Thoughts on Durham and the Sussmann Prosecution

After deliberating for only a few hours following a two-week trial, a federal jury this week acquitted D.C. attorney Michael Sussmann on a single charge of lying to the FBI. The quick not-guilty verdict was no surprise; the flimsiness of the government’s case was apparent from the start. This was a case that never should have been charged. The Sussmann prosecution is a cautionary tale of the damage a prosecutor can do when he loses sight of the line between criminal justice and politics.

Michael Sussman speaking after the verdict
Sussmann speaking after the verdict

The Sussmann Indictment

Sussmann is a prominent D.C. attorney who represented the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee during the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. In September 2016 he brought computer data to the FBI that suggested possible links between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Alfa Bank, a Russian bank with ties to the Kremlin.

The Alfa Bank allegations became a minor part of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI’s broader investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. That investigation ultimately concluded that the data provided by Sussmann did not establish the suspected connection between the bank and the Trump campaign.

Former president Trump, of course, complained repeatedly (and still complains) that the FBI’s Russia investigation was a hoax, that the FBI and Clinton campaign conspired against him, and that the Obama administration “spied” on Trump and his campaign. Trump’s attorney general William Barr was also critical of the FBI’s Russia probe. In May of 2019, he assigned John Durham, the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, to lead an investigation into any potential criminal wrongdoing in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. In October 2020, Barr appointed Durham as a special counsel to continue that same investigation, thus granting Durham more independence and ensuring that his work could continue even after the Trump administration left office.

Last fall, just before the five-year statute of limitations expired, Durham charged Sussmann with making a single false statement during his meeting with the FBI in 2016 about the Alfa Bank data. The indictment alleged that during the meeting Sussmann said he was not acting on behalf of any client in bringing the data to the FBI. In fact, according to the indictment, he was acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign and a tech executive who collected the data.

The False Statements Charge

Sussmann was charged with one count of False Statements, 18 U.S.C. § 1001, a very common white-collar charge that broadly prohibits lying to the federal government. Unlike the related crime of perjury, it does not require that the statement was under oath. The statute is commonly used to charge lies on various government forms or applications. If you’ve filled out any kind of federal government paperwork, you’ve probably seen a notation at the bottom about how providing false information may be a criminal offense chargeable under 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

False statements is also frequently used to charge witnesses with lying to the FBI. A recent high-profile example was the prosecution of president Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who was prosecuted for lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador in the weeks leading up to Trump’s inauguration. Trump confidant Roger Stone was also convicted of 1001 for lying to Congress about his work for the Trump campaign related to Wikileaks and the release of Democratic emails stolen by Russian hackers.

In any false statements prosecution the government must prove that the statement was actually false, that the defendant acted knowingly and willfully, and that the statement was material. Durham’s prosecution of Sussman stumbled over each of these requirements.

Special Counsel John Durham
Special Counsel John Durham

The Challenge of Proving Actual Falsity

The government’s star witness at trial was James Baker, the former FBI general counsel who met with Sussmann about the Alfa Bank data. The prosecution’s entire case hinged on Baker’s memory of a single alleged statement from their 30-minute conversation nearly six years ago. The meeting was not recorded, Baker took no notes, and there were no other witnesses.

Baker claimed on the stand that he was “100% confident” Sussmann told him during the meeting that he was not there on behalf of a client. But Baker had given conflicting accounts in the past about what exactly Sussmann said during their meeting, and the defense was able to hammer away at those inconsistencies. Sussmann’s defense also pointed out that Baker said he could “not recall” more than 100 times while on the witness stand. Yet when it came to this one particular detail of their conversation, his memory was supposedly rock-solid.

Recalling from memory precisely what was said in a brief conversation six years ago is virtually impossible. Given the nature of memory and human language, differences in recollection about precise wording and details are inevitable. And when a criminal charge is based on deliberate lying, minor variations in exactly what was said can make all the difference.

For example, one issue that arose during the trial was the distinction between representing a client and doing a particular act on behalf of that client. There was no doubt that Sussmann represented the Clinton campaign, and there was no doubt that Baker and the FBI knew that. But, as the defense pointed out at trial, just because you represent a client doesn’t mean that every action you take is on that client’s behalf.

There was evidence at the trial that the Clinton campaign did not ask Sussmann to bring the Alfa Bank information to the FBI. The campaign would have preferred that the data simply be given to the media, because it did not trust the FBI and thought the existence of an active investigation might actually make it more difficult to get the story out. So it could easily be true both that Sussmann represented the Clinton campaign and that he was not acting on the campaign’s behalf during this particular meeting. At the very least, those kinds of subtle distinctions almost inevitably raise a reasonable doubt about what precisely happened during a brief meeting six years ago.

It’s interesting to note that if the crime were common-law perjury (which requires testimony under oath) rather than false statements, an ancient doctrine called the “two witness rule” would bar such a prosecution. The two witness rule holds that a perjury prosecution cannot be based simply on a swearing contest, one person’s word against another’s. Prosecutors must have at least two witnesses to prove an alleged perjurious statement, or one witness plus some other independent evidence that supports the allegation of perjury. More modern perjury statutes have done away with the two-witness rule, and there is no such rule when it comes to 18 U.S.C. § 1001. But the wisdom of that rule still applies: resting a criminal prosecution on such “he said – he said” evidence is necessarily shaky, and only gets shakier with the passage of time.

These inherent uncertainties based on the nature of language and memory are why bringing a stand-alone prosecution based on a single unrecorded false statement witnessed by only one person is almost unheard of. It’s almost the definition of a reasonable doubt. That would be enough to stop most prosecutors — but it didn’t stop Durham.

The Requirement of Materiality

In addition to proving what Sussmann actually said (which, as we’ve seen, was difficult enough), the government had to prove any lie was material — that it potentially mattered to the FBI. Here, too, the evidence in Sussman’s case fell far short.

The materiality requirement is usually not a significant hurdle for prosecutors. It means only that the statement had the potential to affect the actions of the government body to which the statement was directed. There’s no requirement that the government was actually influenced; in fact, a false statement can be material even if the government knows you are lying the instant that you utter it and never acts on it at all. All that matters is that the statement, by its nature, was the type that potentially could have made a difference.

Baker testified that if Sussmann had not allegedly made his false statement about not coming on behalf of any client, he would have treated the information with more suspicion or perhaps would not have agreed to meet at all. If believed, that testimony would be enough to establish materiality as a matter of law. But there were many reasons for the jury to doubt this evidence as well.

There was ample evidence – some of it contained in the indictment itself — that the FBI knew full well who Sussmann was and what clients he represented. Given what Baker knew about Sussmann’s clients and connections, there was little reason to believe he would have acted any differently even if Sussmann did claim to be providing the computer data solely as a good citizen. After all, this meeting was taking place less than two months before a hotly-contested presidential election. The FBI wasn’t receiving the information in a vacuum and could not divorce the information from what it knew about its source. And the evidence at trial established that the Bureau would have investigated the allegations regardless of their origins. That at the very least raised a reasonable doubt about the alleged statement’s materiality.

The jury’s quick verdict suggests that it saw the allegations against Sussmann for what they were: a big “so what.” Jurors interviewed after the verdict said the case should not have been prosecuted and that they thought the government has better things to do. In class I sometimes refer to this as the, “no harm, no foul” rule – it’s not really a legal doctrine, but it does get the idea across. As a prosecutor, if at the end of your trial the jury is looking at you and thinking, “Why did you waste our time with this?” — it doesn’t bode well for your case.

Donald Trump

A Political Prosecution

From the start, the Sussmann prosecution felt more political than criminal. The lengthy indictment sought to paint a broad picture of a supposed conspiracy involving Clinton campaign operatives and the FBI. But most of the alleged activities involved legal opposition research and had nothing to do with the actual charge against Sussmann. Trying to dig up dirt on an opposing campaign and get the media to run with it may be unsavory. But it’s not illegal, and is a standard practice — as the old saying goes, politics ain’t beanbag. Sussmann’s indictment seemed more designed to feed Trump’s fevered conspiracy theories than to lay out an actual criminal case.

Prosecutors at trial also sought to portray Sussmann’s supposed deception as part of a broader plot by the Clinton campaign to enlist the FBI in bringing down Trump. Prosecutors referred to Sussmann as a “privileged attorney” who tried to use his access to further his own political goals. In closing arguments, prosecutors argued that Sussmann and the Clinton campaign tried to engineer an “October surprise” involving the media and the FBI in order to damage Trump. To put it mildly, the jury didn’t buy it.

Some on the right will argue that, regardless of the outcome, Durham did a great service by bringing the case and “exposing” supposedly unsavory conduct by the FBI and the Clinton campaign. But criminal prosecution is about bringing specific, provable charges, not providing public reports on noncriminal conduct. The Department of Justice Inspector General already produced a lengthy report about the FBI’s handling of the allegations concerning the Trump campaign and Russia. That report concluded there were some legitimate problems with how certain aspects of the investigation were handled, but that the overall investigation was properly predicated and not politically motivated. It was not Durham’s job to create an alternate-universe version of those facts through the vehicle of a trumped-up criminal prosecution.

Of course, an acquittal does not necessarily mean that a prosecution was not righteous. But in this case, that’s exactly what it means. A federal prosecutor is not supposed to indict unless he or she believes there is likely sufficient evidence to convince a jury of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s hard to see how any prosecutor could have looked at the facts of the Sussmann case and reached that conclusion in good faith.

Sussmann’s acquittal means the system ultimately worked, but that is cold comfort. Merely being indicted and put on trial is a tremendous ordeal – one that Sussmann never should have had to endure. Good prosecutors never forget the tremendous responsibility that comes with the powers they wield. In Durham’s zeal to provide fodder for Trump’s “deep state” conspiracy theories, he appears to have lost sight of this fundamental principle.

Durham’s probe has now lasted more than three years, and he has remarkably little to show for it. He obtained one guilty plea to a minor charge involving a former FBI attorney who admitted altering an email. He has another pending case against a Russian national, Igor Danchenko, for allegedly making false statements to the FBI about his involvement in the controversial Steele dossier. It’s unclear whether Durham’s investigation will lead to any more prosecutions. The Sussmann verdict will surely increase the pressure on the Justice Department to bring it all to a close.

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The Status of the Michael Flynn Case

Update: On June 24, 2020, in a 2-1 decision, the D.C. Circuit granted the petition for mandamus and ordered Judge Sullivan to dismiss the case. Sullivan or one of the circuit judges may request en banc review by the full court.

Further update: On August 31, 2020, the en banc D.C. Circuit reversed the panel opinion on mandamus by an 8-2 vote, sending the case back to Judge Sullivan to rule on the motion to dismiss.

The Michael Flynn case is no longer just about a senior government official who lied to the FBI. The prosecution of president Trump’s former national security advisor has become a symbolic struggle over the separation of powers and a showcase for allegations of corruption within the Trump Justice Department. Regardless of the outcome of these court proceedings, Flynn is unlikely ever to see the inside of a jail cell. But how the case plays out over the next few weeks will be an important test of the ability – and willingness – of the judiciary to push back against the Trump administration’s abuse of the justice system.

Michael Flynn
Michael Flynn

Procedural History of the Flynn Case

Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of lying to the FBI. During his guilty plea, Flynn admitted under oath that he had lied to FBI agents about his contacts with the Russian ambassador in December 2016 on behalf of the incoming Trump administration. He confirmed his guilt under oath a second time after his case was transferred to judge Emmet Sullivan. Flynn’s sentencing was substantially delayed while he cooperated with the government during the Mueller investigation.

Once the Mueller probe was concluded, however, Flynn changed his tune. Last summer he fired his respected defense team from the leading D.C. firm of Covington & Burling and hired Sydney Powell, a vocal DOJ critic and Fox News regular. In recent months Powell moved to withdraw Flynn’s guilty plea and to have the charges dismissed, claiming Flynn was an innocent victim of government misconduct. Those motions are still pending before Judge Sullivan.

But the real bombshell in the case landed last month. On May 7 the Justice Department filed a motion to dismiss Flynn’s case. After defending Flynn’s prosecution in court for more than two years, DOJ told the court it now believed Flynn had not actually committed a crime and never should have been prosecuted in the first place.

In response to this startling motion, Judge Sullivan made it clear he wasn’t simply going to accept the government’s claims at face value. Since Flynn and the DOJ were now on the same side, Sullivan appointed a respected former federal judge, John Gleeson, to present any legal arguments against the government’s motion. He also asked Gleeson to advise him on whether Flynn should be charged with contempt for lying during his plea proceedings.

Rather than wait for Judge Sullivan to rule, on May 19 Flynn’s attorney took the unusual step of asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to issue a writ of mandamus – an order telling Sullivan that he has to grant the motion to dismiss without any further proceedings or delay. The court of appeals asked to hear arguments on the mandamus petition, and Sullivan appointed prominent D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson to represent him. The Justice Department filed a brief in support of Flynn, and the court of appeals heard arguments on the mandamus petition on Friday, June 12.

As of today, the posture of the case is that Sullivan has a hearing set for July 16 on the motion to dismiss. But before that happens, we expect to hear from the D.C. Circuit on whether it will grant Flynn’s petition for mandamus. If it does, it will order Sullivan to grant the motion and the case will be over. If the circuit court denies the petition, Sullivan will hold the hearing and then either grant the motion to dismiss or deny it and set Flynn’s case for sentencing.

There are two different types of issues presented by these various legal maneuvers: the merits and the process. The merits issue is whether the government’s motion to dismiss should be granted and how much discretion, if any, Judge Sullivan has to review the government’s purported reasons for the dismissal. The process issue is who gets to decide those questions in the first instance: Judge Sullivan, or the Court of Appeals?

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan

Who Gets to Decide?

The process issue is far easier. There are definitely novel and difficult questions raised by the government’s motion to dismiss. But in the ordinary course of legal proceedings, it’s the trial judge who gets to decide those issues first. Sullivan may well end up granting the motion to dismiss, and the case will be over. If he denies the motion, Flynn could appeal to the D.C. Circuit at that time. But there is no justification for the extraordinary remedy of a writ of mandamus, which would allow Flynn (and the government) improperly to sidestep the proceedings before Sullivan.

Flynn and the DOJ argue that mandamus is appropriate because Judge Sullivan has no discretion here. There is no longer an active dispute before the court, because both the defense and the prosecution agree they want the case dismissed. Because the executive branch has sole discretion to decide whether to prosecute, they argue, the judge lacks the constitutional authority to keep the case alive.

One difficulty with this argument is that Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 48(a), which governs motions to dismiss, says the government may dismiss a case only “with leave of court.” As Judge Wilkins repeatedly pointed out during the D.C. Circuit argument on Friday, that language must mean something. It suggests there is a role for the court to play and that the judge is not merely a rubber stamp. Attorneys for Powell and the DOJ have struggled to explain how “with leave of court” actually means that the court has no choice.

Whether a judge has the authority to deny a motion to dismiss that is agreed to by both sides is an unsettled question. In Rinaldi v. United States the Supreme Court stated:

The words “leave of court” were inserted in Rule 48(a) without explanation. While they obviously vest some discretion in the court, the circumstances in which that discretion may properly be exercised have not been delineated by this Court. The principal object of the “leave of court” requirement is apparently to protect a defendant against prosecutorial harassment, e.g., charging, dismissing, and recharging, when the Government moves to dismiss an indictment over the defendant’s objection. But the Rule has also been held [by lower courts] to permit the court to deny a Government dismissal motion to which the defendant has consented if the motion is prompted by considerations clearly contrary to the public interest. (emphasis added, citations omitted)

That’s the issue presented in Flynn’s case: whether Judge Sullivan has the authority to deny the motion to dismiss based on a finding that the motion was prompted by “considerations clearly contrary to the public interest” – namely corruption within the DOJ and the fact that Flynn is a political ally of president Trump’s.  The Supreme Court did not decide in Rinaldi whether a judge has that kind of authority, and that question remains unresolved.

The Need for “Regular Order”

The fact that Sullivan’s authority is unsettled is why the mandamus petition should be denied. Mandamus is an extraordinary and unusual remedy. It requires the law to be so clear that there is no possible debate about the proper outcome; the movant must be “clearly and indisputably” entitled to relief and have no other adequate remedy. That’s simply not true in this case. The legal standards governing this motion are unresolved, not “clear and indisputable,” and Flynn has an adequate remedy: let the judge decide his motion, as in any other case.

As Judge Henderson repeatedly pointed out during the D.C. Circuit argument, “regular order” demands that the trial judge, Judge Sullivan, gets to decide those difficult issues in the first instance. That will allow the facts to be fully developed and the arguments on both sides to be heard, and will allow Sullivan to make findings of fact and rulings of law. An appeal to the D.C. Circuit could then follow, if necessary. That’s how our court system works. You don’t get an exception for being the president’s pal.

The mandamus petition argues that Sullivan has no authority to deny the motion to dismiss. Sullivan may well end up agreeing. But Flynn is saying Sullivan can’t even consider the question; can’t even hear the arguments on both sides and make a decision. That’s wrong.

I think the D.C. Circuit is likely to deny the mandamus petition. Judge Sullivan should get to decide the motion to dismiss before the court of appeals gets involved.

Former federal judge John Gleeson

The Merits of the Motion to Dismiss

On the merits, the government’s motion to dismiss is remarkably weak. Judge Gleeson, the amicus appointed by Judge Sullivan, concluded that the arguments advanced by the government are “pretextual” and that the motion is “riddled with inexplicable and elementary errors of law and fact.” I think Gleeson is correct. The legal arguments are frankly laughable. They are also inconsistent with arguments the government itself has made repeatedly over the more than two years this case has been pending.

The government argues first that it now does not believe Flynn’s lies to the FBI were material, as required by the false statements statute. But materiality is a very low bar — a statement need only have the potential to influence some government decision. Flynn’s lies to the FBI about his Russian contacts, made in connection with the FBI’s investigation of Russia and the Trump campaign, easily meet that standard. As Judge Gleeson put it: 

In short, pursuant to an active investigation into whether President Trump’s campaign officials coordinated activities with the Government of Russia, one of those officials lied to the FBI about coordinating activities with the Government of Russia. It is hard to conceive of a more material false statement than this one.

The government claims the lies could not be material because they were not related to a properly predicated investigation of Flynn. This too is nonsense. You don’t have to be the subject of an active investigation yourself to lie to the FBI, or for the FBI to have a reason to interview you. Whether a particular investigation was properly opened or was about to be closed are, as Judge Gleeson noted, simply matters of “bureaucratic happenstance that had no bearing on whether the FBI could or should interview Flynn” about his Russian contacts. In other words, even if the FBI screws up some internal paperwork or procedure before your interview, you don’t get a free pass to lie.

The government also claims it now believes it could not prove that Flynn intentionally lied. Of course, it doesn’t have to prove that, because Flynn himself has already admitted it repeatedly, under oath. He also lied to others in the Trump administration, which is why he was fired after only a couple of weeks on the job. In his brief, Judge Gleeson describes in meticulous detail the various false statements Flynn made during his interview and why they were false.

Judge Sullivan has already ruled – agreeing with earlier arguments made by the prosecutors – that Flynn’s statements were material. Flynn himself has repeatedly acknowledged under oath that he lied to the agents. But the government now claims it could not prove materiality or that Flynn lied. It’s easy to see why Gleeson concluded that the government’s arguments are legally unsound and are a transparent effort to drop the case simply to benefit an ally of president Trump.

What Should Sullivan Do?

The legal arguments in support of the government’s motion to dismiss may be laughable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Sullivan should, or can, deny the motion. As noted above, the “leave of court” requirement in Rule 48(a) indicates the court does not have to simply serve as a rubber stamp in the face of such obviously pretextual arguments for dismissal. And the Supreme Court’s footnote in Rinaldi at least notes the possibility that the motion could be denied if contrary to the public interest. But when both the prosecutor and defense agree a case should be dismissed, can the judge really insist that the case go forward?  And what would that look like?

In his brief filed on June 10, Judge Gleeson argued that Sullivan should deny the motion and proceed to sentence Flynn. Gleeson pulled no punches, accusing the DOJ of a “gross abuse of prosecutorial power.” He argued that the motion to dismiss was an “unconvincing effort to disguise as legitimate a decision to dismiss that is based solely on the fact that Flynn is a political ally of President Trump.”

As Gleeson points out, the integrity of the judicial branch is at stake here too. The judge is not required to be complicit if he finds an abuse of the prosecutor’s authority:

The Executive Branch had the unreviewable discretion to never charge Flynn with acrime because he is a friend and political ally of President Trump. President Trump today has the unreviewable authority to issue a pardon, thus ensuring that Flynn is no longer prosecuted and never punished for his crimes because he is a friend and political ally. But the instant the Executive Branch filed a criminal charge against Flynn, it forfeited the right to implicate this Court in the dismissal of that charge simply because Flynn is a friend and political ally of the President. Avoiding precisely that unseemly outcome is why Rule 48(a) requires “leave of court.” 

Gleeson argues that accepting the government’s false reasons for dismissal would undermine the public’s confidence in the rule of law by demonstrating that the Trump DOJ may act to benefit the president’s political cronies with impunity.

Admittedly, denying a motion to dismiss supported by both sides could present difficulties in some cases. As Flynn and the government’s lawyers argued in the D.C. Circuit, a judge has no mechanism to compel prosecutors to move forward with a case they want to dismiss. But in the current posture of Flynn’s case, that’s not really an issue. Flynn’s prosecution is essentially over; there is nothing more that prosecutors need to do. All that remains is sentencing, and prosecutors have already filed memoranda setting forth their positions on that. Sullivan could easily proceed to sentence Flynn even if the current prosecutors decline to speak at the hearing.

I don’t know how Judge Sullivan will ultimately decide the motion to dismiss. I wouldn’t be surprised if he grants it in the end. But if he does, it won’t be because the government is right on the merits. It will be because he agrees that in our constitutional structure the executive branch has absolute authority over decisions to prosecute. He may rule that even if a prosecution is dropped for corrupt reasons, the remedy has to lie elsewhere. The remedy is not to try to force the prosecution to proceed — which, in most cases if not this one, would be impossible anyway. But if Sullivan decides a judge does indeed have the authority to deny a motion to dismiss because it is contrary to the public interest, he will likely deny the motion. The posture and facts of this case make it a great candidate for such a denial.

Won’t Trump Just Pardon Flynn Anyway?

Many feel that this entire proceeding is an exercise in futility. After all, even if Sullivan ended up denying the motion to dismiss, sentenced Flynn to prison, and that was upheld on appeal, it seems almost certain that president Trump would step in and pardon him. So as I mentioned at the outset, no matter how this all turns out, Flynn is unlikely ever to see the inside of a jail cell.

But regardless, this is a case where the process is important. It’s important first to uphold the principle that the president’s buddies, just like everyone else, have to pursue “regular order” in the court system. They don’t get to go over the head of a judge whose rulings they might not like and get the court of appeals to order the judge to rule their way. They need to play by the rules, present their arguments to the judge, and then appeal if necessary, just like everyone else.

Denial of the motion followed by a pardon would actually be a better result because, oddly enough, it’s more honest. If Trump wants to exercise his pardon power to benefit his political allies, he should have to take whatever political heat goes along with that. The motion to dismiss was Attorney General Barr’s attempt to do Trump’s dirty work for him – to get Flynn off the hook by pretending that justice demanded it. That should not be allowed. If Trump wants to use his power corruptly to benefit his political crony, he should have to own it.

Finally, even if Sullivan ultimately grants the motion, holding a hearing where the government has to defend the motion will provide a public airing of the government’s actions and purported reasons for the dismissal. Those who argue Sullivan must grant the motion say that even if there is corruption underlying the motion, the remedy is for the public to hold that against the politically-accountable executive branch. But that accountability can’t happen if the true reasons for the dismissal remain concealed.

During the D.C. Circuit argument, the government’s attorney objected to the idea of a hearing where the government may “have to explain itself.” That objection is telling. The “leave of court” requirement must mean, at the very least, that Judge Sullivan is entitled to an explanation. He’s entitled to explore why the government has reversed course after pursuing a case before him for more than two years. By accepting briefs, holding a hearing, and issuing a ruling containing findings of fact, Judge Sullivan can shine some sunlight on DOJ’s misconduct, even if he ultimately grants the motion. That will provide voters with information they can use to evaluate the conduct of Trump’s DOJ when they go to the polls in November.

In the end, that might be the most helpful outcome of all.

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