Brutal supercut shows Fox News pundits scrambling to explain Sussmann acquittal
On Tuesday, May 31, a federal jury found attorney Michael Sussman — who represented Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign — not guilty of lying to the FBI. The verdict is a major defeat for Special Counsel John Durham, who has been investigating the Donald Trump/Russia probe of 2016. And Media Matters, in a biting video, shows just how embarrassing Fox News’ response to the verdict has been.
The video opens with a clip of Fox News’ Harris Faulkner discussing the case before the verdict came in and acknowledging that “an acquittal could raise doubts about the legal merits of Durham's entire investigation.”
But after the verdict came back and Sussman was, in fact, acquitted, the tone at Fox News — as Media Matters’ video demonstrates — didn’t sound anything at all like that statement from Faulkner. The video shows a long list of far-right Fox News carnival barkers, from Sean Hannity to Jesse Watters, jumping through hoops and flailing about in an effort to discredit the jury’s decision.
\u201cJust before the verdict, a Fox anchor admitted that "an acquittal could raise doubts about the legal merits of Durham's entire investigation." When that acquittal came, the network instead desperately tried to change the subject.\u201d— Media Matters (@Media Matters) 1654095291
Gregg Jarrett, a legal analyst for Fox News, found it “utterly confounding” that some of the jurors were not disqualified. Hannity was even more buffoonish in his comments, telling viewers, “My problem is with the judge, who allowed a jury pool from the very liberal Washington sewer and swamp that, in my strong opinion, was tainted.”
But not all conservative media outlets twisted themselves into pretzels in order to attack the jury and claim the jurors were unfair to Durham. Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut, in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on June 1, describes the jury’s verdict as a major humiliation for Durham as well as for former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr.
“John Durham, the special counsel appointed days before the 2020 election by Donald Trump’s attorney general William Barr, just lost the only trial he has brought to date in his long tenure,” Aftergut explains. “A Washington jury took only about six hours yesterday to acquit lawyer Michael Sussmann of making a false statement to the FBI. Durham’s loss was one more egg laid in the fetid henhouse where Barr first enlisted Durham to nest in May 2019, tasking him with proving the truth of a lie — Donald Trump’s favorite disinformation campaign at the time — that the FBI’s 2016 Trump-Russia investigation was a ‘witch hunt.’”
Aftergut continues, “In October 2020, seventeen months after that initial assignment, Barr made Durham a special counsel — which meant that no matter the outcome of the 2020 election, Durham’s investigation would continue, since special counsels are virtually unremovable. And so it has been: More than 16 months into the Biden Administration, the DOJ remains saddled with Durham.”
While Fox News’ carnival barkers have tried to discredit the jurors — Hannity used the word “tainted” — Aftergut believes it is Durham’s investigation that has been discredited.
“The moment he let Barr recruit him, Durham, a former U.S. attorney in Connecticut, risked ruining his once-strong professional reputation,” Aftergut laments. “That reputation is now in tatters.”
Aftergut argues that Durham’s case against Sussmann was weak from the start.
“As some commentators noted, the indictment reeked of non-prosecutorial goals: It seemed that Durham was trying to justify the public money he’d wasted boosting Trump’s false narrative that it was the big, bad Clinton campaign behind the Trump-Russia investigation,” Aftergut writes. “The supposed lie for which Durham indicted Sussmann occurred in mid-September 2016…. Per Sussmann’s defense, he approached the FBI purely at his own behest…. It’s tough to disprove a private motivation. To do so ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ you’d better have airtight evidence. Durham didn’t.”
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