Bombshell testimony that Hillary Clinton personally authorized giving a reporter since-debunked data about Donald Trump and Russia was part of a chess-like maneuver to “protect the queen,” a former US Justice Department official told The Post.
Jim Trusty said former Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook’s revelation Friday, which he quickly tried to walk back, actually meshed with other testimony in which Mook and former campaign general counsel Marc Elias both said they were unaware campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann planned to also provide the information to the FBI.
Both men said they would have objected to the move if they’d known.
“The strategy here is Protect the Queen!” Trusty said in an email.
“The Knights (lawyers for the campaign, the campaign manager) have drawn the line – admitting what they have to admit.”
Meanwhile, Mook and Elias also suggested that Clinton “was shocked, shocked by Sussmann going to the FBI,” said Trusty, now a Washington, DC, lawyer and Fox News contributor.
“Legal representation simply does not work that way. You don’t ‘free-lance’ a visit to the FBI while billing your client for the time,” he said.
“The defense is basically trying to provide a fig leaf to any partisan jurors who want to acquit.”
Former FBI agent Thomas J. Baker also told The Post, “Whether Sussmann is found guilty or innocent or otherwise, [special counsel John] Durham has already laid out, in my opinion, what these people were up to and what was going on.
“It paints a picture of Sussmann colluding with other people to drag the FBI into an investigation and besmirch a presidential candidate,” he said.
Sussmann is on trial in DC on a single count of lying to the government when he met with then-FBI general counsel James Baker on Sept. 19, 2016, and handed over material that purportedly showed a cyber backchannel between a Trump Organization server and Russia’s Alfa Bank.
He’s accused of falsely denying that he was acting on behalf of a client, with Durham alleging that Sussmann was actually working for both the Clinton campaign and Rodney Joffe, a tech executive who told him about the data.
Thomas Baker suggested that the case against Sussmann would be stronger if not for changes instituted by former FBI Director Robert Mueller following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
“Moving away from being a law enforcement agency to an intelligence agency changed the culture,” he said.
“Part of it is they got rid of agent-executives and replaced them with so-called professionals, like James Baker.”
Thomas Baker said that if James Baker had been an FBI agent, he would have immediately summoned another agent to participate in the meeting with Sussmann and prepare an official report known as a “302.”
Instead, James Baker didn’t take any notes and left what Sussmann said open to question, he said.
In a recent column for The Post, former Manhattan federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy said Durham “appears to have built a case of historic consequence” that “portrays the Clinton campaign as guilty of perhaps the worst dirty trick in the history of American presidential elections.”
“The problem for Durham is that, because he hasn’t charged the big scheme, Judge [Christopher] Cooper is restricting what he can tell the jury about it,” McCarthy wrote.
“On the other hand, to the extent Sussmann directly participated in the scheme, the court is inclined to let Durham prove it.”
A different view was put forward on Thursday by US Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who tweeted: “I do not believe that the Durham trial of Michael Sussmann is about convicting Michael Sussmann at all.”
“I think the entire purpose of this trial is to inoculate the FBI and the DOJ against the charge that they were in on the Russia Hoax,” he said.
Sussmann’s trial is set to resume Monday. If convicted as charged, he’d face a maximum sentence of five years in prison.