USA 2020 Elections: Thread
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Mon Nov 1 00:32:11 PDT 2021
> Leaks Suggest Durham Probe Is Making Progress
Durham Probe Inches Closer To Hillary As Alfa Bank Hoax Plot Thickens
A Hillary Clinton campaign operation to plant a false rumor about
Donald Trump setting up a “secret hotline” to Moscow through a Russian
bank was much broader than known and involved multiple U.S. agencies,
according to declassified documents and sources briefed on an ongoing
criminal investigation of the scheme.
In addition to the FBI, the 2016 Clinton campaign tried to convince
the Obama administration’s State Department, Justice Department and
Central Intelligence Agency to look into the hoax, and continued
pressing the issue even after Trump was inaugurated in January 2017.
The goal was to trigger federal investigative activity targeting her
Republican rival and leak the damaging information to the media.
“The Clinton machine flooded the FBI with pressure from a number
of angles until investigations of Trump were opened and reopened,”
said one of the briefed sources who spoke on the condition of
anonymity to discuss a sensitive law enforcement matter. "The
deception was wide-ranging."
Michael Sussmann: The indicted former Clinton campaign attorney wasn't
the only one feeding the bogus Alfa Bank story to the feds.
Special Counsel John Durham outlined the FBI part of the scheme in a
felony indictment of Michael Sussmann. The former Clinton campaign
lawyer was charged last month with making a false statement to the
former general counsel of the FBI when he claimed he was not working
“for any client” in bringing to the FBI’s attention allegations of a
secret channel of communication between computer servers in Trump
Tower and the Alfa Bank in Russia.
According to the indictment, Sussmann was in fact acting on behalf of
clients including the Clinton campaign, and an unnamed tech executive
who RCI has previously reported is Rodney L. Joffe, a regular adviser
to the Biden White House on cybersecurity and infrastructure policies.
Internal emails reveal the Clinton operatives knew the links they made
between Trump and Russia were “weak,” even describing them as a “red
herring,” but fed them to investigators anyway.
The Sussmann indictment revealed the doubts of those developing the
Alfa Bank story. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
After Sussmann’s meeting with the FBI in September 2016, the Clinton
campaign approached the State Department the following month with the
same lead, this time using paid Clinton campaign subcontractor
Christopher Steele to feed the rumors. A former British intelligence
officer, Steele was offered as a reliable source to help corroborate
the rumors. On Oct. 11, 2016, Steele gave his contact at Foggy Bottom
documents alleging that a supposed hidden server at Trump Tower was
Christopher Steele: Author of the debunked dossier passed the Alfa
Bank story to the State Department, which passed it along to FBI agent
Peter Strzok. (Aaron Chown/PA FILE via AP)
Two days later, a State official who previously worked under former
secretary Clinton funneled the information to the FBI’s then-top
Eurasia/Russia counterintelligence official, Stephen Laycock,
according to recently declassified notes and testimony. Laycock, in
turn, forwarded the information to Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who led
the investigation of Trump and his campaign and had just weeks earlier
texted a bureau lawyer, “We’ll stop [Trump from being elected].”
"I informed Peter Strzok and another supervisor,” Laycock testified
last year in a closed-door Senate hearing.
Telephone: After Steele fed the Alfa Bank story to State, it was
passed to the FBI’s then-top Eurasia/Russia counterintelligence
official, Stephen Laycock (left), who in turn passed it on to lead FBI
agent on Trump-Russia, Peter Strzok (right). Facebook/Twitter
Steele, who later confessed he was “desperate” to defeat Trump, was
the author of the debunked dossier claiming Trump colluded with Russia
to steal the election. He even misspelled the name of the Russian bank
as “Alpha.” Still, the FBI took his rumors seriously enough to
interview tech vendors working for the Trump Organization and obtain
warrants to search Trump Tower servers. Within days of receiving the
State Department tip, Strzok also used Steele’s dossier to secure a
wiretap on Trump adviser Carter Page.
Clinton foreign policy adviser and current National Security Adviser
Jake Sullivan would put out a written statement trumpeting the
Trump-Alfa Bank story, which was shared by then-candidate Clinton on
Oct. 31, 2016, after Slate reported on it. Fusion GPS, the Washington
opposition-research group that worked for the Clinton campaign as a
paid agent, and helped gather dirt on Alfa Bank and draft the
materials Sussmann would later submit to the FBI, reportedly pressed
Slate to publish the story by the account of its author, journalist
The Clinton campaign played up the Trump-Alfa Bank story on the eve of
the 2016 election. Twitter/@HillaryClinton
“This was a highly sophisticated operation using enablers in both the
media and federal agencies,” George Washington University law
professor Jonathan Turley told RealClearInvestigations.
The Clinton campaign did not let up even after Trump won the election.
In mid-November 2016, it enlisted top Justice Department official
Bruce Ohr – whose wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS – to add
credibility to the Alfa rumors. That month, Ohr advised the FBI that
Steele had told him that the Alfa Bank server was a link to the Trump
campaign. Then in early December, Ohr met with the FBI case supervisor
who worked for Strzok at least twice. Declassified notes and other
records show that during those meetings, Ohr provided him with thumb
drives he had received from paid Clinton opposition researcher and
Fusion GPS co-founder, Glenn Simpson, and Ohr’s wife and Simpson’s
colleague, Nellie. Quoting his Clinton sources, Ohr insisted the
alleged backdoor computer channel between Trump and Alfa was real.
Bruce Ohr: The Justice Department official -- linked to Clinton
opposition research firm Fusion GPS through his wife Nellie, a Fusion
employee -- brought the firm's arguments and materials to the FBI. The
The FBI spent months investigating the claim, eventually dismissing it
as baseless. After the FBI closed the case, Sussmann turned to the
nation’s top intelligence agency for assistance, as RCI first
In December 2016, Sussmann called then-CIA Director John Brennan’s
general counsel – Caroline Krass – to set up a meeting to brief her
about the same Alfa Bank rumors. Krass expressed interest in the tip.
Then in early February 2017, officials from her office formally sat
down with Sussmann for more than an hour to discuss the Trump-Russian
bank rumors. Sussmann provided them updated versions of the materials
he had handed off to the FBI.
Caroline Krass: General counsel to then-CIA Director John Brennan
welcomed Sussmann's pitch of the Alfa Bank story, which reportedly
passed from the CIA to FBI. CIA/Wikipedia
The CIA, in turn, referred the rumors to an FBI liaison for further
investigation, according to the sources briefed on his case. Strzok
was the lead FBI liaison to the CIA at the time.
Among the documents Durham has obtained is a CIA memo memorializing
the meeting with Sussmann, according to the sources. In his grand jury
indictment, Durham accused Sussmann of also misleading the CIA, which
he referred to only as “Agency-2.” The special counsel alleges that
Sussmann, as he did when meeting with an FBI official, had also failed
to inform contacts at Langley that he was representing a client – in
the latter case specifically Joffe – tied to the Clinton campaign
operation and who had been promised a high-level job in a Clinton
Billing the Democrat’s campaign for his work on the “confidential
project," Sussmann recruited Joffe and a team of federal computer
contractors to mine proprietary databases containing vast quantities
of sensitive, nonpublic Internet data for possible dirt on Trump and
his advisers. In a new court document filed last week, Durham revealed
his team has obtained more than 80,000 pages of documents in response
to grand jury subpoenas issued to more than 15 targets and witnesses,
including the computer contractors. Among others receiving subpoenas:
political organizations, private firms, tech companies and other
entities, including a major university — Georgia Tech — which
allegedly participated in the Clinton conspiracy as a Pentagon
contractor. Some witnesses have been granted immunity and are
cooperating with prosecutors, the sources close to the probe said.
Jonathan Turley: "One would expect a CIA official to express
reluctance in an investigation that would have a largely domestic
focus," says the law professor. CNN
“While Sussmann may have hidden his work for the Clinton campaign,
this was obviously a useful attack on Trump,” Turley said. “One would
expect a CIA official to express reluctance in an investigation that
would have a largely domestic focus. But as with the FBI, the Clinton
campaign found eager officials to move on any such allegation.”
The CIA is largely barred from collecting information inside the
United States or on American citizens.
“The CIA has no business involving itself in a domestic political
issue,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told RCI. “The evidence
suggests the primary purpose of the meeting was political."
Fitton said his watchdog group has filed a Freedom of Information Act
request with the CIA demanding all records generated from the contacts
Sussmann had with the agency in December 2016 and February 2017.
The CIA did not return requests for comment.
For good measure, old Clinton hands tried another pressure point. In
early February 2017, Clinton's foreign policy adviser Sullivan huddled
with Fusion GPS's Simpson and Daniel Jones, an FBI
analyst-turned-Democrat-operative, to reboot the same smear campaign
against Trump. (As RCI previously reported, Sullivan, who spearheaded
the campaign's effort to promote the narrative of a disturbing
Trump-Russia relationship via the Alfa Bank story, is under scrutiny
for possibly lying to Congress about his role in the operation.)
Jones, in turn, reached out to his former colleagues at the FBI, who
reopened the investigation into the old allegations of a cyber-link
between Trump and Alfa Bank.
Jake Sullivan played a pivotal role in the Alfa Bank story as 2016
Clinton foreign policy adviser. AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File
The next month, acting on Jones’ recycled tip, FBI agents visited the
offices of the Pennsylvania company that housed the Trump server,
which was actually administered by a third-party hotel promotions firm
– Cendyn, based in Florida. But their second investigation proved to
be another dead end. The sinister communications Jones claimed were
flowing between an alleged Trump server and Alfa Bank were found to be
innocuous marketing emails. In other words, spam.
Sources say it is odd that FBI headquarters continued to pursue the
allegations, because internal FBI communications reveal that the
bureau’s own cyber sleuths had pooh-poohed them within days of
Sussmann’s briefing, RCI has learned.
Strzok himself had been briefed on that assessment of the materials
Sussman dropped off at headquarters on Sept. 19, 2016. In fact, in a
Sept. 23, 2016, internal message to Strzok, an FBI official relayed
his preliminary findings following an interview with Cendyn, the
Florida marketing firm that managed the alleged Trump server.
“Followed up this morning with Central Dynamics [Cendyn] who confirmed
that the mail1.trump-email.com domain is an old domain that was set up
in approximately 2009 when they were doing business with the Trump
Organization that was never used,” according to the message.
Reacting to the Durham indictment, Strzok recently tried to distance
himself from the Alfa scandal, insisting in a Lawfare blog: “I had a
minor role in the events in question, insofar as I transferred the
material Sussman gave to Jim Baker, the FBI’s general counsel at the
time, to the personnel who ultimately supervised and looked into the
Echoing other critics, Strzok complained that Durham – who originally
was tapped to investigate the origins of the Russia “collusion”
investigation by Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr – is conducting a
partisan witch hunt on behalf of Trump.
Strzok's claims notwithstanding, Barr's successor, the President
Biden-nominated Attorney General Merrick Garland, testified last week
that he has renewed funding and staffing for Durham’s far-reaching
investigation for the next fiscal year. “[Y]ou can readily assume his
budget has been approved,” Garland assured Republicans on the House
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