Looking at the trial of attorney Michael Sussman, who represented Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, it’s impossible not to draw parallels to the trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
By Caroline Glick, Israel Hayom via JNS.org
In the United States, as in Israel, the polarization between left and right grows from day to day. Our societies have never been more divided.
A chief source of the social and ideological divide is the politicization of our countries’ legal systems. Over the past generation, leftist ideologues seized control over our state prosecution and law enforcement agencies and transformed our institutions of law into arms of the political left.
In recent weeks we have witnessed the consequences of this takeover in courtrooms in Washington and Jerusalem.
Last Tuesday, attorney Michael Sussman, a former partner at the Washington law firm Perkins Coie, which represents the Democratic Party and represented Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, was acquitted in Washington, D.C.’s Federal District Court of the charge of lying to the FBI.
A few months before the 2016 elections, Sussman initiated a meeting with his friend James Baker, who at the time served as the FBI’s general counsel. In that meeting, Sussman shared allegations that Donald Trump had untoward relations with the Kremlin. Sussman alleged that the Trump Organization shared a computer server with Alpha Bank, a Russian bank allegedly connected to the Kremlin.
In 2019, then-Attorney General Bill Barr appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the origins of the conspiracy that has come to be known as “Russiagate.”
Russiagate is a catchword that describes an apparent conspiracy of the FBI, Clinton’s campaign, the Justice Department and the media to demonize Trump and his advisers as Russian agents. The allegations first surfaced in the months before the 2016 election.
Shortly after Trump entered office, the allegations reached fever pitch. The media was pounding out the claims around the clock. FBI director James Comey legitimized them.
Under duress, Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from handling the allegations, and his deputy Rod Rosenstein, a friend of the heads of the FBI and Obama appointees at the Justice Department, appointed their friend, former FBI director Robert Mueller, to serve as a special counsel to investigate the allegations the Trump-Russia charges.
FBI vs Trump
Mueller’s team of Clinton-supporting investigators fed the media a steady diet of unlawful leaks which dominated the public discourse in Washington for the first two years of Trump’s presidency.
The allegation that Trump was illegitimate and a Russian agent paralyzed his presidency. Trump was unable to develop normal or constructive ties with Russia. And his ability to forge policy more generally was compromised and challenged and every turn.
And yet, during the same period, congressional investigators discovered the truth. The allegations, including Sussman’s to Baker, were total fabrications that originated in Clinton’s campaign.
The Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party paid Perkins Coie tens of millions of dollars, which they pocketed and doled out to private investigators, cyberwarfare experts and opposition research firms to concoct false allegations about Trump and his advisers and then peddle them to the FBI, the Justice Department and the supportive media.
In March 2019, Mueller finally ended his investigation. Despite the leaks, and efforts to obfuscate the truth, the report concluded that there was no evidence Trump or his advisers had colluded with the Russians during the 2016 campaign.
Barr appointed Durham shortly after Mueller submitted his report. Sussman was the first person involved in the anti-Trump conspiracy to stand trial.
Durham had clear evidence that Sussman had lied to the FBI. Sussman told Baker that he was bringing the Alpha Bank allegations as a private citizen, rather than as a campaign lawyer. To avoid conviction, Sussman said that this was not material for the FBI’s operations.
To substantiate his claim, Sussman’s attorneys revealed that throughout the campaign, Sussman was acting in full partnership with the FBI leadership. Among other things, Sussman’s attorneys revealed that after his meeting with Baker, the FBI field agent who investigated his allegations about the Trump Organization and Alpha Bank concluded that the story was utter nonsense and asked to investigate the source of the claim.
The FBI’s leadership not only ignored his request, they kept the investigation open and moved it to FBI headquarters. Sussman himself had a badge that gave him free access to the FBI building. He was so close to the FBI leadership that they asked him to edit FBI press releases related to the Democratic Party’s allegation that their computer was hacked by Russia.
As if all this were insufficient, shortly after Sussman’s acquittal, a whistleblower at Perkins Coie told two Republican congressmen that since 2012, the FBI has operated a secure facility inside Perkins Coie law offices. And until his departure from the firm last year, Sussman operated the facility. The implication—that the FBI has effectively been merged with the Democratic Party since 2012 by Perkins Coie—s jaw-dropping.
One of the keys to understanding the Russiagate conspiracy is that it wasn’t only the FBI that operated as one with the Democratic Party. The media was also a full partner. It was a circular operation.
Campaign operatives like Sussman farmed false allegations to the FBI to convince it to open investigations. Then they farmed the same fables to the Washington press corps and used the fact that the FBI was also looking into the allegations to convince the reporters to publish the allegations. They then used the media stories to persuade the FBI to keep investigating.
And again, the investigations went on and morphed into the Mueller probe and 24/7 media drumbeat of prejudicial leaks that paralyzed the Trump presidency. All along, all parties involved knew that the allegations against Trump and his advisers were false and originated from the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party.
Mission to ‘get Netanyahu’
Looking at the Sussman trial from Israel, it is impossible not to draw parallels to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial. In both cases, a politicized legal fraternity colluded with the media to prevent the electoral victory of their political opponent. And in both cases, the media was a full partner in the scheme.
Netanyahu is standing trial for bribery and breach of trust. The “breach of trust” charge is a subjective catch-all concept that the prosecutors admit wouldn’t have sufficed on its own to bring Netanyahu to trial. The bribery charge was the key to Netanyahu’s political downfall.
Netanyahu’s trial opened last April. Last May he was ousted from office. To date, some 15 prosecution witnesses have taken the stand, and one by one, they have not merely demolished every aspect of the prosecution’s charges against Netanyahu, they have exposed the full partnership of police investigators and state prosecutions in their joint mission to “get Netanyahu,” that is, to oust him from power, at all costs.
To achieve their political goal, the police descended on Netanyahu’s advisers one by one, and gave them the treatment generally reserved for terrorists and violent criminals.
They were dragged from their beds at dawn, in front of their families, and carted off to investigation rooms and flea-ridden jail cells. They were denied food. They were subjected to public humiliation in the media. Their electronic communications were illegally tapped. Their families were threatened. Their livelihoods were destroyed.
And the police didn’t let them go until they gave them something—anything—to incriminate the prime minister of Israel.
Since Netanyahu had committed no crime, then-Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan reinvented the bribery statute to claim that lawful actions Netanyahu did undertake were criminal.
Like every politician on the face of the planet, Netanyahu sought positive coverage from news organizations. The prosecution decided that this effort amounted to a solicitation of a bribe.
Netanyahu signed regulatory decisions that affected a telecommunications firm owned by his friend. The prosecution decided this was a favor—a payment for positive coverage from his friend’s news website.
Unfortunately for the prosecution, Netanyahu received terrible coverage from the website. But no matter, the prosecutors simply updated the definition of bribery. They said Netanyahu received “undo responsiveness” from the website’s management to his requests for better coverage, and that was now the definition of a bribe.
Over the first several months of the trial, prosecution witness after prosecution witness shredded the claim. The website’s management was not responsive to requests from Netanyahu or his spokesmen, not in absolute terms and not in comparison to requests from other politicians.
Over the past three months, the focus of the trial moved to the alleged regulatory favors Netanyahu provided his friend, who owned the telecommunications giant Bezeq along with his website. Here too, the prosecution’s case has fallen apart. Netanyahu was a mere rubber stamp in the regulatory process. He gave no instructions to his underlings. There was no give, and no take. There was no bribe.
The end justifies the means
There are many different ways to view the prosecution’s behavior. Some commentators argue that they never thought Netanyahu would risk going to trial and would simply cop a plea to avoid prison and slink off into the shadows, handing leadership of the country to someone else. Others claim that the prosecutors are simply stupid, or incompetent.
But judging from their behavior, Israel’s legal fraternity was—and remains—rabidly political.
They used every power they could conjure up to bring about Netanyahu’s downfall. They invented laws just for him. They defined politics and journalism as criminal enterprises to criminalize Netanyahu’s non-criminal actions—which, it turns out, he didn’t even take. They trampled the very notion of the rule of law in their “ends justify the mean” campaign to force Netanyahu from power.
And just as in the case of Russiagate, the prosecutors and the police could never have conducted their legal coup d’etat without the media’s full cooperation.
Just as was the case with Trump and the U.S. media, so in Netanyahu’s case the Israeli media was a full partner in the plot to overthrow him. Throughout the two-year investigation, the media received a constant stream of illegal, and grossly distorted information from police interrogations which carefully selected reporters breathlessly reported daily on the evening news.
Israel’s prosecutors tied their actions to the elections calendar to tilt the results against Netanyahu. And they succeeded. For four years, then-attorney general Mandelblit was the most powerful “politician” in Israel. And he won. Netanyahu was first paralyzed and weakened by the investigations, then critically wounded by the indictment, and finally forced from office.
Whether or not Netanyahu is exonerated, whether or not Sussman’s acquittal was justified, the fact is that no verdict will bring justice or bridge the divides in American and Israeli societies.
So long as the legal systems that created Russiagate and ousted Netanyahu from power remain corrupted by politicized bureaucrats, our societies will only grow more divided and unstable.