Michael Sussmann, the former Perkins Coie attorney indicted for allegedly lying to the FBI, pleaded not guilty to one count of making a false statement to a federal agent.
Sussmann was indicted for allegedly telling the FBI that he was not doing work "for any client" when he requested and held a September 2016 meeting in which he provided evidence of a purported secret communications channel between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia. The case came about as a result of Special Counsel John Durham's probe of the origins of the Russia investigation.
Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui released Sussmann on his own recognizance and set a court date of September 22 for a status conference before D.C. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper.
Sussmann faces up to five years in prison if convicted of the charge. His guilty plea comes despite his attorneys saying in a statement that he was working "on behalf of a cyber expert client" when he met with FBI General Counsel James Baker. Nevertheless, attorneys Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth of the law firm Latham & Watkins claimed that the prosecution was "baseless and politically-inspired."
The indictment alleges that Sussmann was working on behalf of a tech industry executive, an American internet company, and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Prosecutors claimed that Sussmann's "lie" was important because it "misled the FBI General Counsel and other FBI personnel concerning the political nature of his work," and because having information such as the identities of Sussmann's clients could have helped them assess the information provided.
The indictment noted that Sussmann previously contradicted his claim that he was not working on behalf of any clients when he appeared before the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017. According to a partial transcript of that interview, Sussmann was asked if it was correct he had contacted the FBI General Counsel of his own volition. Sussmann replied, "No," then confirmed that he had been working on behalf of a client.
This is the second prosecution to come out of Durham's investigation, following the guilty plea of Kevin Clinesmith, a former FBI attorney who had been charged for altering an email, thereby keeping a court from knowing former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page's relationship with the CIA.
Fox News' Jake Gibson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.