Durham says Democrat-allied tech executive spied on Trump’s White House office
Special counsel John Durham says he is building a case to show the technology executive with whom an indicted Democratic lawyer on the payroll of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was working to build a Trump-Russia collusion narrative gained access to internet traffic at the White House to try and obtain dirt on former President Donald Trump.
Left-wing lawyer Michael Sussmann was indicted last year for allegedly concealing his clients, among them Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, from the FBI when he volunteered since-debunked claims of a secret back channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank. Durham revealed in a Friday court filing that he has evidence that Sussmann’s other client (dubbed “Technology Executive-1” but known to be former Neustar Senior Vice President Rodney Joffe) “exploited” domain name system internet traffic at “a particular health care provider” (which was likely Spectrum Health), Trump Tower, Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and “the Executive Office of the President of the United States.”
The revelations, made as part of a motion for the Washington, D.C., federal court to look into possible conflicts of interest related to Sussmann’s defense team, gave allies of Trump more reason to believe the former president was spied upon, as evidenced by an upsurge in tweets about the latest salve in the so-called Russiagate scandal.
“They didn’t just spy on Donald Trump’s campaign. They spied on Donald Trump as sitting President of the United States. It was all even worse than we thought,” tweeted Mark Meadows, a former congressman who later became Trump’s White House chief of staff.
Kash Patel, an intelligence and defense official in the Trump administration and chief “Russigate” investigator under then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, said the filing “shows that the Hillary Clinton campaign directly funded and ordered its lawyers at Perkins Coie to orchestrate a criminal enterprise to fabricate a connection between President Trump and Russia.”
Durham said that “Internet Company-1” accessed “dedicated servers for the EOP as part of a sensitive arrangement whereby it provided DNS resolution services to the EOP” and that Joffe 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.”
Joffe alerted Sussmann about the Alfa Bank claims by July 2016, Durham said last year, and “over the ensuing weeks, and as part of their lawyer-client relationship,” Sussmann and Joffe “engaged in efforts with Campaign Lawyer-1” — identifiable as former Perkins Coie lawyer and Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias.
Durham said Friday that Sussmann “provided an updated set of allegations — including the Russian Bank-1 data and additional allegations relating to Trump” to another U.S. government agency dubbed “Agency-2,” which is reportedly the CIA. Durham said the allegations Sussmann passed along during the Feb. 9, 2017, meeting relied partly on “the purported DNS traffic that Tech Executive-1 and others had assembled pertaining to Trump Tower, Donald Trump’s New York City apartment building, the EOP, and the aforementioned healthcare provider.”
Durham’s team has charged Sussmann with lying to the FBI when pushing the Alfa Bank claims. Sussmann allegedly told FBI General Counsel James Baker in September 2016 that he was not working for any particular client despite doing the bidding of Clinton’s campaign, billing his services to her, as well as working on behalf of Joffe. Sussmann denies any wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty. Durham insists Sussmann repeated the lie in 2017.
The special counsel said Friday that Sussmann “provided data which he claimed reflected purportedly suspicious DNS lookups by these entities of internet protocol addresses affiliated with a Russian mobile phone provider” during the February 2017 meeting, and Sussmann “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.” Durham said this assertion was likely highly misleading or outright false.
“The Special Counsel’s Office has identified no support for these allegations,” he wrote. “Indeed, more complete DNS data that the Special Counsel’s Office obtained from a company that assisted Tech Executive-1 in assembling these allegations reflects that such DNS lookups were far from rare in the United States.”
Durham added: “For example, 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. In addition, 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 at least as early 2014 (i.e., during the Obama administration and years before Trump took office) — another fact which the allegations omitted.”
Durham pointed to the indictment of Sussmann, which alleged beginning in July 2016 Joffe worked with Sussmann, Fusion GPS (which had been hired by Perkins Coie), numerous cyber researchers, and employees at multiple internet companies to put together the Alfa Bank claims. While doing this, Durham said Joffe “exploited his access to non-public and/or proprietary Internet data.” The special counsel said Joffe “also enlisted the assistance of researchers at a U.S.-based university,” Georgia Tech, “who were receiving and analyzing large amounts of Internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract” — likely from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Durham said Joffe tasked those researchers to mine internet data to establish “an inference” and “narrative” tying then-candidate Trump to Russia. Durham said Joffe indicated he was doing this to please certain “VIPs” at Perkins Coie and on the Clinton campaign.
The Washington Examiner reached out to an attorney for Joffe for comment.
“Durham states that Sussman and Mark Elias (Perkins Coie) hired the internet executive, Rodney Joffe and his team to establish an ‘inference and narrative’ tying President Trump to Russia,” Patel said in his statement on Durham’s new filing.
“Durham writes he has evidence showing Joffe and his tech company obtained a ‘sensitive arrangement’ where they were able to infiltrate White House servers. Per Durham, this arrangement was put in motion in July of 2016, meaning the Hillary Clinton Campaign and her lawyers masterminded the most intricate and coordinated conspiracy against Trump when he was both a candidate and later President of the United States while simultaneously perpetuating the bogus Steele Dossier hoax,” Patel added. “Per the pleading, the government will also show that Joffe, at the direction of Sussman/Elias and the Clinton Campaign, exploited proprietary data, to hack Trump Tower and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) to establish a false narrative, which Sussman later relayed to U.S. agencies in the hopes of having them launch investigations of President Trump.”
Last month, Durham’s team said it had met with DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz in October and followed up with a discovery request for information relevant to its inquiry into the Russia investigation origins. Horowitz provided records, including a report about a “cyber-related matter” that Sussmann brought to the inspector general’s attention in early 2017.
The cyber report said Sussmann told an agent in Horowitz’s office that one of Sussmann’s clients claimed a DOJ inspector general employee’s computer was “seen publicly” in “internet traffic” and had connected to a virtual private network in a foreign country.
What Horowitz failed to reveal, according to Durham, was that he personally met with Sussmann in March 2017 to discuss the mysterious report. Durham only learned of that meeting during a Jan. 20 call with Sussmann’s lawyers, according to the filing, and the DOJ watchdog discussed it with Durham’s team for the first time the next day after being asked about it. Durham says Sussmann was working on behalf of Joffe related to this “cyber issue.”
The Friday filing by Durham asked the presiding judge “to inquire into potential conflicts of interest arising from the representation of the defendant by his current counsel” at the Latham & Watkins law firm, saying the special counsel team discussed this with Sussmann’s lawyers “and believes that any potential conflicts likely could be addressed with a knowing and voluntary waiver by the defendant.” Durham said Sussmann “presently intends to waive any potential conflict of interest.”
The special counsel said “possible that conflicts of interest could arise” from Latham previously representing others in the Durham investigation whose interests may conflict with those of Sussmann. The firm previously represented Sussmann and his prior employer, Perkins Coie, in connection with events Durham said likely will be relevant at trial and that Latham “maintained professional and/or personal relationships with individuals who could be witnesses in these proceedings.”
The Alfa Bank allegations began to emerge publicly in the closing weeks of the 2016 election. On Oct. 31 of that year, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted: “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.” Clinton also shared a lengthy statement from Clinton campaign adviser Jake Sullivan, now President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, who claimed that “this secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia.”
Horowitz, the DOJ inspector general, said in his December 2019 report on the Russia investigation that the FBI “concluded by early February 2017 that there were no such links” between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization.
“The latest pleading from Special Counsel Robert Durham provides indisputable evidence that my campaign and presidency were spied on by operatives paid by the Hillary Clinton Campaign in an effort to develop a completely fabricated connection to Russia,” Trump said in a statement issued by his Save America PAC on Saturday. “This is a scandal far greater in scope and magnitude than Watergate, and those who were involved in and knew about this spying operation should be subject to criminal prosecution. In a stronger period of time in our country, this crime would have been punishable by death. In addition, reparations should be paid to those in our country who have been damaged by this.”
Durham began the investigation in the spring of 2019 at the behest of then-Attorney General William Barr. Under the Biden administration, Durham left his role as the U.S. attorney in Connecticut but was allowed to continue the investigation as special counsel. Roughly $3.8 million was spent across a nearly one-year period ending on Sept. 30 for the special counsel’s work.
The so-called “investigation into the investigators” has lasted longer than Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into alleged ties between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia, which cost nearly $32 million.
Durham told a federal court in December that he was scrutinizing members of Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign as part of his criminal inquiry. The special counsel’s team asked a judge to “inquire into a potential conflict of interest” related to the lawyers for British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s main anti-Trump dossier source, Igor Danchenko, noting that a separate lawyer at their firm “is currently representing the 2016 ‘Hillary for America’ presidential campaign, as well as multiple former employees of that campaign, in matters before the Special Counsel.”
Danchenko, a U.S.-based and Russian-born researcher, was charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI. Durham’s indictment said Danchenko made these statements about the information he provided to Steele for his now-discredited dossier, which the FBI relied upon when pursuing authority for the secret surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Danchenko has pleaded not guilty.
Horowitz, the DOJ watchdog, concluded in December 2019 that Steele’s dossier played a “central and essential” role in the FBI’s effort to obtain wiretap orders against Page. The DOJ watchdog determined the FBI’s investigation was filled with serious missteps and errors and concealed potentially exculpatory information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The inspector general also said Danchenko undermined Steele’s claims of a “well-developed conspiracy” between Trump and Russia.
Ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to editing an email fraudulently to say Page was “not a source” for the CIA and was sentenced to a year of probation.
Durham’s endeavor has long been criticized by Democrats and legal observers who claim the inquiry is meant to undercut Mueller’s special counsel investigation. Trump and his allies have championed the investigation as a means to root out corrupt officials and settle political scores.
Attorney General Merrick Garland told lawmakers in October that Durham has free rein under his watch.
“We’re now in a new fiscal year, and as everyone knows, Mr. Durham is continuing. So I think you can readily assume that his budget has been approved,” Garland said, adding, “We don’t normally make a statement about those things, but since he’s still in action, the provisions of the regulation which require approval of his budget for the next fiscal year are public, so I think … you would know if he weren’t continuing to do his work.”