When Donald Trump claimed that he and his campaign had been spied upon by Democrat operatives, the corporate media mocked him as either a delusional paranoid or an outright liar. But now, thanks to the latest court filing by Special Counsel John Durham, it appears that once again Trump has been proven right.
In the case of United States v. Michael Sussmann, Durham has filed a motion to inquire into defense counsel’s possible conflicts of interest in which he states that his office possesses evidence proving that, while attempting to establish a false narrative tying Trump to Russia, Sussmann and others serving Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign “exploited” Internet traffic pertaining to “Trump Tower,” “Donald Trump’s Central Park West apartment building,” and “the Executive Office of the President of the United States (‘EOP’).” (Emphasis added.)
As stated in the indictment, Sussmann, a partner at the law firm which represented the Clinton campaign, worked in concert with others to concoct a false but “plausible” narrative that the “Trump Organization, owned by Donald J. Trump” was using a “secret channel of communications” to interact with “a particular Russian bank,” i.e., the Alfa Bank.
University researchers doing cybersecurity work under government contract and the company paid to maintain the White House’s servers conspired with the Clinton campaign to spy on the President of the United States.
Sussmann is accused of making a false statement to FBI General Counsel James Baker in a September 19, 2016 meeting at FBI headquarters in Washington. At that meeting, Sussmann is alleged to have presented a so-called “white paper,” “documents,” and “data,” which purported to show secret internet communications between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank as well as a “white paper” by Fusion GPS (an investigative firm working for the Clinton campaign) alleging Alfa Bank’s ties to the Kremlin. In doing so, Sussmann is alleged to have lied to Baker when he said that he was not providing the material on behalf of a client when, according to the recently filed motion, he “had assembled and conveyed the allegations to the FBI on behalf of at least two specific clients, including (i) a technology executive (‘Tech Executive -1’) at a U.S.-based Internet company (‘Internet Company-1’), and (ii) the Clinton campaign.”
As the indictment makes clear, the purpose of the meeting was to induce the FBI to launch an investigation of Trump’s possible ties to Russia. While the conspirators expressed doubts that their false narrative would survive serious scrutiny, they believed that it would be “plausible” enough to get the FBI to open an investigation of Trump. Once that happened, word of the investigation would be (and, in fact, was) disseminated to the news media in time to produce an electoral backlash against Trump.
But, even more damning, the indictment alleges that Sussmann met with employees of another U.S. government agency (“Agency-2”) “at a location outside the District of Columbia” after Trump had been inaugurated. This meeting took place on or about February 9, 2017, at which time “Sussmann provided to the Agency-2 Employees (i) several white papers, and (ii) multiple data files containing purported DNS [Internet] data, ranging from 2016 through early 2017.”
According to the motion, Sussmann told the Agency-2 employees that “he was not representing a particular client in conveying the above allegations” when, in truth, he “was representing Tech Exceutive-1 — a fact the defendant subsequently acknowledged under oath” before Congress.
The motion also states that Sussmann provided Agency-2 with data which he claimed reflected Internet traffic between Trump Tower, Trump’s New York City apartment and the Executive Office of the President with “internet protocol (‘IP’) addresses affiliated with a Russian mobile phone provider (‘Russian Phone Provider-1’).” Sussmann claimed that the data 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.”
According to the indictment, by virtue of his position at Internet Company-1 and other internet companies, Tech Executive-1 had access to “large amounts of internet and cybersecurity data” including so-called Domain Name System (“DNS”) data. He claimed to have been offered a position in the government in the event Hillary Clinton won the Presidency and stated in an after the election email, “I was tentatively offered the top [cybersecurity] job by the Democrats when it looked like they’d win. I definitely would not take the job under Trump.”
Durham’s motion states that, in trying to establish a tie between Trump and the Russians, Tech Executive-1 indicated that he was “seeking to please certain ‘VIPS’, referring to individuals at [Sussmann’s law firm] and the Clinton Campaign.” In doing so, he “exploited his access to non-public and/or proprietary Internet data” and “enlisted the assistance of researchers at a U.S.-based university who were receiving and analyzing large amounts of Internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract.”
The motion further states that Tech Executive-1’s employer, 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.”
Did you get that? These are your tax dollars at work. University researchers doing cybersecurity work under government contract and the company paid to maintain the White House’s servers conspired with the Clinton campaign to spy on the President of the United States.
By comparison, the Watergate burglary was just good-natured juvenile horseplay.
But what about the information fed by Sussmann to Agency-2? Did it, in fact, establish a link between Trump and Russia?
According to the motion, the Special Counsel’s Office has found “no support” for Sussmann’s allegations that the data reflected “purportedly suspicious DNS lookups” by Trump Tower, Trump’s apartment building and the EOP with Russian Phone Provider-1’s IP address or that the data 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.”
To the contrary, the motion damningly states that “the more complete data that Tech Executive-1 and his associates gathered — but did not provide to Agency-2 — reflected that between approximately 2014 and 2017, there were a total of more than 3 million lookups of Russian Phone-Provider-1 IP addresses that originated with U.S.-based IP addresses. Fewer than 1,000 of these lookups originated with IP addresses affiliated with Trump Tower.” (Emphasis added)
But the deception didn’t end there. The motion states that “the more complete data assembled by Tech Executive-1 and his associates reflected that DNS lookups involving the EOP and Russian Phone Provider-1 began as early as 2014 (i.e., during the Obama administration and years before Trump took office) — another fact which [Sussmann’s] allegations omitted.” (Emphasis added.)
So there you have it. Durham is forging ahead and the hole is deepening for Sussmann, Tech Executive-1, and their co-conspirators.
Were the “proprietary” internet and cybersecurity data exploited by the conspirators classified material? Have they violated national security laws?
But, even if the data weren’t classified, how can the conspirators hope to legally justify using their officially sanctioned access to such material and White House servers for such blatantly political, fraudulent, and subversive purposes?
The handwriting is on the wall. It’s no longer a question of whether there will be further charges. The only questions remaining are when and who will be next to take the fall?
George Parry is a former federal and state prosecutor. He blogs at knowledgeisgood.net and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has reported earlier on John Durham and Michael Sussmann, including here and here.