High-powered Democratic attorney Marc Elias took the stand in the government’s case against cybersecurity attorney Michael Sussmann on Wednesday.
Sussmann is on trial for allegedly lying to the FBI about his motivations for passing severely flawed data on to the law enforcement agency purporting to show a connection between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank. Sussmann’s case is the first courtroom test of special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy that undermined the 2016 election and hounded former President Donald Trump well into his presidency.
Elias is a former partner of the Democratic-linked law firm Perkins Coie and oversaw Sussmann’s work for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Elias also hired Fusion GPS, the original propagators of the infamous Steele dossier, as consultants in Perkins’ work with the Clinton campaign. In practice, Fusion conducted opposition research on Trump and his associates, a description that Elias said he would not “quibble” with during testimony, according to The Washington Examiner.
Elias criticized Trump over his past comments on Russia, and Elias hit former FBI Director James Comey for “putting the thumb on the scale” of the 2016 election in a way that benefited Trump.
Judge Christopher Cooper has instructed jurors to disregard their feelings one way or the other over Trump and Clinton and stick to the facts of the case. Prosecutors have asked jurors to look at the evidence and not allow their political biases to shade their judgment.
Elias called Trump “a bully” who used the legal system and the threat of lawsuits to intimidate others. The Democratic-linked attorney smacked Trump over his response to the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
“There was clearly an attempt by Russia to ruin the one clean shot that candidates get to talk to the American public,” Elias said, according to CNN. “And instead of doing what any decent human being would do, and condemn it, Donald Trump said, ‘I hope Russia is listening and will find the 30,000 Hillary Clinton emails … and release them.’”
Elias also hit Comey and claimed that the FBI was not “particularly helpful” in investigating Russian attacks against the DNC during the 2016 campaign.
“The FBI, for a variety of reasons, was not going to do anything to stop these bad things from happening,” Elias said. “James Comey had taken public stances around that time period that were, in my view, unfair, and putting the thumb on the scale against Secretary Clinton.”
The jurors in the case were picked out of the deep blue neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. During jury selection earlier this week, numerous members of the jury pool, some of whom were picked to serve on the jury itself, expressed support for Clinton and disdain for Trump.
While Elias appeared more inclined to support Sussmann, Durham’s team was able to use the attorney to enter into evidence a litany of records of meetings, emails, and billing statements showing Perkins and Fusion’s work on the Alfa Bank claims on behalf of the Clinton campaign.