A former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer set to go on trial for allegedly lying to the FBI revealed just days before jury selection starts that notes from a top former FBI official undercut the case against him.

Michael Sussmann, the lawyer, allegedly told James Baker, an FBI lawyer, in 2016 that he was bringing allegations concerning then-candidate Donald Trump on his own accord, not on behalf of a client.

Special counsel John Durham, prosecuting the case, revealed in April that Sussmann texted the lawyer as much before they met.

“Jim – it’s Michael Sussmann. I have something time-sensitive (and sensitive) I need to discuss,” Sussmann told the lawyer. “Do you have availibilty [sic] for a short meeting tomorrow? I’m coming on my own – not on behalf of a client or company – want to help the Bureau. Thanks.”

Sussmann’s lawyers have since said the message is legitimate, but in a new filing on May 8 they shared new information they say contradicts Durham’s core allegation they only recently obtained through discovery from prosecutors.

The key piece of new information is in a set of notes said to be taken during a meeting in March 2017 that included Baker and top Department of Justice officials, as well as then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

The notes say McCabe said that the Trump-Russia allegations were sourced from an “attorney” who “brought [them] to [the] FBI on behalf of his client.”

“This new information directly contradicts the Special Counsel’s core allegation in this case: that Mr. Sussmann falsely told Mr. Baker that he was not meeting with Mr. Baker on behalf of any client,” lawyers for Sussmann said.

The previously revealed text “represents just one moment in time,” they added, before noting that the actual meeting between Sussmann and Baker was not recorded, nor were several phone calls held after the meeting.

“And yet, at some point between September 18, 2016, and March 6, 2017, the FBI apparently came to believe that Mr. Sussmann did have a client in connection with his meeting with Mr. Baker and that the Alfa allegations were provided ‘on behalf of his client,’” Sussmann’s lawyers said.

They claim that the notes show Baker “was silent” when McCabe said Sussman brought the allegations on behalf of a client, and say the notes cast doubt on the reliability of Baker, who has said Sussmann told him he was not bringing the information on behalf of a client.

Sussmann represented the campaign of Clinton, Trump’s rival for the presidency, when he met with the FBI lawyer.

Sussmann was later charged with one count of lying to the FBI.

Durham’s team is attempting to convince the court to block the defense from introducing the notes, saying the judge should make them give a “non-hearsay basis” for each portion they want to admit.

Prosecutors said in a recent filing that the Department of Justice workers who took the notes were not present for the Baker-Sussmann meeting and that the government has not found any notes Baker took during the 2017 meeting that involved McCabe.

McCabe was fired during the Trump administration after he lied under oath, according to the department.


Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.

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