Counsel’s unprecedented and unlawful overreach should not be countenanced, and the single count against Mr. Sussmann should be dismissed.”

 

In its reply on March 4, Durham’s team asked the court not to follow the demand.

 

“The defendant’s false statement to the FBI General Counsel was plainly material because it misled the General Counsel about, among other things, the critical fact that the defendant was disseminating highly explosive allegations about a then-Presidential candidate on behalf of two specific clients, one of which was the opposing Presidential campaign,” their filing said.

 

“The defendant’s efforts to mislead the FBI in this manner during the height of a Presidential election season plainly could have influenced the FBI’s decision-making in any number of ways.”

 

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, an Obama nominee overseeing the case, will now decide whether to dismiss the charge against Sussmann.

 

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