Special counsel John Durham has obtained the complete FBI investigative file on the bureau’s conclusion that there was no secret internet communication channel in 2016 between then-candidate Donald Trump and Alfa Bank, a large Russian lender controlled by Kremlin-tied billionaire oligarchs.
Mr. Durham said Wednesday in a U.S. District Court filing that the electronic case file will soon be turned over to defendant Michael A. Sussmann. The former federal prosecutor doggedly pushed the Alfa-Trump conspiracy when he was legal counsel for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and for months after the election.
Mr. Durham brought a federal indictment Sept. 16 that accuses Mr. Sussmann of lying when he pitched the Alfa claim to then-FBI General Counsel James Baker during the election. He told Mr. Baker he was not representing a client when in fact he was briefing for the campaign, the indictment charges.
He also failed to state that he represented a technology executive who fueled the entire Alfa Bank conspiracy claims by giving Mr. Sussmann digital logs of supposed computer server-to-server hookups, according to the indictment.
The Alfa-Trump link first surfaced in October 2016 news stories promoted by Fusion GPS, a private investigative firm hired by Democrats and the Clinton campaign via Mr. Sussmann’s law firm, Perkins Coie. Fusion GPS also pitched the discredited Christopher Steele dossier that alleged a number of unfounded felonies by Mr. Trump and his aides.
The public first learned in December 2019 that the FBI had investigated the Alfa Bank server and concluded in February 2017 that no communication link existed. The finding was contained in a footnote, No. 259, in the voluminous report on FBI abuses by the Justice Department inspector general.
But the details of exactly how the FBI disproved the Sussmann-Fusion tale have never been publicly disclosed. For example, did the FBI determine the digital links were faked, as Alfa Bank argued?
Mr. Durham’s filing said he will turn over to Mr. Sussmann’s legal team “the majority of the FBI’s electronic ‘case file’ pertaining to its investigation of the Russian Bank-1 allegations, with relatively minor redactions to protect especially sensitive classified information[.]”
The special counsel submission came in opposition to a motion by Mr. Sussmann’s defense team. They want U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper to require the prosecutor to submit a “bill of particulars” — that is, a more elaborate detailing of the case than is contained in the 27-page indictment.
Said Mr. Durham: “The grand jury’s detailed, 27-page speaking indictment more than adequately informs the defendant of the charges against him and provides him with sufficient information and facts to prepare his defense at trial.”
The indictment disclosed for the first time the full breadth of the Sussmann operation to prove candidate Trump was in cahoots with the Kremlin through Alfa Bank. It included a number of computer scientists at three companies, plus a university’s tech experts, all with access to millions of email domains as they targeted Mr. Trump and his associates.
Mr. Durham said that, as part of required evidence discovery for defendants, he provided Mr. Sussmann more than 6,000 documents totaling 81,000 pages on Oct. 7. Included were interview notes of witnesses and responses to grand jury subpoenas.
Mr. Sussmann had worked behind the scenes to generate Alfa news stories. His court motion paints his actions with Mr. Baker as innocent and says the indictment fails to quote exactly what Mr. Sussmann said that was a lie.
“Mr. Sussmann arranged for this meeting on behalf of his client, a cyber expert involved in identifying and analyzing the relevant data underlying the suspicious internet contacts,” said the defense filing by attorneys at the firm Latham & Watkins. “And Mr. Sussmann did so to make the FBI aware of the matter, which raised national security concerns, and to ensure that the FBI would not be caught off guard when the article was published.”
The motion also said: “The Special Counsel has brought a false statement charge on the basis of a purported oral statement made over five years ago for which there is only a single witness, Mr. Baker; for which there is no recording; and for which there are no contemporaneous notes by anyone who was actually in the meeting.”
Alfa Bank’s owners — Petr Aven, Mikhail Fridman and German Khan — have filed two lawsuits naming “John Doe” as the defendant. Their filings include reports by two cybersecurity firms that contend Alfa Bank was the victim of hackers. The hackers sent fabricated Domain Name System (DNS) digital queues to Trump domain “mail.trump-email.com” to make it look like they were communicating with Alfa servers, the lawsuits say.
The FBI concluded they were not. No email in this supposed secret channel has ever materialized, which Trump supporters say is evidence the hookups never existed.
Alfa Bank’s D.C. attorneys named “John Doe” as the defendant as a mechanism to issue subpoenas in a quest to find what they contend is a group of sophisticated hackers.
In August the attorneys deposed Daniel J. Jones, a key player in spreading the Alfa conspiracy around Washington after Mr. Trump was elected. Mr. Jones is a former FBI investigator and Democratic staff member on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He formed a private investigative firm, Penn Quarter Group, and in 2017 created a nonprofit, The Democracy Integrity Project.
He hired the dossier duo of Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS. His group paid Fusion more than $5 million in 2017-19, disposition testimony showed.
Mr. Jones testified that he was summoned by the Senate Armed Services Committee to look at reams of supposed Alfa Bank DNS data.
“I later learned that the source of that information was Rodney Joffe,” Mr. Jones testified.
Mr. Joffe was Mr. Sussmann’s client who directed the Trump-Alfa DNS operation. Mr. Joffe collected and provided the data that Mr. Sussmann took to the FBI’s Mr. Baker, who then prompted a counterintelligence investigation.
Mr. Sussmann referred to Mr. Joffe as “Max.” That pseudonym showed up in news articles as a key source. Mr. Sussmann has resigned from Perkins Coie.
Max’s real name was first disclosed by internet sleuths after the indictment had identified him only as “Tech Executive-1.”
Mr. Joffe is well known in cybersecurity circles. He has founded cybercompanies and held a senior position at Neustar Inc., which carries out work for defense and intelligence agencies. After the indictment, the company’s website listed him as a former employee. Neustar’s public affairs office did not respond to a Washington Times query.
Mr. Jones said Mr. Joffe had “particular unique access to the internet.”
The indictment said: “In the course of these efforts, Tech Executive-1 also exploited his own company’s access to the sensitive internet data of a high-ranking executive branch office of the U.S. government, both before and after the Presidential election.”
The indictment said the executive talked of being named the top cybersecurity official in a Hillary Clinton administration.
“The FBI’s investigation of these allegations nevertheless concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations of a secret communications channel with Russian Bank-1,” the indictment said.