The Clinton campaign’s operation to spread a now-debunked story on a Russian bank-Donald Trump computer linkage went further than previously known, according to new congressional testimony.
It turns out that at least two Clinton operatives went inside the Justice Department to sell the allegation.
The Democrat-pitched narrative went like this: The Trump Organization maintained a secret computer server at Trump Tower directly tied to Moscow’s Alfa Bank, whose partners are linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But cybersleuths traced the server’s IP address not to Moscow, but to a spam operation outside Philadelphia that spit out hotel marketing pitches, including the Trump Organization’s.
It is known that Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, the Clinton campaign’s opposition researcher who hired dossier writer Christopher Steele, pushed the server plot to then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr. His wife, Nellie, worked for Mr. Simpson at Fusion GPS as an anti-Trump Russia investigator.
According to Mr. Ohr’s meeting notes, Mr. Simpson told him the server was a direct communication link to Alfa and proof of Trump-Russia collusion. Mr. Simpson also said an October 2016 article in The New York Times was wrong for discounting the server story, according to Mr. Ohr.
As a go-between, Mr. Ohr sent Fusion’s information directly to the FBI, including to agent Peter Strzok, who led the Russia probe. Mr. Strzok was fired for sending a series of anti-Trump text messages to his lover, FBI attorney Lisa Page.
Now, newly revealed testimony from James Baker, the former FBI general counsel and close adviser to fired FBI Director James B. Comey, shows that Fusion tried another avenue inside the Obama administration.
In closed-door testimony in October, Mr. Baker told lawmakers on a special House task force that he met with Michael Sussmann, a partner in the Perkins Coie law firm, on Sept. 16, 2016.
Perkins Coie had represented the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, and funneled more than $1 million of their cash to Fusion, which paid Mr. Steele about $160,000 for his anti-Trump dossier.
Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, asked Mr. Baker if Mr. Sussmann, a cybertechnology expert and former Justice Department attorney, pitched the Alfa server connection.
“Oh yes, I mean, that is what he told me about. Yeah, absolutely,” he answered, according to a transcript first reported by The Epoch Times.
After conferring with bureau attorneys, Mr. Baker added: “He was describing a — what appeared to be a surreptitious channel of communications — communication between some part of President Trump’s, I’ll say organization but it could be his businesses. I don’t mean like The Trump Organization, per se. I mean his enterprises with which he was associated. Some part of that and a — an organization associated with — a Russian organization associated with the Russian Government.”
With his testimony, the public now knows that two Fusion-connected Clinton supporters — Mr. Simpson and Mr. Sussmann — gained access to the inner sanctums of the Obama law enforcement establishment to pitch a theory that proved bogus.
When Mr. Simpson appeared months later before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he testified that he had no opinion on the function of the supposed Trump-Alfa server.
September 2016 was a busy time for Clinton allies trying to sell Russia-Trump stories.
Mr. Steele, a former British intelligence officer, arrived in Washington from London to meet with reporters from The Washington Post, The New York Times, Yahoo News and other news sites. Yahoo News produced the first story on the dossier quoting Mr. Steele, but not by name, about supposed nefarious meetings in Moscow by Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.
The next month, The New York Times published a story that deeply disappointed Mr. Simpson. The Times knocked down the collusion theme as well as the Alfa server conspiracy.
That same day, Oct. 31, the liberal website Slate did what Mr. Simpson wanted. It published a story supporting the Alfa-Trump server conspiracy.
The Clinton campaign, which had ballyhooed the Yahoo story, also tried to exploit the Slate piece as another example of Trump-Russia ties.
The Republican majority’s final report from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last year noted the Sussmann maneuvers in a footnote. It said Mr. Sussmann (his name redacted) had a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Baker and also shared Alfa server information with Slate, whose story “Was a Trump Server Communicating with Russia?” was written by Franklin Foer.
Mr. Jordan disclosed in a letter to the U.S. attorney in Connecticut that Mr. Baker is under criminal investigation for leaking national security information to reporters. Mr. Baker’s attorney revealed the probe as grounds for refusing to let his client answer questions on that subject.
Mr. Baker was reassigned after Mr. Comey’s firing and then left the FBI.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was criticized by the Justice Department inspector general for allegedly lying to his investigators about leaks to the press. He, too, is under U.S. attorney investigation.
The owners of Alfa Bank sued Fusion GPS for defamation in Washington for a dossier memo that said they paid bribes to Mr. Putin. They also are suing Mr. Steele in a London court.