- The Washington Times
Friday, April 15, 2022


Washington’s best inside look at how determined Hillary Clinton campaign operatives conspired to bring down former President Donald Trump is contained in the expanded writings of John Durham.

Among hisU.S. District Court filings, a new character has emerged in the case of U.S. v. former Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann. David M. Martin is an FBI cyber whiz who knows how the bureau debunked the Democrats’ Russian Alfa Bank-Trump conspiracy story. The question is, as a proposed special counsel trial witness, what will he be allowed to tell us?

One of the researchers on whom Mr. Sussmann relied upon talked in an email about how easy it is to fake internet communications. Another Sussmann-linked computer scientist called Mr. Trump and his friends “thugs.”

We also see that these high-tech spies were able to penetrate one of Mr. Trump’s Wi-Fi routers. In all, the group assembled by tech executive Rodney Joffe snatched proprietary internet traffic from Trump Tower, Mr. Trump’s Central Park West apartment building and the Trump White House in early 2017.

What is impressive is the sheer effort by Clinton devotees in 2016 to take a mass of inconclusive data and try to convince themselves and the FBI that Mr. Trump was a Russian agent.

Mr. Durham is filing these motions as Mr. Sussmann faces trial next month on a charge of lying to the FBI. On Wednesday, Judge Christopher Cooper denied his request to dismiss the case.

The Durham court papers tell of an intense media/data collection operation involving Mr. Sussmann’s then-law firm, Perkins Coie; Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias; Mr. Joffe, then a senior vice president at Neustar, an IT firm in Northern Virginia; computer scientists at Georgia Tech University and at other colleges; Fusion GPS, the Clinton-hired investigative firm that gave us the wildly inaccurate dossier; and, finally, D.C. journalists who floated the Alfa-Trump entanglement.

Mr. Durham branded the entire group under the heading of “co-conspirators” — a tag he did not apply in the original September 2021 indictment.

At the top, so to speak, was Mr. Sussmann, a former Justice Department cyber attorney who curated all the data to edit and create “white papers” and internet logs. He presented them to then-FBI General Counsel James Baker on Sept. 19, 2016, with the expressed desire to get candidate Trump under investigation.

That part was successful. Mr. Baker prompted the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team to open a probe. The failing, as Mr. Durham sees it, is Mr. Sussmann told Mr. Baker he had no client in the game, when in fact he was doing his anti-Trump work for the Clinton campaign who paid his bills. The second failure is that the FBI concluded there was no Alfa Bank-Trump link.

But back in July-August 2016, the data looked promising as Mr. Joffe directed his team to find connections between Mr. Trump and Moscow using nonpublic internet data such as Domain Name System logs. The internet’s “phone book” can tell cyber sleuths who is communicating with each other. DNS converts a domain name, such as an email or web address, into internet protocol numbers unique to a person’s smartphone or desktop.

Mr. Joffe had been promised the top cyber job in a Hillary Clinton administration, he said in an email.

Mr. Durham released expanded email threads to bolster his case that Mr. Sussmann was working for Mrs. Clinton and thus lied to Mr. Baker. The emails show Mr. Sussmann planned a media campaign to place Alfa conspiracy stories in the press before election day. He made contact with one reporter just days before meeting with the FBI’s Baker on Sept. 19. He warned Mr. Baker a news story was on the way but not that he had planted it.

In August, as computer guys were scouring reams of nonpublic Trump data, chief collector Joffe held meetings and conference calls with Mr. Sussmann and campaign general counsel Mr. Elias. Mr. Joffe’s order to his computer team was to find enough data to create an “inference” or “narrative” tying Mr. Trump to the Kremlin. Mr. Joffe wanted to please “VIPs,” a reference to the Clinton club.

He also enlisted help from a firm he part-owned. It reluctantly complied, naming the project “Crimson Rhino.”

All during the process, Mr. Joffe’s people warned that what they were assembling was not conclusive.

In fact, a key player emailed about how easy it is to spoof communications: “I could fill out a sales form on two websites, faking the other company’s email address in each form, and cause them to appear to communicate with each other in DNS.”

Days before Mr. Sussmann met with Mr. Baker, Mr. Joffe asked his cohorts about his “white paper.” “Is this plausible as an explanation?” he asked. “NOT to be able to say that this is, without doubt, fact, but to merely be plausible.”

Mr. Joffe heard doubts from his team, yet for the crucial Baker briefing, Mr. Durham said, he “purposefully crafted a written analysis to conceal the allegations’ potential weaknesses.”

Then there is FBI Agent David Martin. The new filings are our first look at who in the FBI tried to make sense of the Sussmann-Joffe spreadsheets.

Mr. Sussmann wants Mr. Martin’s testimony limited to the fundamentals of DNS traffic, not Alfa-specific.

Mr. Durham said that if any defense testimony touches on the supposed accuracy of Mr. Joffe’s data, then Mr. Martin is prepared to testify on “the possibility that such purported data was fabricated, altered, manipulated, spoofed, or intentionally generated for the purpose of creating the false appearance of communications.”

That sentence basically tells you the FBI thinks all those Alfa pings on Trump domains were fake.

Mr. Durham made an additional filing on Friday which further put the Alfa Bank saga under the hoax category. 

He said that both the FBI and CIA — identified as “agency 2” — concluded the Trump-Alfa communication link allegation was not true.

More damning, the CIA examined the thumb drives of internet data provided by Mr. Sussmann in February 2017. It concluded that Mr. Sussmann’s compilations were not “technically plausible,” did not “withstand technical scrutiny,” “contained gaps,” “conflicted with (itself)” and was “user created and not machine/tool generated,” the Durham filing said.

• Rowan Scarborough is a columnist with The Washington Times.

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