Special Counsel John Durham’s legal team argued during a hearing in federal court on Wednesday that there is a “strong intersection” between the opposition research purchased by the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 and the allegations presented to the FBI by former Clinton lawyer Michael Sussmann.
The focus of the connection was the dossier of bogus information about Russian and Trump connections assembled by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. The dossier appears to have been the basis for Sussmann’s allegations presented to the FBI in an attempt to connect Trump to the Alfa Bank in Russia.
Sussmann’s lawyers defended by calling Steele a “lightning rod.” They argued that allowing evidence about Steele work would be unfairly prejudicial to their client at trial.
The hearing took place before U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Cooper, a 2013 judicial appointee by Barack Obama, was hearing arguments about whether various contested pieces of evidence could be admitted before the jury at trial.
The Durham and Sussmann teams agreed that Steele and Sussman met in July 2016. Durham’s side argued that Sussman told Steele about the Alfa Bank allegations which led to Steele investigating those claims.
The prosecution team had to admit that it will face difficulty introducing much of the Steele-related evidence, as they do not intend to call Steele as a live witness at the trial. However, they argued that even with that limitation, they should be allowed to present the “strong intersection” between the two.
The prosecutors went on to argue that the meeting between Sussmann and Steele is “probative and relevant.” In a court filing earlier this month, Durham argued that Sussmann “represented and worked for the Clinton campaign” in regard to its opposition research efforts and took affirmative steps to bring the Alfa Bank allegations into the research.
Durham’s lawyers argued that the Steele evidence is “highly probative” because it shows that Sussmann was directly involved with those research efforts.
The charges against Sussmann allege that he told FBI General Counsel James Baker in September 2016 that he was not working “for any client” when he presented the false data regarding Trump and Alfa Bank.
Sussmann’s trial is set to begin in Washington on May 16.