Lawyers working for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign paid an IT firm to “infiltrate” servers at Trump Tower and the White House in order to establish a “narrative” that would link Donald Trump to Russia, an explosive new legal filing alleges.
The legal motion, filed in a District of Columbia court on Friday by a Justice Department (DOJ) prosecutor investigating the origins of the FBI’s ‘Russiagate’ probe, relates to potential conflicts of interest by former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann. Sussmann has previously pleaded not guilty to a one-count charge of lying to federal agents.
Two months before the 2016 election, Sussmann, a partner at Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented the Democrats and Clinton’s campaign, allegedly told the FBI he was not working on behalf of Clinton when he presented the agency with supposedly incriminating documents.
In the filing, Special Counsel John Durham alleges that Sussmann was working on behalf of the Clinton campaign and an unnamed “technology executive” at a US tech firm when he submitted “purported data” and “white papers” to then-FBI General Counsel James Baker in September 2016. They apparently pointed to a “covert communications channel” between the Trump Organization and Russia-based Alfa Bank (identified as “Russian Bank-1”).
Highlighting Sussmann’s “billing records,” Durham alleges that he had “repeatedly billed the Clinton Campaign for his work on the Russian Bank-1 allegations.” This involved an unnamed lawyer working with the campaign, the tech executive (identified as “Tech Executive-1”), an investigative firm, several cyber-researchers, and employees at “multiple internet companies,” the motion states.
It alleges that the executive “exploited his access to non-public and/or proprietary Internet data” and tasked researchers at an unnamed US university to “mine Internet data” so as to create “an inference” and “narrative” linking Trump to Russia. The executive claimed to be working “to please certain VIPs.”
While many US media outlets pointed to the Alfa Bank claims as proof of Trump’s “collusion” with the Kremlin, the FBI found that the email server in question was run by an advertising agency that sent out promotional emails for Trump’s hotels, among other things.
Among the internet data exploited was “domain name system (DNS) Internet traffic” from Trump Tower, Trump’s apartment building in New York City, and the White House, the filing states. It alleged that Tech Executive-1’s employer (identified as “Internet Company-1”) provided DNS resolution services to the White House – and accused the executive and his associates of exploiting this arrangement to mine data for “derogatory information” about Trump.
Then, in 2017, Sussmann apparently used this information to compile “an updated set of allegations” about Trump’s supposed Russian ties – noting “suspicious DNS lookups” and “Russian-made wireless phones” – to another US government agency, the motion states. Durham said he found “no support for these allegations” and added that some of the lookups occurred as early as 2014 during the Obama administration.
Demanding “reparations” be paid, Trump said in a statement on Saturday that the filing provided “indisputable evidence” that his campaign and presidency were “spied on by operatives paid by the Hillary Clinton Campaign” to “develop a completely fabricated connection to Russia.”
“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,” he added, noting that there was a time when the alleged crime “would have been punishable by death.”
There has been no official response from Clinton as yet.
Last year, Sussmann’s attorneys said their client had “committed no crime,” calling charges against him “baseless [and] unprecedented.” Meanwhile, a lawyer for the person who fed Sussmann the Alfa Bank claims said that his client did not know his law firm had a relationship with the Clinton campaign “and was simply doing the right thing.”
Sussmann represented the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during proceedings related to the alleged 2016 hack of its computers. Both Clinton and the DNC had blamed Russia, but could not back up their accusations.
The original Russia probe ballooned into a two-year investigation led by then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who failed to produce evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.