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“Making a false statement.” What a nice, clean, uncomplicated world it would be for prosecutors, such as Justice Department Special Counsel John Durham, if that were the crime on the federal books.
All you’d have to do is prove that a person made a false statement. Like Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann. He said he was not representing a client, when in fact he was representing the Clinton campaign. There’s no doubt he said it. There’s no doubt it wasn’t true. Case closed.
Except, down here on Planet Earth, it’s never that simple. The crime is not “making a false statement.” It is making a false statement to the FBI.
That is not a small additional detail because the law further requires that the false statement be material. That is, the false statement cannot be about a trifling detail. It has to have made a difference to how the FBI evaluated the information in connection with its investigation. It has to have mattered.
This is a big problem for Durham. In Russiagate, it turns out that the FBI, was not the impartial, just-the-facts-ma’am investigator we expect it to be. At the headquarters level, the FBI had a rooting interest. It was invested in the proposition that Donald Trump was a corrupt, clandestine agent of Russia. And it wasn’t willing to drop the idea even if the evidence didn’t pan out.
That meant headquarters…