Michael Sussmann trial: Durham wants ex-New York Times reporter to answer ‘all relevant questions’

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Special Counsel John Durham on Thursday requested controversial former New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau should be forced to answer all questions posed to him during the trial of former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann despite the journalist’s request to limit the scope of queries. “If Lichtblau takes the witness stand at trial, the Court should require him to answer all relevant questions posed to him that fall within the scope of his direct testimony, the criminal charge, or his credibility and reliability,” Durham wrote in a response to Lichtblau’s motion for protective rights. Sussmann has been charged with making a false statement to the FBI when he told former FBI General Counsel James Baker in September 2016, less than two months before the presidential election, that he was not doing work “for any client” when he requested and attended a meeting where he presented “purported data and ‘white papers’ that allegedly demonstrated a covert communicates channel” between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, which has ties to the Kremlin.SPECIAL COUNSEL JOHN DURHAM’S PROSECUTION OF MICHAEL SUSSMANN: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOWDurham’s team alleges Sussmann was, in fact, doing work for two clients: the Hillary Clinton campaign and a technology executive, Rodney Joffe. Following the meeting with Baker, Sussmann billed the Clinton campaign for his work. Sussmann has pleaded not guilty to the charge. 
Former New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau was part of the paper’s team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Russia and the Trump campaign. 
Baker testified Thursday he was warned by Sussmann in 2016 that a “major” news outlet would be publishing a story on the Trump-Russia story, which would have made it much harder” for the FBI to investigate. Baker added that because of the potential involvement of news media, investigating the allegations of a channel between Trump Organization and Alfa Bank was “time sensitive.”Baker testified that days after the meeting with Sussmann at the FBI on Sept. 19, 2016, the two spoke by phone in an attempt to determine the identity of the reporter he had identified in the meeting so that he could ask the reporter to slow down on publishing the article. Baker testified that Lichtblau eventually agreed to slow down the publication of his story in order to help the FBI. Lichtblau, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, was the reporter in question. One of his Pulitzers was awarded for work he did covering Russia’s alleged ties to the Trump campaign, although Special Counsel Robert Mueller later determined there was no evidence of collusion. MICHAEL SUSSMANN TRIAL: ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC IGNORE CASE AT CENTER OF TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE
Attorney Michael Sussmann departs the U.S. Federal Courthouse after opening arguments in his trial in Washington, D.C. 
(REUTERS/Julia Nikhinson)Sussmann’s legal team has subpoenaed Lichtblau to testify at the trial, and the ex-Times reporter agreed but sought a “protective order restricting the government’s ability to cross-examine him based on various evidentiary objections and a qualified reporter’s privilege,” according to the response to Lichtblau’s motion for protective rights. Lichtblau essentially wishes to block questions that he feels stray from the central conversation between himself and Sussmann in order to protect sources and not expose unpublished journalism. Durham feels that “in the event Lichtblau testifies, the government should not be restricted” in its cross-examination of the ex-Times reporter.BAKER BRIEFED COMEY, MCCABE ON ALLEGED COVERT COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN TRUMP ORG, RUSSIA”The government should be permitted to cross-examine Lichtblau about any communications he had with other individuals, including, but not limited to, Fusion GPS personnel and computer researchers, regarding the alleged connections between the Trump Organization and Alfa bank. To the extent Sussmann, Fusion GPS, or others (including computer researchers) approached or communicated with Lichtblau concerning Alfa Bank or related matters, the government should be permitted to question Lichtblau about such exchanges, as they are relevant to the defendant’s communications with Lichtblau on these same issues and are probative of the defendant’s alleged actions on behalf of clients (Rodney Joffe and the Clinton Campaign). The government also intends to cross-examine Lichtblau on issues pertaining to the credibility and reliability of his testimony,” Durham wrote. Durham believes the court has “has sufficient tools at its disposal to ensure that the government’s cross-examination of Lichtblau at trial is relevant and appropriate” and, therefore, the reporter is fair game.  “The motion for protective order should be denied. If Lichtblau takes the witness stand at trial, the Court should require him to answer all relevant questions posed to him that fall within the scope of his direct testimony, the criminal charge, or his credibility and reliability,” Durham wrote. The New York Times and Lichtblau did not immediately respond to a request for comment. CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPLichtblau left The New York Times in 2017. He joined CNN that same year but resigned three months later after the retraction of an article in his investigative unit about a Russian investment fund and Trump officials. An internal investigation found that standard editorial processes were not followed. Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report. 

Mojtaba Sadira

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