The mainstream media largely ignored Michael Sussmann’s trial until Tuesday when a jury found him not guilty of making a false statement to the FBI, sparking the press’ interest in Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.
The trial was downplayed or flatly ignored by many of the corporate media organizations that pushed the Russian collusion narrative at every turn. MSNBC, ABC News, NBC News and CBS News even ignored bombshell testimony in which former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook testified Clinton approved the dissemination of materials to the media alleging secret communications between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank, despite campaign officials not being “totally confident” in the legitimacy of the data.
After ignoring much of the trial, ABC, CBS and MSNBC suddenly found the story to be newsworthy and covered Sussmann’s acquittal largely as a damaging moment for Durham’s probe.
“Usually what I would expect when this trial was completely not covered by the networks is we would assume, well, they’ll be perfect and not report the verdict,” Media Research Center executive director Tim Graham told Fox News Digital.
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“In this case, they ignored the trial and then when it was over, they did sort of these stories that suggested, ‘Oh, this is terrible for John Durham. How terrible for him,’” Graham continued. “You know, just sort of suggesting that this was a terrible case, and it was a terrible stain on his legacy, which is always kind of funny when it’s like, you mean he has a legacy? Because you haven’t covered this guy. So what are we supposed to take away from all of that?”
Sussmann was charged with making false statements to the FBI in September 2016 when he said he was not working on behalf of any client, when he brought information alleging a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank.
After a two-week trial, the jury found that Durham’s team had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Sussmann’s statement was a lie and that he was working on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and technology executive Rodney Joffe when he brought two thumb drives and a white paper alleging a Trump-Russia connection.
The sprawling Russia investigation concluded in 2019 when special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of coordination or conspiracy between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia after years of intense media speculation.
“I like to see John Durham as sort of the anti-Robert Mueller, and I think that’s the way the media sees it, too. So the same extent to which they thought everything Mueller did was extremely newsworthy, everything Durham does is the opposite of newsworthy,” Graham said.
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NewsBusters’ Kevin Tober reported that ABC News anchor David Muir “gloated” about the blow to Durham’s probe and CBS’ Norah O’Donnell probably confused viewers with a brief mention of the verdict because they “probably had no clue the trial was going on since CBS had kept them in the dark.”
On Wednesday’s “Morning Joe,” namesake host Joe Scarborough called the investigation by Durham and his Justice Department prosecutor’s “asinine” and claimed there has been “absolutely nothing there from the beginning.” He described the interest into Durham’s probe as “more weirdos, more conspiracy theorists” and “more freaks.”
“This investigation of the investigators is much ado about nothing,” Scarborough said.
Graham feels the not-guilty verdict will allow liberal media outlets to essentially declare the case shouldn’t have been brought, so they were right to ignore it all along.
“One of the big reasons why the news media weren’t interested in this trial or really in the Durham investigation is because what it’s been telling us is the Hillary Clinton campaign had a strategy and that was to use the FBI and then go to the news media and say, ‘The government’s investigating this. You should really cover it,’” Graham said. “Durham has uncovered a whole bunch of emails that really underline the way that there was this collusion between Hillary Clinton’s lawyers and the media trying to drum up interest in the idea of somehow Trump was owned by the Russians.”
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Graham believes Durham accomplished something important despite Sussmann being found not guilty. Among the findings, Durham’s team presented billing records dated beginning on July 29, 2016, and through October 2016, revealing Sussmann repeatedly billed the Clinton campaign for work on the Alfa Bank opposition research against Trump.
“It’s obvious that we can see there’s a lot of new material that’s come out in the Durham investigation that really fills in some of the blanks about how the Democrats were pushing this false Russian collusion theory in 2016. And then, of course, obviously the Clinton campaign came out of their loss, still pushing,” Graham said. “We’ve got to push this. We’ve got to push basically that Trump was elected by the Russians. And I mean, obviously, the whole media sort of ran with that theory until the Mueller investigation sort of collapsed in a heap.”
The Federalist editor-in-chief Mollie Hemingway believes Durham put a spotlight on the media’s role in the Russia probe.
“The Durham probe has shown that the Clinton campaign created and promulgated the Russia collusion hoax that the corporate media were willing and eager participants in this hoax and that our bureaucracy was no guard against political actors weaponizing fake information to undermine the country,” Hemingway told Fox News Digital. “What was done to the American people with the Russia collusion hoax was so horrific that accountability must take place.”
She believes that “unless there is accountability,” the country cannot properly heal “and the very continuation of the republic is in question.”
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While Graham believes the Durham probe shed light on the origins of the Russia investigation, he thinks Sussmann being found not guilty will unfortunately help the mainstream media continue to dismiss the probe.
“I think that this verdict gives them even more of an excuse to run around saying that the Durham investigation was pointless and inept, that he spent three years coming up with nothing. Again, basically, everything that conservatives like to say about Mueller,” Graham said.
Hemingway said that while “viewers of the corrupt corporate media know very little” about the Sussmann trial, the American people are well aware that the media is biased and ignoring the trial until the not guilty verdict was simply the latest example.
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“The people who don’t understand how much the credibility of the media have fallen are the media themselves,” Hemingway said. “Americans know that if they want the truth, they can’t go to corrupt corporate media, and they have sort it out on their own through those few brave outlets that do cover the facts of the case.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Nikolas Lanum and Jake Gibson contributed to this report.