A Democratic Party law firm pitched to the U.S. intelligence community a now-debunked theory that the Trump Organization maintained a secret computer link to a major Moscow bank run by Vladimir Putin allies, according to a newly declassified transcript.
The testimony came from attorney Michael Sussman of the Democratic- and Hillary Clinton-hired law firm Perkins Coie. It was previously known he took Alfa bank evidence to then-FBI general counsel James Baker. Mr. Baker himself testified to House investigators in 2018 about the September 2016 meeting with Mr. Sussman.
Mr. Sussman’s newly disclosed testimony from December 2017 showed the Democrats spread the Alfa server claims far more widely.
In addition to Mr. Baker, Mr. Sussman testified, he also took the Alfa claims inside the intelligence community as well as to three journalists. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released his testimony along with 52 other declassified transcripts on Thursday.
Mr. Sussman said he contacted the intelligence community that fall. In February 2017 he personally delivered a briefing and documents to an intelligence general counsel. The agency’s identify within the IC was blacked out from the transcript. But one transcript part refers to the “agency,” an apparent reference to the CIA.
Ironically, February 2017 was the same month the FBI concluded that there was no secret dedicated Trump-Alfa server and closed the case as part of its Trump-Russia election probe. That probe never found evidence of a Trump conspiracy.
Mr. Sussman recalled telephoning the agency in 2016.
“And I said, in some manner, I understand that the President has ordered a review of all intelligence relating to the election, and I have some information that may be germane to the subject matter of the investigation, and offered to come meet with her or, I don’t know, you know, someone, if they were interested, to hear about this information,” said Mr. Sussman, a former cyber crimes prosecutor at the Justice Department. “And that was really the nature of the call.”
Of his meeting with the FBI’s Mr. Baker, Mr. Sussman testified:
“And so l was coming to him mostly because I wanted him to be able to decide whether or not to act or not to act, or to share or not to share, with information I was bringing him to insulate or protect the Bureau or, I don’t know, I just thought he would know best what to do or not to do, including nothing at the time.”
Amid his meeting with Mr. Baker was a concerted effort by Democrats to get the Alfa allegation into the news media to harm candidate Donald Trump.
A prime mover was Glenn Simpson, co-founder of opposition research firm Fusion GPS.
Mr. Simpson went to Perkins Coie and the Democrats in June 2016 to obtain the funds to hire Christopher Steele, an ex-British spy. Mr. Steele went on to write the infamous, and now totally discredited, dossier that accused Mr. Trump of directing a wide election conspiracy with the Kremlin.
Mr. Simpson pitched the dossier, and Alfa server story, to Washington reporters. Mr. Sussman testified he briefed the New York Times, Washington Post and Slate.com.
Slate’s Franklin Foer was the only one to write an Alfa conspiracy story days before the November election.
“Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?” said the headline.
In his House testimony, Mr. Sussman did not mention “Alfa.” He described his briefing this way:
“So the contact was about reporting to them information that was reported to me about possible contacts, covert or at least nonpublic, between Russian entities and various entities in the United States associated with the, or potentially associated with, the Trump Organization.”
When Mr. Baker appeared before the House task force, he was asked if Mr. Sussman was referring to Alfa bank server. He answered yes.
“He was describing what appeared to be a surreptitious channel of communications between some part of President Trump’s, I’ll say organization but it could be his businesses,” Mr. Baker said. “I don’t mean like The Trump Organization, per se. I mean his enterprises with which he was associated. Some part of that and an organization associated with a Russian organization associated with the Russian Government.”
Alfa is owned by three Russian oligarchs with ties to Mr. Putin.
The Trump organization always denied the Alfa conspiracy theory. Online cyber sleuths said the Internet connections were actually links to a marketing spam service outside Philadelphia.