At his military tribunal on 22 June, former Clinton lawyer Michael Sussmann said in an opening statement that he thought he was “home free” after a Federal D.C. jury acquitted him of lying to the FBI about having knowledge of a computer server that linked President Trump to a Moscow Bank and to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sussmann, representing himself, accused the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps and Office of Military Commissions of malicious prosecution, saying they had become Donald Trump’s personal police force— “A Gestapo Trump uses to settle vendettas against anyone he doesn’t like.” He likened Trump to Joseph Stalin, whose People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) had a monopoly on Soviet law enforcement through the end of World War II. The NKVD was infamous for making Stalin’s enemies—and their families—disappear.
When Vice Adm. Darse E. Crandall accused Sussmann of grandstanding, the latter grew visibly angry, calling both the admiral and the 3-officer panel “Donald Trump’s personal bitches.”
“We’ve heard this nonsense time and time again, detainee Sussmann,” Vice Adm. Crandall said calmly. “You’re here today because of your crimes, not President Trump. He had nothing to do with our investigation, or your arrest. You can conduct yourself civilly, or we can gag you.”
“This is double jeopardy,” Sussmann cried out. “A jury of my peers found me not guilty!”
Sussmann’s statement referred to a clause in the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution that prohibits anyone from being prosecuted twice for substantially the same crime. For a lawyer, though, he had poor understanding of the law. Exceptions to the Double Jeopardy clause state an individual can be tried twice based on the same facts if the elements of each crime are different, and different jurisdictions can charge the same individual with the same crime based on the same facts without violating Double Jeopardy.
And Vice Adm. Crandall had a different reason. “Maybe you’re confused, detainee Sussmann. We’re not charging you with lying to the FBI. We’re charging you with treason, and conspiracy to commit election fraud, for which you were well paid,” he said.
He entered into evidence Sussmann’s banking records for September 2016. On the 16th of that month Sussmann received a deposit for $1,400,000. It had come from Act Blue, a seedy American nonprofit technology organization established in June 2004 that enables left-leaning nonprofits, Democratic candidates, and progressive groups to raise money from individual donors on the Internet by providing them with online fundraising software. Three days later, Sussmann told former FBI official James Baker that computer data showed secret communications between Trump, the Trump Organization, and Russia-based Alpha Bank. Four days afterward, Sussmann got another sizable deposit, this time from the Clinton Foundation for $2,220,000.
Neither payout was mentioned at his federal trial.
Baker, who left the FBI in 2018 and now works at Twitter, said at Sussman’s federal trial, “Michael’s a friend of mine and a colleague, and I believed him and trusted that the statement was truthful.”
“Let’s put aside the Act Blue deposit. If, detainee Sussmann, the Clintons did not employ you to feed the FBI false information on President Trump, would you care to explain why they paid you over two million dollars?” Vice Adm. Crandall asked.
“For consulting fees and speaking engagements,” Sussmann replied.
“What consulting? And where did you speak?” Vice Adm. Crandall asked.
“That is private,” Sussmann said.
“Detainee Sussmann, your life hangs on your answers. And you’re unwilling to justify why you were given a multimillion-dollar payout? The evidence suggests you were paid to do everything in your power to slander Donald J. Trump to halt his bid for the 2016 presidency. And that’s your final answer?”
“I have nothing more to say,” Sussmann said.
Vice Adm. Crandall rested his case, asking the 3-officer panel tasked with judging Sussmann’s fate to consider carefully why the Clinton Foundation—and Act Blue—would have charitably surrendered millions of dollars for no obvious reason.
It took the panel only 10 minutes to reach a verdict: guilty.
Sussmann was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.
He was executed by gunshot eight hours later.