The Alfa Bank Lie Was Supported By Abuse At Every Point
When you want to frame your political opponent, all you need to do is get law enforcement to open an investigation based on questionable data you compile, get the media talking about it, then proclaim you are concerned about the allegations without revealing your involvement. The investigation does not even need to back up the stories since the headlines will set the narrative while afterwards the attention of both the public and the media will have moved on. The recently released Durham report details this exact scenario in which law enforcement, the media, data, and politics were abused. The report details the extent to which the Clinton campaign and its operatives, along with FBI leadership and willing media outlets, went to insinuate that Donald Trump was secretly interacting with a Russian bank through a covert internet connection that ultimately failed to materialize, revealing just how dangerous the situation in America is.
In the Summer of 2016, Michael Sussmann, working on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign, enlisted the help of technology executive Rodeny Joffe to compile information on a supposed network connection between the Trump organization and a Russian-based bank named Alfa Bank. They were going to prove that a “secret” Trump server in Pennsylvania was facilitating email communication with Alfa Bank through a dark web connected node at a Michigan based healthcare facility. Joffe would use his access to non-public internet data to make the case with help from contacts at a university that had access to another large set of internet data related to a pending cybersecurity research contract with the federal government. Their goal was not to protect the United States’ government from foreign collusion. Instead, it was to “please certain ‘VIPs’”, those being Sussmann and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
It is no wonder that the project was plagued by uncertainty and doubt. A technology executive contacted by Joffe to assist with the research was “highly uncomfortable” but went through with it as Joffe was a “powerful figure.” A tech company employee tasked with combing through the internet data said that the company did not conduct political research and that he did not ask about the work’s purpose because he did not want to know. Referring to the project, another technology executive stated that “all [they] could gain even in the best case is an *inference*.” Joffe himself said they would make “VIPs … happy” if they could “provide evidence of *anything* that shows an attempt to behave badly” and that the Trump email domain involved was a “red herring” and they could ignore it. In an amazingly blatant confession of the group’s motivation, one of the researchers said in an email that “[t]he only thing that drive [sic] us at this point is that we just do not like [Trump].”
The initial conclusion of their research was that there was no clear connection that would support their already formed conclusion. Despite this, Sussmann organized a meeting with FBI General Counsel James Baker to present the group’s work with the claim that Trump was communicating with this Russian bank. Sussmann also told Baker that some news organizations were already privy to the same information and would be publishing it very soon, causing Baker to conclude that this was an urgent matter as the communication channel could be compromised as a result of the impending publicity. Was this pressure deliberately applied to cause any subsequent FBI investigation to be rushed in hopes that the weak nature of the data be overlooked?
If that was the intention, then it did not pan out. The Cyber Division of the FBI took possession of the evidence and set out to determine if Sussmann’s conclusions were backed up by his data. It took the cyber agents a day to conclude that there were “questionable investigative steps taken and conclusions drawn.” They also found it odd that secret communications would be composed using a domain (mail1.trump-email.com) easily attributable to Trump and sent straight to a Russian bank’s IP address with no attempt to conceal the destination. Ultimately, they concluded that the authors had jumped to faulty conclusions.
FBI leadership must not have been pleased with this outcome as they referred the case to two agents in Chicago who opened a full investigation. According to the agents, the decision to open it was ultimately made by FBI leadership. One of the Chicago agents was told that “people on the 7th floor to include Director are fired up about this server”, the 7th floor meaning the FBI higher ups, and that not opening it was “not an option.”
Similar to the cyber agents, those in Chicago found issues with the evidence, but they were also intrigued by the source of the whitepaper. It seems that efforts were made to conceal the fact that Sussmann had provided the data to the FBI. The experience of the cyber agents backs this up as they had trouble with the data’s chain of custody which led them to almost open a whistleblower claim. Those investigating the Alfa Bank case never learned of its source despite multiple requests.
Interestingly, Joffe attempted to anonymously corroborate the claims of the whitepaper he had produced by providing another cyber agent with additional data. A theory put forth in the report by Durham posits that “Joffe and others were attempting to promote the Alfa Bank allegations in such a way that the allegations appeared to be from multiple independent sources.” Sussmann would also go on to provide the same information and allegations, with additional “evidence” showing usage of a cellphone from a Russian provider, to the CIA in early 2017. The CIA investigation found the data could not “withstand technical scrutiny” and that no link was shown between Trump and a Russian entity.
Just like the cyber division’s investigation, the other FBI team found with “high confidence” the conclusions of the whitepaper to be unsubstantiated by the data. However, none of this matters to the validity of the accusations. Fusion GPS, a company hired by the Clinton campaign to conduct opposition research on Donald Trump, immediately went to the media to spread the Alfa Bank story after it had been given to the FBI. The urgency behind their dissemination was most likely to get the Alfa Bank story to overshadow the then spreading Wikileaks news that was reflecting poorly on the Clinton campaign. While pushing the Alfa Bank story, Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritsch told a journalist to “[f]orget the wikileaks side show.”
Multiple media outlets would publish the Alfa Bank story in late October of 2016, highlighting the FBI’s investigation. The Clinton campaign immediately made statements about the news coverage conveniently leaving out their involvement. Robby Mook, a Clinton campaign manager, claimed in the Sussmann trial that Hillary Clinton and other top campaign officials knew about the Alfa Bank allegations and approved of going to the media with the story before the accuracy of the findings could be confirmed.
At this point the damage was done. The higher ups at the FBI had willed the investigation into being, seemingly with no regard for the actual veracity of the story. Had their disgust of Trump poisoned their decision-making ability, or was their goal always to muddy the waters with faulty probes? With an FBI investigation in place the media was able to spread the false idea that there was a secret communication channel between Trump and Russia. Talking heads would ignore any actual evidence to confirm their preconceived notions that Trump was a double agent working behalf of the Kremlin. Would people read past the headlines or simply assume that Trump was sending secret emails to a Russian bank? To add fuel to the fire, all the Clinton campaign had to do was point to the hysteria and feign concern, all the while omitting their involvement.
The Durham report has shown that America has entered a new and perilous stage. With unabashed coordination, the Clinton campaign alongside the media and the FBI worked together to push falsehoods in order to undermine the Trump campaign and the half of Americans who supported it.
The abuse at every point is as staggering as it is sickening. Law enforcement exists to uphold the law and ensure equal justice, not conduct improper and political investigations without basis. The media should be acting as a fourth branch of government, holding those in power to account and exposing corruption. Instead, Americans were treated to the spread of untruths and partisan theorizing. Political campaigns, instead of digging up questionable evidence and conducting smear campaigns on their opponents, should act with respect to the truth and the American democratic process. Technology experts and researchers with specialized skills and sensitive data owe it to their profession to act honorably and with integrity, not knowingly lead others astray with fanciful claims lacking authenticity.
Without the Durham report this abuse would have remained in the shadows. It is our responsibility as Americans to react accordingly, call out the wrongdoing, and hold those responsible to account. The American experiment is gravely threatened absent equal justice under law, honest media, upstanding citizens, and noble politics. Without healthy institutions, the foundation of America is undermined and all that is built upon it teeters towards disaster.