By Jeff Carlson and Hans Mahncke
As the trial of Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann approaches, special counsel John Durham and Sussmann’s lawyers are arguing over what evidence can be admitted. As part of those arguments, Durham filed a “routine” response late on April 15, detailing why the evidence he’s seeking to admit is both relevant and admissible.
These back-and-forth filings are common in the weeks leading up to federal trials, but the disclosures made by Durham are anything but routine.
The most striking of these disclosures concerns data trails that Sussmann and his cohorts, including “Tech Executive-1” Rodney Joffe, had supposedly uncovered between Trump and the Russian Alfa Bank. It was widely claimed that these data trails established a direct communications channel between Trump and the Russian government.
Sussmann took the data to the FBI in September 2016 hoping to trigger an investigation into Trump and his campaign. The existence of an FBI investigation would then be used by the Clinton campaign as a media kill shot against Trump in the final weeks of the 2016 election.
The scheme didn’t work as planned, and Trump went on to win the election. But this setback didn’t put the brakes on an operation that had now turned into an effort to hobble Trump’s presidency. In February 2017, after Trump was inaugurated, Sussmann took the same data trails to the CIA.
CIA Knew Early on That Sussmann Data Fabricated
Durham has now disclosed that the CIA immediately knew that both data trails were fake, finding that they were not “technically plausible,” that they didn’t “withstand technical scrutiny,” that they “contained gaps,” that they conflicted with themselves, and that they were “user-created” and not machine- or tool-generated.
The data provided by Sussmann consisted of alleged internet lookups between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank as well as alleged use of a Russian-made YotaPhone in Trump’s vicinity at Trump Tower, near a Trump interview in Michigan, and near the White House after he was elected president.
The fact that the phone data was highly questionable was obvious from the start. Sussmann alleged there were only a dozen such phones in the United States, claiming that they weren’t publicly available but were sometimes gifted by Russian government officials. However, that information was false. YotaPhones were officially launched in the United States in 2014. And, as Durham notes, between 2014 and 2017, there were millions of lookups of YotaPhones that originated with U.S.-based internet addresses.
The sheer number of YotaPhone lookups has led some to speculate that Sussmann and other Clinton operatives might have cherry-picked data to make those communications look like something they weren’t. In other words, that there was real data, but it was being misrepresented by Sussmann. Proof of that allegation would have been bad enough, but Durham has now revealed that the CIA determined that the data was in fact “user-created”—it was fabricated.
This incredible disclosure immediately begs the question: Who created the data? It also highlights a larger question: If the CIA knew this data was falsified in February 2017, why did it allow Trump to be hounded throughout his presidency with false claims of Russia collusion?
Furthermore, why did special counsel Robert Mueller, who spent $42 million in taxpayer money supposedly investigating Trump–Russia collusion, keep forging ahead with his investigation? The information from the CIA changed everything. Why did Mueller and his team never disclose that the underlying data trail was fake? Nor is that information anywhere in their lengthy two-volume report.
Durham’s latest filing also contains two CIA reports that pertain to the agency’s interactions with Sussmann. They detail how Sussmann gave data to the CIA after Trump had assumed the presidency. Crucially, what the CIA notes show is that Sussmann claimed that the Russian phone activity continued after Trump’s “move to the White House.”
These CIA reports contradict the corporate media’s narrative that neither Sussmann nor Joffe spied on Trump. Not only was Trump spied on, but some form of spying involved the collection and subsequent manipulation of data after he became president.
The CIA notes also reveal that the data had been collected since April 2016, which coincides with the start date of Sussmann’s efforts to tie Trump to Russia on behalf of the Clinton campaign.
In another move that signals a shift in Durham’s approach, Durham has laid out details of the coordination that took place between Sussmann’s cyber operation and British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier operation that was being run by Fusion GPS. We’ve known since last year that Sussmann and Steele represented two separate prongs of the Clinton campaign’s efforts to smear Trump as a Russian stooge.
Connecting the 2 Prongs
We also knew that those two prongs converged in late July 2016—directly in front of the FBI’s opening of its investigation into the Trump campaign—when Steele and Sussmann met in Washington along with a host of other Clinton campaign operatives.
Until now, Durham hadn’t connected the two prongs of Clinton’s plan, choosing instead to focus on Sussmann’s alleged crime of lying to the FBI.
That has now changed. Durham has told the court that Sussmann and Steele were two parts of the same joint venture, a move that inches us closer to possible conspiracy charges being brought by Durham against participants in the scheme. Connecting Sussmann directly to the Clinton campaign’s broader efforts to vilify Trump also establishes a motive for Sussmann’s actions.
Specifically, Durham states that Sussmann “represented and worked for the Clinton Campaign in connection with its broader opposition research efforts,” and that through his coordination with Steele, Fusion GPS, and Joffe, Sussmann took steps to integrate the Alfa Bank allegations into those opposition research efforts.
Durham also is now focusing on the fact that Sussmann personally told Steele about the Alfa Bank data trail at their July 2016 meeting. And as we already know, Steele was then tasked with writing a dossier report on the Alfa allegations.
Durham also notes that Steele’s report on the Alfa Bank allegations was completed only a few days before Sussmann brought the allegations to the FBI. Even more astonishingly, Durham points out that the FBI was given Steele’s dossier by Fusion GPS on the very same day that Sussmann took the Alfa allegations to the FBI.
And finally, Durham has announced that there are at least two individuals who have apparently flipped and have been offered immunity.
2 Individuals Offered Immunity by Durham
Notably, the first of these individuals—who has not been named by Durham—is an employee at Fusion GPS, the firm of Clinton campaign contractors who coordinated the efforts to jointly push Steele’s and Sussmann’s allegations into the media. It’s not known what the Fusion employee has told Durham, but given the overarching question facing the jury—whether Sussmann went to the FBI to push a false narrative or was merely acting as a good Samaritan—it’s entirely possible that the Fusion GPS employee will testify that Sussmann’s efforts were part of a broader scheme to falsely vilify Trump.
The second person that’s been offered immunity is David Dagon, an IT operative from Georgia Tech. Dagon was part of a small group of IT specialists tasked by Joffe to find data that linked Trump to Russia. Durham previously revealed that this group of IT operatives knew they couldn’t manufacture any claims that “would fly public scrutiny.” These same operatives also admitted in private that “the only thing that drove them to do what they were doing was that they ‘just do not like Trump.’”
Durham has now told the court that he gave Dagon immunity as the other IT operatives in the Joffe’s group had invoked their right against self-incrimination. Giving Dagon immunity was the only way Durham could obtain “otherwise-unavailable facts” underlying the Clinton campaign’s scheme to vilify Trump.
That both Dagon and a Fusion GPS employee are now cooperating with Durham is significant—not only in the Sussmann case, but for all the Clinton campaign operatives who were involved in the scheme.
It’s now left to Sussmann’s lawyers to persuade the trial judge—Obama-appointee Christopher Cooper—to throw out all this new evidence as well as Durham’s proposed witnesses. They may try to argue that the conspiracy, even if it existed, is not relevant to what Sussmann has been charged with—namely, lying to the FBI. Durham has already indicated that if this were to happen, he would object on the grounds that the existence of a conspiracy is compelling evidence of Sussmann’s motive when he lied to the FBI.
Ultimately, the judge will decide what evidence will and will not be allowed.
The bigger question that looms is whether Durham will charge anyone with conspiracy. He clearly has plenty of evidence, but for reasons not fully understood, he has not used that evidence to date. It may be that he faces significant internal pressure from DOJ officials. It may also be that he’s trying to extend the legal clock until after the midterms, knowing that prosecuting the Clinton campaign will require political cover.
Or it may simply be that Durham is waiting for more evidence that would allow him to charge top campaign officials. This argument is backed by the fact that the two people who received immunity are too far down the food chain to have known anything about the extent of involvement from top Clinton campaign officials.