March 2, 2022
When will the corrupt media begin reporting on this biggest political scandal of the last century?
By Margot Cleveland • The Federalist
Since Friday, several developments have exposed more of the behind-the-scenes details of the special counsel investigation into Spygate, including the public release of the deposition of Tech Executive-1, Rodney Joffe. Joffe’s deposition, coupled with other details previously known, reveals several significant facts while highlighting the many questions that remain unanswered.
Here’s what we learned and what investigative trails require further probing.
Earlier this month, the Russian-connected Alfa Bank filed a motion in a Florida state court seeking an extension of time to serve the numerous “John Doe” defendants it had sued there in June 2020. Alfa Bank had sued “John Doe, et al.” as stand-ins for the defendants it claimed were responsible for executing “a highly sophisticated cyberattacking scheme to fabricate apparent communications between [Alfa Bank] and the Trump Organization” in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
After filing suit, Alfa Bank began discovery in an attempt to learn the identity of the individuals responsible for what the large, privately owned Russian bank alleged was the creation of a fake computer trail connecting it to the Trump Organization. Among others Alfa Bank sought information from was Joffe, the man identified as Tech Executive-1 in Special Counsel John Durham’s indictment against former Hillary Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann.
Joffe’s attempts to quash Alfa Bank’s subpoena failed. On February 11, 2022, the tech executive alleged by Durham to have exploited sensitive data from an executive branch office of the federal government to mine for derogatory information on Trump sat for his deposition. On Friday, an internet sleuth discovered the public filing of Joffe’s deposition, which revealed that Joffe had finally been deposed by Alfa Bank.
In addition to revealing that Joffe’s deposition had taken place, the transcript from the deposition established that Durham had asked to interview Joffe more than a year earlier, but Joffe refused to speak with Durham’s team. After Joffe refused to submit to a voluntary interview, the special counsel’s office subpoenaed him to testify before a grand jury.
Joffe told Alfa Bank lawyers that he refused to answer questions before the grand jury, exercising his Fifth Amendment rights. The former Neustar tech executive likewise asserted his Fifth Amendment rights in response to a subpoena for documents served by the special counsel’s office.
Friday also saw Joffe’s attorneys, Steven Tyrrell and Eileen Citron, file notices of appearances for Joffe as a proposed “intervenor” in the special counsel’s criminal case against Sussmann. Joffe could seek to intervene in the case to challenge a subpoena, to seek a protective order—maybe because of purported attorney-client communications Joffe had with Sussmann or to prevent Durham from discussing his alleged role in public filings—or to otherwise protect a legal right or interest.
We should know more shortly, when Joffe’s attorney files the related motion to intervene. That motion is likely to come within the next week or so, given that on Friday, the court in United States v. Sussmann scheduled a hearing for March 7, 2022, to address potential conflicts of interests between Sussmann and his current attorneys, and Joffe is likely interested in ensuring Durham’s team does not further implicate him in the matter.
The transcript of Joffe’s deposition testimony discovered on Friday consisted mainly of the former tech executive refusing to answer questions because of the special counsel’s pending investigation, with Joffe responding to Alfa Bank’s inquiries by pleading the Fifth. However, several times Joffe responded to questions about specific individuals by saying he had not heard of the person or organization.
One such exchange proved intriguing and seemingly contradictory to an email obtained pursuant to a Right-to-Know request served on Georgia Tech, the university where two of the researchers who allegedly mined data for Joffe worked.
“Just a few questions more,” Alfa Bank’s attorney began, before asking, “Mr. Joffe, are you a member of the so-called Union of Concerned Nerds as described by L. Jean Camp?” “Basically, she’s used it as a description to describe a group of computer researchers who search for malware and other malicious content and actors on the internet,” the attorney for the Russian bank continued.
Joffe responded that he “can’t remember having heard that term,” before adding: “And I don’t belong to any organization.” However, when asked whether he was “a member of a group of individuals who sought to investigate potential foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election” or compiled supposed evidence of the Alfa Bank server connecting to the Trump campaign, Joffe pled the Fifth.
In posing these questions, Alfa Bank sought to connect Joffe to the reports of the supposed secret communication channel between it and the Trump administration and specifically to Slate’s reporting from October 31, 2016, headlined: “Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?”
Author Franklin Foer opened the article by highlighting “a small, tightly knit community of computer scientists . . . some at cybersecurity firms, some in academia, some with close ties to three-letter federal agencies,” who claimed to have discovered the Alfa Bank-Trump server connections. Foer then quoted Indiana University computer scientist L. Jean Camp’s “wry formulation” of the group: “We’re the Union of Concerned Nerds.”
Apparently, Joffe was not in on Camp’s joke, even if he was in on the research, as Durham’s indictment of Sussmann suggests.
But what about Joffe’s second claim that “I don’t belong to any organization?” As I reported last week, a random email included in a trove of documents provided by Georgia Tech in response to a Right-to-Know Request showed Joffe forwarding an email sent to [email protected] to university researcher Manos Antonakakis. That Joffe had received the ops-trust.net email and then forwarded it to Antonakakis proves important because Ops-Trust matches many of the details included in the Slate article (and later two New Yorker articles) discussing the researchers behind the Alfa Bank claims.
For instance, “Ops-Trust is a self-described ‘highly vetted community of security professionals,” which includes, among other experts, DNS administrators, DNS registrars, and law enforcement officials. Membership in Ops-Trust is extremely limited, with new candidates accepted only if nominated and vouched for by their peers.
Unfortunately, Alfa Bank’s attorney did not quiz Joffe on Ops-Trust, but his denial of belonging to any organization raises several questions. What was his connection to Ops-Trust? Did Joffe use that connection to obtain non-public information to mine for data to destroy Trump? Is he no longer connected to Ops-Trust, and is that why he claimed not to be a member of any organization?
Requests last week to Joffe’s attorney and other individuals connected to Ops-Trust seeking information concerning Joffe’s continued involvement with Ops-Trust went unanswered. A request to Camp on whether she was a member of Ops-Trust in 2016 and whether she knew Joffe or the Georgia Tech researchers through that organization also went unanswered.
In the special counsel’s criminal case against Sussmann, Durham’s team revealed that Sussmann had provided the “evidence” of the Alfa Bank-Trump covert communication channel to the FBI on September 19, 2016 and shared an updated version of the Alfa Bank allegations with the CIA on February 9, 2017. According to the special counsel’s office, Sussmann also provided the CIA data that purported to show traffic at Trump-related locations connecting to the “internet protocol” or “IP addresses” of a supposedly rare Russian mobile phone provider.
The questioning of Joffe by Alfa Bank’s attorney now suggests Sussmann may have also provided that same data to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
It has been known for some time that after Americans elected Trump, Democrats regrouped and continued to push the Russia collusion hoax, including the Alfa Bank angle. The New Yorker, in a 2018 article rehashing the Alfa Bank claims and referring to Joffe with the pseudonym “Max,” wrote that after Trump’s inauguration two Democrat senators “had reviewed the data assembled by Max’s group.”
One of the “Democratic senators approached a former Senate staffer named Daniel Jones and asked him to give the data a closer look,” The New Yorker article continued. Jones then spent a year researching the Alfa Bank allegations and writing a report for the Senate.
According to The New Yorker’s coverage, then, the senators had the data and provided it to Jones. Jones confirmed that sequence when a former Sen. Dianne Feinstein staffer and founder of the left-wing The Democracy Integrity Project sued Alfa Bank seeking to keep confidential his deposition testimony and documents provided to the Russian bank.
In his complaint, Jones stated in court filings that in early-to-mid 2017, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee asked him to research the alleged connections between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. Specifically, the Senate committee “requested that Mr. Jones evaluate information it had received about DNS look-ups between Alfa Bank servers and Trump Organization servers.”
Significantly, Jones stated that the Senate Committee informed him “that the source of the DNS records had a history of providing accurate information, a lengthy history of reliably assisting the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence communities and was an individual or entity with sensitive contracts with the U.S. government.” Jones added that he met with a representative for the source of the DNS records at the committee’s request.
While Jones does not identify that source or the source’s representative with whom he met, in Joffe’s deposition, Alfa Bank lawyers stated that Jones had testified he had “liaised with Mr. Joffe on various issues related to the server allegations.” The “sensitive contracts” language from Jones’ filing also seems eerily like Durham’s charge that Joffe had exploited internet data, including some accessed under sensitive government contracts.
Alfa Bank’s questioning of Joffe also seems to suggest a similar theory: “Were you aware that Mr. Sussmann provided documents including white papers and data files to Congress?” Alfa Bank’s counsel asked, clarifying that she meant not just the actual senators or representatives but also their staff. And “did you direct Mr. Sussmann to provide such documents to Congress?” the Russian bank attorney continued.
While Joffe refused to answer the questions, again pleading the fifth, Joffe admitted in his deposition that he knew Kirk McConnell. McConnell worked as a staffer for Sen. Jack Reed and in that role McConnell served as a contact for Jones related to the Alfa Bank research.
If Sussmann had provided the Alfa Bank data to the two Democrat senators on behalf of Joffe, as appears possible from these details, that would represent the fourth time Sussmann had served as an intermediary for Joffe with federal officials: In addition to the FBI and CIA, we know from Durham’s filings that Sussmann also provided the DOJ’s inspector general information purporting to show that Joffe “had observed that a specific OIG employee’s computer was ‘seen publicly’ in ‘Internet traffic’ and was connecting to a Virtual Private Network in a foreign country.”
While at this point there is no evidence that Joffe’s tip to the DOJ’s inspector general connects to the other efforts undertaken by Joffe and his lawyer to push a Trump-Russia conspiracy theory within the Deep State, questions remain that are only heightened by the possibility that the Joffe-Sussmann team also fed senators on the Armed Services Committee their “intel.”
How exactly did Joffe “see” this internet connection? Did he exploit any government or private data? Was he specifically watching computer traffic at the DOJ? Where else was he monitoring internet connections? And why?
Of course, the more global question remains as well: When will the corrupt media begin reporting on the biggest political scandal of the last century?
February 24, 2022
This story should reverberate far beyond the next election
By Jason Chaffetz • Fox News
The bombshell revelations filed late last week by Special Counsel John Durham, and ignored by most of the mainstream media, could have profound implications on Americans’ ability to trust our institutions.
It’s significant that the Durham filing further confirms what so many voters already suspected – that President Donald Trump was right about his opponents infiltrating his private information, and that Hillary Clinton’s campaign consistently lied to the American people.
But beyond those obvious top line revelations, there are even more sweeping implications that threaten to undermine the Biden Administration, the Democrat Party, and our country for years to come. Based on this and previous filings, we must now confront the following truths:
The Clinton campaign, according to Durham, “exploited his access to non-public and/or proprietary Internet data” and “enlisted the assistance of researchers at a U.S.-based university who were receiving and analyzing large amounts of Internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract.” That means data collected on us by the federal government has now been used for partisan political activities. How much other data is out there and who can access it?
No one should be able to access them. The fact that the Clinton campaign was able to reflects a severe national security threat. Who else has access to White House communications?
The filing implicates current National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. As a result, there should be no interference in the investigation by the administration. Such would be presumed to be self-serving.
Sullivan, in promoting the false Trump narrative revealed he is a mere partisan hack. He should not be trusted as Biden’s point person on national security, especially with potential war between Ukraine and Russia. America cannot trust him and he is not to be believed. A leave of absence until the Durham probe is complete is appropriate.
Americans must think twice about anything they hear from intelligence agencies. Though the CIA had no business engaging in a domestic investigation, they eagerly jumped aboard. The FBI continued to investigate even after concluding there were no links between Trump and Alpha Bank in February 2017.
Though we knew this, the traditional and social media reinforces this fact with their obvious double standard in the way they ignore and actively suppress the Clinton corruption story (which is true) versus their saturation coverage of the purely speculative Trump/Russia collusion story (which has been debunked).
The Clinton campaign was the architect of a disinformation campaign aimed at government, media, and Congress. Team Clinton allegedly lied to all three. The Biden Administration has pointedly criticized misinformation and must hold Clinton’s team to the same standard as anyone else they have targeted.
Durham’s filing indicates Clinton’s team, upon contacting the various agencies about the Alpha Bank allegations, excluded facts that would have cast doubt on the connection to Trump, including the fact that the DNS pings in question began years before Trump took office.
Clinton’s team knew the Alpha Bank allegations were a “red herring,” according to Durham’s indictment of Sussman. One participant admitted in August 2016 that they would need “to expose every trick we have in our bag to even make a very weak association,” adding that “the only thing that drive[s] us at this point is that we just do not like [Trump].”
The fact that Jake Sullivan still has a security clearance, despite his role in this whole sordid affair and the scrutiny over potentially false statements he made to Congress creates doubt about the efficacy of our security clearance process. Has the Biden Administration given high level clearances to other compromised individuals? Further, House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) should also be stripped of their security clearances for reviewing classified information and then repeatedly lying to the American public about it.
Analysis by Margot Cleveland at the Federalist revealed Durham’s filing also “highlighted the revolving door that exists between the D.C. proletariat and government employment.” She noted that an attorney who represented Clinton’s lawyers and appeared with Sussman before the House Intelligence Committee now serves at the DOJ. Furthermore, one of Sussman’s current attorneys previously worked at DOJ, where the lawyer “appears to have developed a professional relationship” with DOJ lawyers who are witnesses in the case.
After being shamed into reporting on the story, some mainstream outlets released bare-bones reports on their websites days after the Durham filing became public. But make no mistake – this story is a bombshell, potentially bigger than Watergate, that should reverberate far beyond the next election.
January 29, 2022
Will Carter Page succeed in fending off dismissal of his case against the DOJ, FBI, and litany of Crossfire Hurricane agents?
By Margot Cleveland • The Federalist
Over last weekend, attorneys for Carter Page filed responses to motions to dismiss filed by the FBI and eight agents involved in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation that led to the government illegally obtaining four surveillance warrants to spy on Page.
In November 2020, Page, who had briefly served as a volunteer advisor to the Trump campaign, sued the defendants in a D.C. federal court alleging violations of the Fourth Amendment, the Patriot Act, and the Privacy Act. In response, the government and the individual defendants argued Page’s claims were time-barred or that Page had no legal grounds on which to sue. Page’s responses counter those arguments while providing five key take-aways.
With Spygate developments few and far between, it is easy to forget the breadth and depth of the scandal. The briefs docketed on Saturday in Page’s lawsuit against the FBI and the agents involved in obtaining the four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance warrants serve as an important refresher of what our government did to an innocent man in the hopes of “getting Trump.” As Page’s brief against the individual defendants noted in its opening, this case is extraordinary because they “were not mere field agents bending the rules to pursue criminals, but rather the highest level FBI executives.”
Even the case name, Page v. Comey, confirms the truth of that assertion, with former FBI Director James Comey named as one of the eight defendants. Page’s brief details Comey’s alleged involvement in the Department of Justice obtaining four FISA surveillance orders against the Naval Academy graduate, stressing that Comey was not merely a “supervisory” who signed the FISA applications, but was personally involved.
Establishing Comey and the other agents’ personal involvement proved a key feature of the briefs, because, to avoid dismissal of the complaint, Page needed to show the allegations of the complaint could reasonably support a finding that the individual defendants did more than merely supervise employees who violated Page’s Fourth Amendment rights and rights under FISA.
The 70-page omnibus brief addressing the claims against the individual defendants detailed the personal involvement of each. For instance, for the former FBI director, the brief stressed that “on or about August 17, 2016, Comey received information from the CIA establishing that Dr. Page was an ‘operation contact’ for the CIA during the period of 2008-2013.”
Comey also knew from a September 7, 2016, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) communique that Hillary Clinton had approved “a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server,” according to the court filing. Comey nonetheless approved the use of the fabricated Christopher Steele dossier to obtain the FISA surveillance orders, and eventually signed three of the four FISA surveillance applications.
Next named in Page’s lawsuit was Andrew McCabe, a former deputy director of the FBI. McCabe was also personally involved in obtaining the illegal FISA surveillance order, according to Page’s most recent court filing.
Among other things, McCabe signed the affidavit the FBI submitted in support of the final FISA application. McCabe’s involvement went further, Page’s attorneys argued, pointing out that he hosted an August 15, 2016 meeting with co-defendants Peter Strzok and Lisa Page discussing “an insurance policy” to prevent a Donald Trump election, and he had approved the FISA applications even though he knew they omitted Carter Page’s past assistance to the CIA.
The brief next discussed Kevin Clinesmith’s involvement in the FISA abuse. Clinesmith, who served as an assistant general counsel in the FBI’s Office of General Counsel, falsely told the FBI that Page was never a source. Then, when asked for written confirmation of that representation, Clinesmith altered the text of the email he had received from the CIA liaison, making the email read that Page was “not a ‘source.’”
Clinesmith then forwarded the altered email to the FBI. Clinesmith later pleaded guilty to making a false statement related to this conduct.
Strzok and Lisa Page’s involvement in the FISA surveillance scheme received attention next. Strzok, who served at the time as the FBI deputy assistant director for counterintelligence, also knew of the CIA’s warning that Clinton had approved a plan to claim Trump had colluded with Russia to “distract the public” from her misuse of a private server. Strzok also stated an intention to “stop” Trump from becoming president and discussed “an insurance policy” to prevent a Trump election.
Lisa Page’s personal involvement mirrored that of Strzok’s, but in addition she attended a briefing with McCabe, at which “Bruce Ohr advised them that Steele’s work product was not for the U.S. Government but, rather, was political opposition research for a private political party.”
The briefs repeated this process for the remaining individual defendants: Joe Pientka, who served as a supervisory agent on the Crossfire Hurricane team; Stephen Somma, an FBI agent who represented himself as “Steve Holt” to Page; and Brian Auten, an FBI supervisory intelligence analyst.
Pientka, Carter Page stressed, had falsely certified that the information in the first FISA warrant was verified for accuracy and later failed to correct the application, even after learning in November 2016 from Ohr that Steele was not a reliable source and had been paid to conduct the opposition research against Trump.
The response filed on Saturday also detailed Somma’s involvement, noting that he had pushed initially for the FISA warrant. Further, according to Page, “Defendant Somma personally provided incomplete, inaccurate, and conflicting information to the DOJ Office Attorney who asked whether Dr. Page had been a source for the CIA.”
In fact, according to Page, Somma actually knew he had served as an “operational contact” for the CIA from 2008-2013, but failed to accurately describe that relationship to others. Somma also did not inform the FISA court that Igor Danchenko, Steele’s primary sub-source for his fabricated dossier, contradicted Steele’s supposed intel.
The final defendant, Auten, also held personal responsibility for violating Page’s Fourth Amendment rights and violations of the Patriot Act, according to Page’s lawyer. Auten “played an instrumental role along with the agents preparing the FISA applications—including reviewing the probable cause section of the applications.”
In preparing the applications, Auten “falsely enhanced the credibility of information obtained from Steele,” according to Page, writing “that information from Steele had been ‘corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,’ although none of Steele’s past reporting as an informant had been corroborated and had never been used in any criminal proceedings.”
Auten also “intentionally failed to disclose the negative feedback that he had received from British Intelligence Service colleagues regarding Steele,” according to the court filing, including a caution from “Steele’s former colleagues that Steele exercised ‘poor judgment’ and pursued as sources ‘people with political risk but no intel value.’”
Even with the details noted above and additional ones included in the 100-plus pages of combined briefs filed by Page’s legal team this weekend, so much remains unknown because the government holds sole possession of the information. That lack of knowledge, Page argued in his briefs, makes dismissal of his lawsuit at this stage premature.
“It is also abundantly clear that there is a trove of currently non-public documents and facts that relate to Dr. Page’s claims, which are presently in the exclusive possession of the Individual Defendants and the United States and its agencies, but which will undoubtedly further support and vindicate Dr. Page’s claims,” Page’s attorney wrote.
Then, as a perfect illustration of the point, Page’s legal team pointed to the fact that after they initially filed suit in November 2020, “additional facts concerning Defendant Clinesmith’s role with respect to the alteration of the email were disclosed when the Department of Justice filed its sentencing memorandum in Defendant Clinesmith’s criminal prosecution, including internal FBI emails not referenced in the Horowitz Report.”
Also unknown at this time is which defendants, if any, leaked information to the press. The brief suggests Lisa Page and Strzok hold responsibility for the leaks, noting that “on Monday, April 10, 2017, Defendant Strzok sent [Lisa Page] another text message stating, ‘I had literally just gone to find this phone to tell you I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ before you go.’”
“Two days later,” the brief continued, Strzok “sent Defendant Lisa Page a text message to alert her that two media articles were coming out about her ‘namesake’ [Dr. Page] and that one was worse than the other.” Then, later the same week, “the Washington Post and the New York Times published articles about Dr. Page and the government’s investigation of him, including that FISA warrants were used,” with Strzok that weekend texting Lisa Page: “article is out!” and “Well done, Page.”
The briefs filed this weekend also stressed that after the FISA warrant was issued, “a stream of information about Dr. Page . . . and his supposed status as a Russian agent working to undermine the nation, began to flood the airwaves and the newsstands.” “The source of that information can only have been the Crossfire Hurricane team,” the brief argued.
In addition to Strzok and Lisa Page, in the separate brief Carter Page’s legal team filed this weekend in response to the government’s motion to dismiss, lawyers claimed that defendants Comey and McCabe also “leaked information and records concerning Dr. Page to media outlets, including but not limited to the existence of the FISA warrants, the contents of the warrant applications, and the results of the warrants, that were protected from disclosure under FISA and the Privacy Act.”
Without discovery, however, Page lacks the ability to establish the party or parties responsible for the leaks with certainty, which supports his argument that dismissing his claims at this point is premature.
Reading Page’s briefs also reminds one of the lopsided battle he faced in trying to clear his name when he went up against the Crossfire Hurricane team. He literally wrote Comey. He reminded the FBI that he had worked with the CIA. He voluntarily submitted to multiple interviews with FBI agents. His lawyer spoke with Clinesmith.
Yet they persisted. It was one individual against the mammoth monstrosity that calls itself the intelligence community.
Now Page is taking on the same monster that is proving itself as regenerative as the mythical hydra. Not only does Page face the federal government, represented by Department of Justice attorneys, but each defendant has his or her own group of powerhouse D.C. lawyers combatting Page’s push for justice, leaving Page’s small legal team fighting against nine separate teams of defense attorneys.
One wonders who is paying for all those private law firms, and whether it is taxpayers?
While Page’s legal team may be outgunned, their briefing proves top-notch, both in its legal advocacy and its ability to point out the absurdity of many of the defendants’ arguments with a flair that cuts through legal niceties.
Early on, Page’s attorneys honed in on the key strategy the defendants seem to have settled on—point the finger at someone else. Each defendant sought to “outdo each other in minimizing their respective roles in the fiasco,” the brief noted, “each claiming their culpability in deceiving the FISC, unlawfully disclosing information, and violating Dr. Page’s rights was too minor to impose civil liability on them.” “If the individual defendants are to be believed,” the brief quipped, “these unlawful and false warrants wrote themselves.”
As quoted from Ian Fleming in “Goldfinger,” “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action,” crystalized another point by Page’s legal team: that the defendants’ conduct cannot be put down to mistakes or even sloppiness but creates the reasonable inference that they intentionally caused the violation of Page’s rights.
Then, in summing up their argument on behalf of Page, the brief closed by reminding the judge that “the FBI unlawfully used the power of the federal government, in the form of secret, anti-terrorism surveillance tools, to violate the rights of an innocent American.” “It is long past time for the United States to step up to the plate and do right by Dr. Page,” the brief closed.
Whether Carter Page will succeed in fending off dismissal of his case against the DOJ, FBI, and litany of Crossfire Hurricane agents will not be known for some time. The defendants will all have a chance to reply to Page’s briefing, meaning another nine briefs to counter Page’s two court filings.
The district court will then face many tough legal questions, beginning with whether Page waited too long to sue. Next, the court will need to determine whether Page adequately alleged sufficient facts under his various theories of liability and specifically whether each individual defendant holds responsibility for the illegal FISA warrant under an “aiding and abetting” theory.
Carter Page also presents a unique claim against the federal government under The Privacy Act, arguing that his rights were violated by the inspector general when the IG refused to allow Page to review and respond to the report discussing the four FISA warrants obtained against Page.
July 21, 2020
The FBI notes of February 2017 interviews with the Steele dossier's dubious 'Primary Subsource' have finally been released.
By Eric Felten • The Federalist
Much of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Donald Trump was built on the premise that Christopher Steele and his dossier were to be believed. This, even though early on Steele’s claims failed to bear scrutiny. Just how far off the claims were became clear when the FBI interviewed Steele’s “Primary Subsource” over three days beginning on Feb. 9, 2017. Notes taken by FBI agents of those interviews were released by the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday afternoon.
The Primary Subsource was in reality Steele’s sole source, a longtime Russian-speaking contractor for the former British spy’s company, Orbis Business Intelligence. In turn, the Primary Subsource had a group of friends in Russia. All of their names remain redacted. From the FBI interviews, it becomes clear that the Primary Subsource and his friends peddled warmed-over rumors and laughable gossip that Steele dressed up as formal intelligence memos.
Steele’s operation didn’t rely on great expertise, to judge from the Primary Subsource’s account. He described to the FBI the instructions Steele had given him sometime in the spring of 2016 regarding Paul Manafort: “Do you know [about] Manafort? Find out about Manafort’s dealings with Ukraine, his dealings with other countries, and any corrupt schemes.” The Primary Subsource admitted to the FBI “that he was ‘clueless’ about who Manafort was, and that this was a ‘strange task’ to have been given.”
The Primary Subsource said at first that maybe he had asked some of his friends in Russia – he didn’t have a network of sources, according to his lawyer, but instead just a “social circle.” And a boozy one at that: When the Primary Subsource would get together with his old friend Source 4, the two would drink heavily. But his social circle was no help with the Manafort question, and so the Primary Subsource scrounged up a few old news clippings about Manafort and fed them back to Steele.
Also in his “social circle” was Primary Subsource’s friend “Source 2,” a character who was always on the make. “He often tries to monetize his relationship with [the Primary Subsource], suggesting that the two of them should try and do projects together for money,” the Primary Subsource told the FBI (a caution that the Primary Subsource would repeat again and again.) It was Source 2 who “told [the Primary Subsource] that there was compromising material on Trump.”
And then there was Source 3, a very special friend. She would borrow money from the Primary Subsource that he didn’t expect to be paid back. She stayed with him when visiting the United States. The Primary Subsource told the FBI that in the midst of their conversations about Trump, they would also talk about “a private subject.” (The FBI agents, for all their hardnosed reputation, were too delicate to intrude by asking what that “private subject” was).
One day, Steele told his lead contractor to get dirt on five individuals. By the time he got around to it, the Primary Subsource had forgotten two of the names, but seemed to recall Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. The Primary Subsource said he asked his special friend Source 3 if she knew any of them. At first she didn’t. But within minutes, she seemed to recall having heard of Cohen, according to the FBI notes. Indeed, before long, it came back to her that she had heard Cohen and three henchmen had gone to Prague to meet with Russians.
Source 3 kept spinning yarns about Michael Cohen in Prague. For example, she claimed Cohen was delivering “deniable cash payments” to hackers. But come to think of it, the Primary Subsource was “not sure if Source 3 was brainstorming here,” the FBI notes say.
The Steele dossier would end up having authoritative-sounding reports of hackers who had been “recruited under duress by the FSB” — the Russian security service — and how they “had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party.” What exactly, the FBI asked the subject, were “altering operations?” The Primary Subsource wouldn’t be much help there, as he told the FBI “that his understanding of this topic (i.e. cyber) was ‘zero.’” But what about his girlfriend whom he had known since they were in eighth grade together? The Primary Subsource admitted to the FBI that Source 3 “is not an IT specialist herself.”
And then there was Source 6. Or at least the Primary Subsource thinks it was Source 6.
While he was doing his research on Manafort, the Primary Subsource met a U.S. journalist “at a Thai restaurant.” The Primary Subsource didn’t want to ask “revealing questions” but managed to go so far as to ask, “Do you [redacted] know anyone who can talk about all of this Trump/Manafort stuff, or Trump and Russia?” According to the FBI notes, the journalist told the Primary Subsource “that he was skeptical and nothing substantive had turned up.” But the journalist put the Primary Subsource in touch with a “colleague” who in turn gave him an email of “this guy” journalist two had interviewed and “that he should talk to.”
With the email address of “this guy” in hand, the Primary Subsource sent him a message “in either June or July 2016.” Some weeks later, the Primary Subsource “received a telephone call from an unidentified Russia guy.” He “thought” but had no evidence that the mystery “Russian guy” was “that guy.” The mystery caller “never identified himself.” The Primary Subsource labeled the anonymous caller “Source 6.” The Primary Subsource and Source 6 talked for a total of “about 10 minutes.” During that brief conversation, they spoke about the Primary Subsource traveling to meet the anonymous caller, but the hook-up never happened.
Nonetheless, the Primary Subsource labeled the unknown Russian voice “Source 6” and gave Christopher Steele the rundown on their brief conversation – how they had “a general discussion about Trump and the Kremlin” and “that it was an ongoing relationship.” For use in the dossier, Steele named the voice Source E.
When Steele was done putting this utterly unsourced claim into the style of the dossier, here’s how the mystery call from the unknown guy was presented: “Speaking in confidence to a compatriot in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald TRUMP, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between them and the Russian leadership.” Steele writes, “Inter alia,” – yes, he really does deploy the Latin formulation for “among other things” – “Source E acknowledged that the Russian regime had been behind the recent leak of embarrassing e-mail messages, emanating from the Democratic National Committee [DNC], to the WikiLeaks platform.”
All that and more is presented as the testimony of a “close associate” of Trump, when it was just the disembodied voice of an unknown guy.
Perhaps even more perplexing is that the FBI interviewers, knowing that Source E was just an anonymous caller, didn’t compare that admission to the fantastical Steele bluster and declare the dossier a fabrication on the spot.
But perhaps it might be argued that Christopher Steele was bringing crack investigative skills of his own to bear. For something as rich in detail and powerful in effect as the dossier, Steele must have been researching these questions himself as well, using his hard-earned spy savvy to pry closely held secrets away from the Russians. Or at the very least, he must have relied on a team of intelligence operatives who could have gone far beyond the obvious limitations of the Primary Subsource and his group of drinking buddies.
But no. As we learned in December from Inspector General Michael Horowitz, Steele “was not the originating source of any of the factual information in his reporting.” Steele, the IG reported, “relied on a primary sub-source (Primary Sub- source) for information, and this Primary Sub-source used a network of [further] sub-sources to gather the information that was relayed to Steele.” The inspector general’s report noted that “neither Steele nor the Primary Sub-source had direct access to the information being reported.”
One might, by now, harbor some skepticism about the dossier. One might even be inclined to doubt the story that Trump was “into water sports” as the Primary Subsource so delicately described the tale of Trump and Moscow prostitutes. But in this account, there was an effort, however feeble, to nail down the “rumor and speculation” that Trump engaged in “unorthodox sexual activity at the Ritz.”
While the Primary Subsource admitted to the FBI “he had not been able to confirm the story,” Source 2 (who will be remembered as the hustler always looking for a lucrative score) supposedly asked a hotel manager about Trump, and the manager said that with celebrities, “one never knows what they’re doing.” One never knows – not exactly a robust proof of something that smacks of urban myth. But the Primary Subsource makes the best of it, declaring that at least “it wasn’t a denial.”
If there was any denial going on, it was the FBI’s, an agency in denial that its extraordinary investigation was crumbling.
October 30, 2014
by Howard Kurtz • Fox NewsFrom the moment that Sharyl Attkisson met a shadowy source I’ll call Big Mac, she was plunged into a nightmare involving mysterious surveillance of her computers.
They met at a McDonald’s in Northern Virginia at the beginning of 2013, and the source (she dubs him Number One) warned her about the threat of government spying. During their next hamburger rendezvous, Big Mac told Attkisson, then a CBS News reporter constantly at odds with the Obama administration, that he was “shocked” and “flabbergasted” by his examination of her computer and that this was “worse than anything Nixon ever did.”
Attkisson’s forthcoming book–“Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction and Intimidation in Obama’s Washington”—reads in part like a spy thriller. Just when you think Attkisson’s imagination might be running away with her comes wave after wave of evidence that both her CBS computer and personal iMac were repeatedly hacked and its files accessed, including one on Benghazi. A consultant hired by CBS reached the same conclusion. Further scrutiny of her personal desktop proves that “the interlopers were able to co-opt my iMac and operate it remotely, as if they were sitting in front of it.” And an inspection revealed that an extra fiber-optics line had been installed in Attkisson’s home without her knowledge. Continue reading →
August 3, 2014
There must be accountability for the CIA’s snooping on senators
by the Editorial Board, New York Daily News
Long spook story simple and short: The CIA got caught spying on the senators charged with overseeing the spies. And then got caught again lying about it.
This is bad news for anyone who takes seriously the separation of powers enumerated in the United States Constitution.
Briefly, Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats have spent five years working on a report about the CIA’s post-9/11 “enhanced interrogation” techniques. The panel is expected to release a highly critical unclassified version this month. Continue reading →
March 14, 2014
In contrast to public assertions that it supports the committee’s work, the White House has ignored or rejected offers in multiple meetings and in letters to find ways for the committee to review the records, a McClatchy investigation has found.
The significance of the materials couldn’t be learned. But the administration’s refusal to turn them over or to agree to any compromise raises questions about what they would reveal about the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons. Continue reading →