A former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer wants to prevent an expert witness from debunking computer research that purportedly showed a secret back channel between former President Donald Trump and Russia during the 2016 campaign.
In court papers filed Wednesday, defense lawyers for Michael Sussmann said special counsel John Durham apparently plans to use testimony from FBI agent David Martin “to cast doubt on the specific data and conclusions that Mr. Sussmann presented to the FBI.”
Durham also appears poised to have Martin discuss the “materiality” — or decision-making importance — to the FBI of Sussmann’s allegedly false claim that he wasn’t acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign and a tech-executive client at the time, the defense said.
Sussmann’s lawyers said the moves would “fall outside the bounds of what the Court ruled it would allow and instead veer into impermissible testimony.”
“Such testimony should be excluded,” they wrote.
The filing also said that Durham “appears to be attempting to get in through expert opinion precisely the type of testimony that the court has precluded from fact witnesses.”
As an example, the defense cited potential testimony from Martin about “spoofing,” in which the origin of computer communications can be disguised and “made to appear falsely to originate from a particular IP address.”
That “would suggest to the jury that the specific data Mr. Sussmann presented to the FBI could have been spoofed, even though there is no evidence suggesting that Mr. Sussmann had any such knowledge,” his defense lawyers wrote.
The case against Sussmann stems from a Sept. 19, 2016, meeting at which he gave then-FBI General Counsel James Baker two thumb drives and three “white papers” regarding computer communications between a “secret” server operated by the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank.
The FBI subsequently opened an investigation that reportedly concluded the only material apparently being exchanged was marketing emails.
Sussmann’s trial in Washington, DC, federal court, which is set to begin with jury selection on Monday, involves the allegation that he led Baker to believe he was acting “as a good citizen and not as an advocate for any client” when he shared the information.
If convicted on the single count of making a false statement to the government, he would face a maximum of five years in prison.