- A top Democratic lawyer took the stand in the first trial that emerged from John Durham’s investigation.
- Marc Elias said the Clinton campaign has never authorized the FBI meeting under discussion in the prosecution.
- Elias called Trump a “bully” and criticized the FBI’s response to the Russian hack of the DNC.
The top attorney for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign labeled Donald Trump a litigious “bully” on Wednesday and recalled feeling “attacked” by Russia’s hack of the Democratic National Committee, in a trial statement that reflected on the bitterly controversial presidential election. race.
Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic lawyer and voting rights advocate, took the stand in the first trial that resulted from the Trump-era special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation. Durham’s office called Elias to testify against another attorney with Democratic ties, Michael Sussmann, who was charged last year with lying to the FBI in connection with a 2016 meeting where he presented internet records claiming to show suspicious contact between servers for the Trump Organization and a Russian bank.
Prosecutors allege Sussmann misled then-top FBI attorney James Baker by stating that he was not representing any client when, in fact, he was seeking the meeting on behalf of the Clinton campaign and a technical director who had provided him with the internet data. But, when questioned by Sussmann’s attorney, Elias said neither he nor anyone involved in the Clinton campaign had authorized the meeting on the core of Sussmann’s prosecution.
Elias said he would not necessarily have seen the meeting as a “good thing” for the Clinton campaign, as attention was drawn to the internet data in the press. The FBI, he said, had not been “particularly helpful” in investigating Russia’s hacking of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, or in taking steps to prevent the resulting email leaks.
During that period, Elias added, then-FBI Director James Comey had taken public stances that he viewed as unfair and considered “putting a thumbs up against Secretary Clinton.”
“I’m not sure I would have thought the FBI would give a fair shot at anything they thought was anti-Trump or pro-Clinton,” Elias said.
Elias recalled feeling “attacked” by the Russian hack of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. And he noted the strategic publication of politically harmful emails just before that year’s Democratic National Convention.
It was, he said, “all an attempt by Russia to destroy what are the only clean-shot candidates to talk to the American public.”
Elias added, “Instead of doing what a decent person could do,” Trump openly invited Russia to find undisclosed emails from Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state under the Obama administration.
Speaking more broadly about his work with the Clinton campaign, Elias said he was aware of Trump’s reputation as “notoriously controversial” during the 2016 election. During the Republican primary, he said, Trump had threatened to indict former Florida governor Job Bush and Senator Marco Rubio.
“Donald Trump was a bully who used litigation as a tactic,” Elias said, “whether in business or in politics.”