Two late filings from Sussmann and Durham provided the first indication that the special counsel plans to bring Steele and his politically charged 2016 dossier into the case.
New documents filed Monday suggest that instead of focusing narrowly on Sussmann’s alleged lie and the specific meeting where it allegedly occurred, Durham plans to describe at trial how the Clinton campaign tried to dig up information about the then-candidate Donald Trump and his ties to Russia.
Sussmann’s lawyers want the judge to block Durham from presenting evidence on the case at trial and prevent prosecutors from calling Steele as a witness at trial next month.
“Special counsel should not be allowed to turn Mr. Sussmann’s trial on a charge of narrow misrepresentation into a circus full of sideshows that will only fuel partisan fervor,” the lawyers wrote, saying the Steele’s work had “no bearing” on the case and is “inflammatory and irrelevant”.
Durham prosecutors said in their own filing that they plan to present at trial an old deposition from Steele about a meeting he had with Sussmann in which they discussed the Trump-Russia cyber allegations. . Taken together, the documents indicate that Durham may try to call Steele as a witness.
It is ultimately up to DC District Court Judge Christopher Cooper to decide how much information about Steele can be disclosed at trial. It is also considering a motion by Sussmann to dismiss the indictment outright, citing legal loopholes. The Durham team say their case is strong.
There is no indication in the 27-page indictment against Sussmann that he discussed the Steele case during his September 2016 meeting with then-FBI General Counsel James Baker, where Sussmann allegedly made the misrepresentation that forms the basis of his criminal charge.
If Durham is allowed to bring up the case at trial, it would shed light on covert efforts by Clinton allies to push the collusion narrative, which has become a hotly debated political topic. Trump denies wrongdoing and says Democrats faked his ties to Russia, while many Democrats still believe Trump’s relationship with Russia poses a serious national security threat.
The FBI investigated Sussman’s whistleblowing but found no inappropriate cyber links between the Trump Organization and Moscow-based Alfa Bank. But related investigations revealed substantial links between Trump’s orbit and Russians that were linked to the Kremlin’s pro-Trump interference efforts. The new filing now indicates that Sussmann’s case will likely revisit some of that history.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller spent two years investigating potential collusion during the 2016 election. His investigation did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump and Russia, but it uncovered dozens of contacts between Trump associates. Trump campaign and Russian agents.
CNN’s Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.