In the course of an ongoing legal proceeding, when it’s discovered that a defense lawyer, prosecutor or presiding judge’s spouse is representing an individual who might be a witness in the case, is that grounds for recusal?
That’s the glaring issue at hand that the mainstream media is ignoring in a high-profile criminal trial that will expose the Hillary Clinton campaign’s efforts to frame former President Donald Trump with phony evidence of colluding with the government of Russia to win the 2016 presidential election. Even though the Russia hoax has long since been debunked, it has now boomeranged on some people involved in concocting the scheme.
Eyebrows were raised recently when U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper chose to call out prosecutors in the office of Special Counsel John Durham at a court hearing over a filing made by Durham’s team that contained previously unknown details about their investigation. The filing in question added fuel to the allegations that there was a spying operation against Mr. Trump before his election and during his presidency.
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The defendant in the case is Michael Sussmann, a lawyer who stands accused of making false statements to the FBI about who he was representing when he met with then-FBI General Counsel James Baker to “brief” him about fabricated Trump-Russia connections. Government prosecutors are alleging that Mr. Sussmann was briefing Mr. Baker on behalf of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign but failed to divulge the sinister arrangement.
Judge Cooper, an Obama appointee, seemed to be putting the prosecution on notice about publicly disclosing factual evidence that might paint Democrats in a bad light. Judge Cooper said, “Keep in mind that the pleadings, in this case, are under a microscope and may be employed for one reason or another by folks for reasons that have nothing to do with the ultimate issues in this case.” Although it’s commonplace for government lawyers to include new facts in court filings, some viewed Mr. Cooper’s decision to address the controversial filing in this fashion as an act of chutzpah.
The reason being is Judge Cooper has a conflict in this case. If you believe in small worlds, Mr. Cooper’s wife Amy Jeffress represents former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who became infamous for her outrageous text messages with former FBI agent Peter Strzok when they were overseeing the hyper-politicized Crossfire Hurricane investigation of then-candidate Donald Trump. Ms. Jeffress previously worked in senior positions at the Obama Justice Department under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder. The fact that the Durham filing asked Judge Cooper to review potential conflicts involving Mr. Sussmann’s attorneys makes the whole situation even more ironic.
The questions that come to mind as to whether Judge Cooper should recuse himself from the Sussmann case are common sense.
Is Lisa Page a witness in the Sussmann case?
Did Ms. Page or Mr. Strzok meet with Mr. Sussmann?
Did Mr. Baker discuss his meeting with Mr. Sussmann with Ms. Page?
Was Ms. Page involved in setting up Mr. Baker’s meeting with Mr. Sussmann?
Has Special Counsel Durham’s office interviewed Ms. Page?
Has Special Counsel Durham reviewed testimony Ms. Page has given in other investigations?
These are all matters that Ms. Page’s attorney would be involved in, and the American people deserve answers. Many believe that if this were a case involving a Republican-appointed judge in a trial concerning a Republican, a recusal would have been demanded and carried out long ago. The corporate mainstream media’s refusal to cover this double standard is just the latest failure in a parade of miscalculations involving their coverage of the Trump-Russia lie.
There should be a public debate about whether it is proper for Judge Cooper to preside in the case of the United States v. Michael Sussmann. To the average American, these connections raise concerns about whether there is one set of rules in our justice system for elitists and another set of rules for everyone else. After everything our country has endured since the 2016 election, all in the name of “getting” Mr. Trump by any means necessary, from the Mueller investigation to the Michael Flynn debacle, to the Carter Page FISA warrants, to Rep. Adam Schiff’s impeachment flop, it’s a good time for some honesty and transparency. That would help restore some trust.
It’s tough to remember a time in history when so much was riding on a trial involving a one-count indictment, but everyone is well aware of the stakes here. That’s why it’s so critically important — after all the missteps — for the government and the mainstream media to get this right. Judge Cooper’s recusal and fair coverage of it would be a good start.
• David N. Bossie is president of Citizens United and he served as deputy campaign manager for Donald J. Trump for President.