- The Washington Times
Monday, February 14, 2022


As if it wasn’t enough that the Hillary Clinton campaign funded and distributed a fictitious Kremlin-sourced dossier meant to erase former President Donald Trump, we now learn her operatives were surveilling and collecting the former president’s email traffic at his New York home, business and White House.

And there is even a deeper subplot that has to do with misleading U.S. intelligence. But at this early stage in the Clinton campaign spying scandal, we still don’t know the answer: What did they know and when did they know it?

Michael A. Sussmann is the Clinton lawyer who curated the mass of Domain Name System internet spreadsheets and brought them to the press and FBI while billing the campaign. He oversaw an operation to prove that Mr. Trump had a secret cyber connection to Alfa Bank, the Russian oligarch-owned commercial lender. Candidate Clinton and current Biden National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tweeted Mr. Sussmann’s findings as proof.

But Mr. Sussmann, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Sullivan were chasing a ghost. The FBI concluded in February 2017 there was no such channel. The same month, post-campaign, Mr. Sussmann doggedly pursued the ghost by meeting with the CIA. 

That’s the subplot: When Mr. Sussmann took his white paper to the CIA, he withheld exonerating info, according to a Feb. 11 filing by special counsel John Durham. He brought an indictment against Mr. Sussmann in September for allegedly lying to then-FBI General Counsel James Baker. He briefed him on his Alfa-Bank conspiracy theories in September 2016. He said he was not representing a client when in fact he was being paid by the Clinton campaign. Mr. Trump was in the way. 

(The fact Democrats correctly saw the FBI, both with the fictional dossier and Alfa-Bank, as a willing partner to destroy Mr. Trump is for another column.)

The alleged Sussmann deceptions at his CIA huddle in 2017, when Republican Mr. Trump had been president for only a month, is far more fundamental in this amazing coup plot. 

In the new filing in U.S. District Court, Mr. Durham said Mr. Sussmann told the agency of a suspicious Russian cellphone provider. 

The filing states: “In his meeting with Agency-2 [CIA], the defendant provided data which he claimed reflected purportedly suspicious DNS lookups by these entities of internet protocol (“IP”) addresses affiliated with a Russian mobile phone provider… The defendant further claimed that these lookups demonstrated that Trump and/or his associates were using supposedly rare, Russian-made wireless phones in the vicinity of the White House and other locations. The Special Counsel’s Office has identified no support for these allegations.”

Mr. Durham said that the White House reliance on this company dated back to former President Barack Obama. The prosecutor said that in 2014-17 the company relayed over 3 million DNS pings to various users. Hardly rare.

Mr. Durham said Mr. Sussmann misled the CIA on another front.

“In his meeting with Agency-2 employees, the defendant also made a substantially similar false statement as he had made to the FBI General Counsel,” Mr. Durham said. “In particular, the defendant asserted that he was not representing a particular client in conveying the above allegations. In truth and in fact, the defendant was representing Tech Executive-1 — a fact the defendant subsequently acknowledged under oath in December 2017 testimony before Congress (without identifying the client by name).”

That brings us to Rodney Joffe, a cybersecurity specialist of some renown who was a big shot at Neustar, an IT firm in Reston. His LinkedIn page says he retired the same month Mr. Sussmann was indicted and the persona “Tech Executive-1” became famous.

Mr. Joffe, whom the indictment said talked of joining a Clinton administration, is the person who took his Alfa-Bank theories to his lawyer — none other than Mr. Sussmann, a former Justice Department counsel specializing in cyber investigations. Mr. Sussmann practiced at Perkins Coie, the mega-political firm doing legal work for the Clinton campaign. He resigned upon indictment. 

The Durham filing said Mr. Joffe had unique access to Mr. Trump and aides’ internet traffic because his company maintained White House-dedicated servers. 

Thus, Mr. Joffe could spy on DNS logs that convert Internet Protocol digits into email and website names. More thus — he could look at whom the Trump White House was communicating with. Republicans call this out-and-out political spying.

Mr. Joffe also had access to Mr. Trump’s confidential business and home communications. His team of cyber sleuths outside of Neustar had a relationship with a certain federal agency that gave them access to a wide swath of DNS data. In all, Mr. Joffe assembled confidential Trump internet traffic at Trump Tower, Mr. Trump’s Central Park West apartment building and the executive office of the president. 

Mr. Durham summed up the neo-Watergate scandal:

“Internet Company-1, had come to access and maintain dedicated servers for the EOP as part of a sensitive arrangement whereby it provided DNS resolution services to the EOP. Tech Executive-1 and his associates exploited this arrangement by mining the EOP’s DNS traffic and other data for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump.”

The question now is how much did Mrs. Clinton and her team know about hacking Mr. Trump? And what was the “other data,” as Mr. Durham put it. Were they reading Mr. Trump’s mail?

I can’t help but believe Mr. Durham disclosed the bombshell — in a filing otherwise dedicated to attorney conflict of interest — because he wants to keep President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland at bay. Tough to fire him now. 

• Rowan Scarborough is a columnist with The Washington Times.

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