John Durham has revealed further details about the Trump-Russia collusion allegations that Michael Sussmann pushed to the CIA in 2017, scrutinizing claims surrounding Russian phones known as YotaPhones.
In early 2017 in a conversation with the CIA, the Democratic cybersecurity lawyer linked former President Donald Trump to these phones near the White House and elsewhere beginning in 2016. The special counsel has rejected these allegations and said the CIA did too.
Sussmann was indicted last September for allegedly concealing his clients — Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and “Tech Executive-1,” known to be former Neustar executive Rodney Joffe — from FBI general counsel James Baker in September 2016 when he pushed since-debunked claims of a secret back channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank.
Durham says Sussmann similarly concealed his client, Joffe, when he met with the CIA on Feb. 9, 2017. The special counsel released Friday a lightly redacted version of the CIA’s “memorandum for the record” written the day the agency met with Sussmann.
The CIA said Sussmann told them his contacts had gathered information “indicating that a Russian-made Yota phone had been seen by them connecting to WiFi from the Trump Tower in New York, as well as from a location in Michigan, at the same time that then-candidate Trump was believed to be at these locations” and that “the Yota phone was seen connecting to WiFi from the Executive Office of the President (the White House)” in December 2016.
The special counsel revealed Friday that the CIA concluded in early 2017 that the Alfa Bank and YotaPhone information was not “technically plausible,” was “user created," “contained gaps,” and “conflicted with [itself].”
Sussmann’s lawyers are objecting to the various statements their client allegedly made to the CIA in 2017 being introduced as evidence during the May trial, but Durham is insisting on it.
The special counsel argued that “regardless of whether this statement was true, partially true, or — as the Government contends — false and misleading, the statement is admissible because it provides crucial context for the defendant’s meeting and the other statements he made.”
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The CIA said Sussmann told them he had met with Baker “on a similar, though unrelated, matter."
But Durham said that was “misleading” because information regarding the Alfa Bank allegations that he had pushed to the FBI was among the materials Sussmann provided to the CIA and thus was not unrelated.
During the February 2017 meeting, the CIA said Sussmann “provided both written documents and thumb drives which he claimed contained data related to potential Russian activities connected to then Presidential candidate/elect Trump.”
“Mr. Sussmann advised that he was not representing a particular client and the information he was volunteering to us was not privileged,” the CIA wrote. “His contacts wished to provide information to the U.S. government through Mr. Sussmann, preferring anonymity citing a potential threat from the Russian Intelligence Services.”
The agency added that Sussmann “was up front" that his law firm supported the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign "but that such work was unrelated to his reasons for contacting the CIA.”
The CIA said Sussmann told them “the information his contact had collected (the content of the thumb drives) was ‘private collection’, suggesting that the data had been collected by his contacts as a matter of personal interest.”
Durham claimed Sussmann's CIA allegations showed his intent was to "deceive" the CIA "by prompting them to act on information without truthfully describing or disclosing the relevant background, including the fact that the FBI had already been made aware of the allegations."
The FBI, CIA, special counsel Robert Mueller, a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, and Durham’s team have all cast doubt on or shot down the Alfa Bank claims.
Durham also referenced Friday an earlier Jan. 31, 2017, meeting Sussmann had with “Former Employee-1” — who had worked at the CIA. The special counsel provided a heavily redacted copy of an email that the former CIA employee sent to someone referred to as “Employee 14."
“Sussmann said that he represents a CLIENT who does not want to be known, but who had some interesting information about the presence and activity of a unique Russian made phone around President Trump,” the email reads. “The activity started in April 2016 when then President elect Trump was working out of the Trump Tower on its Wi-Fi network.” Trump was a candidate, not president-elect, at the time. The email added that “after his move to the White House, the same phone surfaced on the EOB network (assume Executive Office Building).”
Durham wrote earlier this year that “the Special Counsel’s Office has identified no support for these allegations" related to the Russian phones.
The January 2017 email said “the CLIENT claims that only dozen or so of these phones are present in the U.S.” and that “the CLIENT claims that double screen YotaPhones are often given by Russian government officials as gifts.”
“The phone close to President Trump apparently surfaced in April 2016 at the Trump Tower Network, and also at Wi-Fi used at Trump’s apartment at Grand Central Park West," the email says. "When Trump traveled to Michigan to interview a cabinet secretary the phone appeared with Trump."
The email claims Sussmann contended that “in December 2016 the phone disappeared from Trump Tower WiFi network and surfaced on EOB network.”
Sussmann said that from April 2016 through January 2017, the YotaPhone “made number of Wi-Fi calls to Moscow and St. Petersburg” and that “the calls made from Trump Tower WiFi Network” were Voice over Internet Protocol calls.
The special counsel said earlier this year that Sussmann “provided data which he claimed reflected purportedly suspicious DNS lookups by these entities of internet protocol addresses affiliated with a Russian mobile phone provider” during the CIA meeting that also “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 revealed this year he has evidence Joffe “exploited” domain name system internet traffic at Trump Tower, Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and the Executive Office of the President. The special counsel said Joffe exploited his company's access to data at a "high-ranking executive branch office" both before and after the 2016 election, meaning at least during the transition period.
The January 2017 email said Sussmann asserted that “his client did not want to provide this to the FBI.” Sussmann allegedly said his client “would most likely go to the New York Times” if there was no interest at the CIA.
Durham pointed out that Sussmann had pushed Alfa Bank claims to that outlet, as well as to the FBI and elsewhere, in the lead-up to the 2016 election.
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The Special Counsel's Office previously said Joffe tasked university researchers with mining internet data to establish “an inference” and “narrative” to tie Trump to Russia, which Durham says Joffe believed would please certain “VIPs” — referring to the Clinton campaign.