For the second day in a row, Hillary Clinton denounced media coverage of allegations from special counsel John Durham that a Democratic tech executive worked with an indicted Democratic lawyer to weave a phony Trump-Russia collusion story by gaining access to White House internet traffic.
As Durham's investigation and indictments appear to be affirming what has long been suspected, that many of the biggest claims of coordination between former President Donald Trump's 2016 team and Russia can be traced back to Clinton's failed 2016 campaign, the former secretary of state claimed she is being smeared and alluded to the prospect of litigation. All of this comes as Trump himself is facing multiple controversies, including myriad investigations into his business empire and 2020 election activities, as well as the House inquiry into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“They’ve been coming after me again lately, you might’ve noticed. It’s funny — the more trouble that Trump gets into, the wilder the charges and conspiracy theories about me seem to get. So now, his accountants have fired him, and investigations draw closer to him, and right on cue, the noise machine gets turned up, doesn’t it?” Clinton said Thursday during a speech at the New York State Democratic Convention. “Fox leads the charge with accusations against me, counting on their audience to fall for it again. And as an aside, they’re getting awfully close to actual malice in their attacks. But as I said, don’t get distracted.”
The phrase “actual malice” is a reference to a unanimous decision in a 1964 Supreme Court case that said a defamation lawsuit by a public official should require proving that an alleged false statement was made with "actual malice." Marc Elias, a former top Perkins Coie lawyer and general counsel of the Clinton campaign who lined up funding for British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited dossier, recently argued that press freedoms tied to that case should be curtailed following a story that exposed his connections to left-wing “dark money” funding.
The Washington Examiner has reached out to Fox News for comment.
Democratic cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann was indicted last year on charges of concealing his clients, including Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, from the FBI when he pushed since-debunked claims of a secret backchannel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank. Sussmann has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty. Durham revealed last week that he has evidence showing that Sussmann’s other client, known to be former Neustar executive Rodney Joffe, “exploited” domain name system internet traffic at Trump Tower, Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and the Executive Office of the President.
This filing prompted outcry from Trump and his allies over their spying suspicions and a wave of media reporting, but Clinton and others have argued that the assertions are off the mark. Clinton fired her first salvo Wednesday, one day after she ignored questions from a Daily Mail reporter who approached her in New York City and asked her to respond to "spying" allegations.
“Trump & Fox are desperately spinning up a fake scandal to distract from his real ones. So it's a day that ends in Y. The more his misdeeds are exposed, the more they lie,” Clinton tweeted as she linked to a left-wing media story. “For those interested in reality, here's a good debunking of their latest nonsense.” The report by Vanity Fair was titled “You’ll never believe it but Hillary Clinton did not, in fact, spy on Trump’s White House.”
DURHAM STANDS BY RELEASE OF SNOOPING EVIDENCE IN SUSSMANN CASE
In pushing back on efforts by Sussmann to strike from the record Durham’s details about snooping on Trump, the special counsel said in a filing Thursday, “If third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the government’s motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the government’s inclusion of this information. … Moreover, any potential prejudice or jury taint arising from such media attention can effectively and appropriately be addressed through the voir dire process during jury selection.”
In a filing last week, Durham said "Internet Company-1" accessed “dedicated servers for the [Executive Office of the President] as part of a sensitive arrangement whereby it provided DNS resolution services to the EOP” and that Joffe and his associates "exploited" this arrangement by mining the traffic and other data to gather dirt on Trump.
Durham also said Sussmann told a U.S. government agency, widely believed to be the CIA, about the phony Russian bank connection in a February 2017 meeting.
In response to Durham's filing Friday, Sussmann's lawyers accused Durham of "provocatively and misleadingly" describing the internet traffic potentially associated with Trump and insisted that Sussmann provided the agency believed to be the CIA with data from only before Trump took office.
Lawyers for David Dagon, a Georgia Tech data scientist who allegedly worked with Joffe, denied the spying allegations and said, "To our knowledge, all of the data they used was nonprivate DNS data from before Trump took office.” A spokesperson for Joffe said he "legally provided access to DNS data obtained from a private client that separately was providing DNS services to the Executive Office of the President."
But Durham's Friday filing pointed to the 2021 indictment of Sussmann, charging that Joffe “exploited his access to nonpublic and/or proprietary internet data" and tasked researchers to mine internet data to establish “an inference” and “narrative” tying Trump to Russia. Durham said Joffe indicated he was doing this to please certain Clinton campaign “VIPs.”
The special counsel said Sussmann claimed to the CIA in 2017 that data he had access to “demonstrated that Trump and/or his associates were using supposedly rare, Russian-made wireless phones in the vicinity of the White House and other locations.” Durham emphasized that he found "no support for these allegations.”
Trump himself issued a statement that said Durham’s filing “provides indisputable evidence that my campaign and presidency were spied on by operatives paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign in an effort to develop a completely fabricated connection to Russia.”
Steele was hired by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which had been hired by Elias, who also met with Steele during the 2016 contest and periodically briefed high levels of the campaign about Steele’s and Fusion's findings. The Alfa Bank claims were pushed to the FBI and Steele by Sussmann and others.
The Durham indictment doesn't name everyone, but the people described in it have been otherwise identified. The special counsel says Sussmann, Joffe, and Elias “coordinated and communicated about the Russian Bank-1 allegations." The indictment also said Elias "exchanged emails with the Clinton campaign's campaign manager, communications director, and foreign policy adviser concerning the Russian Bank-1 allegations."
Clinton’s foreign policy adviser was Jake Sullivan, who is now Biden’s national security adviser, while her campaign manager was Robby Mook, and her communications director was Jennifer Palmieri. “Campaign Lawyer-1” was Elias. On Halloween in 2016, Clinton tweeted, “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.” And she shared a lengthy Sullivan statement.
“This could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow,” Sullivan claimed, adding, “We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection.”
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DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in his December 2019 report that the FBI "concluded by early February 2017 that there were no such links." When asked about the Alfa Bank claims during House testimony in July 2019, special counsel Robert Mueller said, "My belief at this point is that it’s not true.” And a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report from 2020 also did not find "covert communications between Alfa Bank and Trump Organization personnel."
Igor Danchenko, a U.S.-based and Russian-born analyst, was charged in Durham's investigation with making false statements to the FBI about his sources of information for Steele's discredited dossier, including the role longtime Clinton ally Charles Dolan played in supplying at least the basis of certain claims. Danchenko pleaded not guilty.
John Ratcliffe, Trump’s director of national intelligence, declassified handwritten notes from former CIA Director John Brennan showing that he briefed then-President Barack Obama in 2016 on an unverified Russian intelligence report claiming that Clinton planned in July 2016 on tying Trump to Russia’s hack of the Democratic National Committee to distract from her email scandal.