A federal judge turned down a request from Special Counsel John Durham for a ruling that a lawyer facing trial was part of a wide-ranging “joint venture” involving Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Democratic operatives, private investigation firm Fusion GPS and technology researchers. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper limits evidence and testimony prosecutors can offer against attorney Michael Sussmann at a jury trial set to start this month on a false statement charge, Politico reports. The ruling spares the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee the potential embarrassment of a federal judge finding they were part of a coordinated effort to level discredited allegations that candidate Donald Trump or his allies maintained a data link from Trump Tower to Russia’s Alfa Bank. The Clinton campaign disseminated that claim amid an effort to call out Trump’s ties to Russia at a time when U.S. intelligence agencies revealed efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.
Durham has charged Sussmann — whose firm at the time, Perkins Coie, represented the Clinton camp and Democratic National Committee — with lying to the FBI iin 2016, when he approached the bureau’s top lawyer James Baker with what he described as evidence of links between Trump Tower and Alfa Bank. Prosecutors say Sussmann gave his tip to Baker as a good-faith attempt to protect national security, when he was actually acting on behalf of the campaign and tech researchers he represented. Cooper said that permitting prosecutors to lay out evidence of such a broad, political conspiracy would amount to a “time-consuming and largely unnecessary mini-trial.” Sussmann is one of just three people charged by Durham since he began his probe three years ago.