The Sussmann and Danchenko Indictments By John Durham Show The Mueller Investigation Was Always A Charade
Digging too deep would have shown all roads led back to Perkins Coie and the Clinton Campaign -- so they didn't.
The two recent indictments obtained by Special Counsel John Durham combine to reveal that the Mueller Special Counsel Office was created, at least in part, to keep hidden the role of the Clinton Campaign and Democrat operatives in the Trump-Russia Hoax.
Michael Sussmann, a high profile attorney working for the Clinton Campaign, and Igor Danchenko, the “Primary Sub-source for the Christopher Steele Reports, are charged with lying to the FBI at moments in time, and as to specific subjects about which truthful answers would have exposed the involvement of the Clinton Campaign in the operation to falsely smear GOP candidate and later President Donald Trump.
Let’s reset the scene in May 2017 when Mueller was appointed. Both the House and Senate were in control of the GOP, each with subpoena power for purposes of oversight of DOJ and the FBI.
President Trump had fired James Comey as Director of the FBI. Nothwithstanding the persistent chorus of the media that he did so to stop the Russia investigation, the FACT is that he told Lester Holt of NBC News that he did so because Comey was not going fast enough in conducting the investigation and he had lost faith in Comey.
While their reasons were different, the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General had both recommended Comey’s firing as well.
Comey’s reputation among the Special Agent workforce cratered after he took it upon himself to exonerate Hillary Clinton in connection with her handling of classified information. FBI Agents knew that if an agent had handled classified information in the same fashion, he/she would be prosecuted for doing so. FBI Agents investigate and are involved in prosecutions of other government employees who did less than Hillary Clinton did. Anyone who tells you that Comey was “popular” inside the FBI after that decision doesn’t know what they are talking about. He was not “of” the Bureau. He was a career DOJ prosecutor — he was an “outsider” in the Bureau’s culture.
Politically connected individuals in government and politics knew in May 2017 that what the FBI had been working on for 10 months was now subject to exposure either by congressional investigators or Trump Administration appointees.
Not only the “whats,” but the “hows” and “whys” too.
I can’t explain how the “decision-making” took place — express or intuitive — but the steps that followed solved both those problems, at least temporarily.
The appointment of Robert Mueller to be Special Counsel was made by a Trump appointee, Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein was an odd choice for so critical a position and is a prime example of Pres. Trump accepting advice on appointees from people who did not necessarily have his best interests in mind. Rosenstein was a career official at DOJ who had been named by Pres. Obama as the U.S. Attorney for Maryland — a deep blue state with two Democrat Senators.
That position would normally go to a loyal partisan Democrat — it went to Rosenstein. Was Rosenstein actually a loyal partisan Democrat? When the topic of how Rosenstein came to be named, there were reports that when his name was given to Chuck Schumer, his reaction was that the Senate Democrats could live with Rosenstein. That should have been a red flag right there.
Robert Mueller had been the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts in the 1980s when Rosenstein was a law student, and Rosenstein interned in that office. Given the DOJ career that Mueller went on to have, there was probably no person that Rosenstein would have been more reluctant to “push back” against in his role as the “supervisor” of the Special Counsel’s Office than Robert Mueller. Rosenstein admitted as much in testimony before Congress where he said that the SCO wrote up what it was they wanted in their “Scope Memo” and he just signed it.
Mueller may have been the singular individual in the DC establishment who could accomplish the following goals just by being named:
Make Rosenstein a non-factor in the Special Counsel decision-making.
Force Congressional Republicans to pull back so as to allow the Special Counsel the ability to work unimpeded.
Command whatever workforce he wanted, with the issue of staffing and budget left 100% to him.
Set whatever timetable worked best for him, without outside pressure.
Create anticipation of a final work product that would be difficult to attack because of his professional and political bona fides.
That is pretty much exactly what happened. To avoid claims that they were interfering with Mueller’s investigation, Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration had to go silent for the most part.
Staffing ended up as a fully partisan hit squad — made possible by Mueller’s tenure at the FBI where he brought in partisan Democrats from DOJ to staff senior positions in the Bureau. I don’t think Mueller really cared about politics when he was staffing the Bureau Management as Director. But that history brought all those partisan Clinton supporters into his orbit as he got older.
Here is how the Mueller Report described the scope of the SCO investigation, quoting from Rosenstein’s Authorization Order:
“The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017, including:
i. any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump;
ii. any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and
iii. any other matters within the scope of 28 CFR Sec. 600.4(a).
Noteworthy in “ii” is the use of both past and present tense — any matters that “arose” from the FBI investigation referenced by Comey before the House. That seems to suggest that anything which had spun out of the FBI investigation would be subject to the SCO’s authorization, even if previously closed.
The indictment of Michael Sussmann has at its core a series of events which were claimed to be indicators of an ongoing relationship of some undetermined character between Trump Inc. and Alfa Bank, the largest “privately” owned bank in Russia, the owners of which are reputed to have close connections to the Putin government.
Donald Trump and Trump Inc. have been dogged by allegations of nefarious business dealings with Russian interests as part of real estate projects around the world. The most common allegations in a non-legal sense are that Trump accessed funding from Russian interests to keep Trump Inc. projects moving when US lenders would no longer provide him such capital, and for that reason it was alleged that he was beholden to Putin and others in Russia.
It has also been the case for years that various Trump-branded projects have attracted buyers who sourced their wealth to corrupt actors and government officials in Russia. The allegations leveled at Trump — usually by legally illiterate reporters — was that such transactions involved Trump in “money laundering” on behalf of those buyers.
If the internet communications at issue in the “Alfa Bank” matter were bona fide exchanges of substantive data between Alfa Bank and Trump Inc., the task of determining whether there was an illegal or illegitimate relationship between the Trump Campaign and Alfa Bank, or Russian state actors connected to Alfa Bank, certainly would have been within the purview of the Mueller SCO under the Appointment Order quoted above.
It is not contested that Clinton Campaign lawyer Sussmann walked those claims into the FBI, and the materials he brought were delivered to the original Crossfire Hurricane investigation that was then in its early stages. Peter Strzok has said publicly he received the material from James Baker, the FBI General Counsel who received them from Sussmann. Strzok then delivered the materials to the appropriate individuals working with the Crossfire Hurricane team.
It is also true that the information Sussmann gave to the FBI was carefully evaluated. As has been reported, the data was not terribly complicated for persons in the business of evaluating and understanding the types of internet traffic that were reflected in the Sussmann material. Durham’s indictment reflects that the computer science experts that Sussmann worked with to assemble the materials admitted in internal communications that the package would not withstand much scrutiny.
And it did not. FBI cyber experts dismissed the suspicions and conclusions that Sussmann offered along with the data just as expected. But Sussmann persisted and took much of the same information to the CIA in February 2017.
Given that the Mueller SCO took over the entirety of the FBI investigation that Comey had confirmed to the House, what did the Mueller SCO do with regard to the Alfa Bank matter?
The Mueller Report makes no mention of the episode at all. This was confirmed by no less than Natasha Bertrand, the in-house stenographer for whatever the Intelligence Community wants to see in print, who wrote in Politico on April 19, 2019:
Several lines of inquiry that Mueller and the FBI … had reportedly been pursuing went unaddressed in the copious document. They include mysterious interactions between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank computer servers….
It may be innocuous, but of interest in that passage is Bertrand’s reference that the Mueller SCO did look into the Alfa Bank issue, but simply failed to address it in the report. Ultimately, it makes no difference whether the Mueller SCO ignored the subject altogether, or looked into it and opted to now report on what it found. Either way, it is a fact that because of Durham’s investigation we now know the data behind the claimed Alfa Bank connection was 1) fabricated, and 2) had the fingerprints of Clinton Campaign operatives all over it.
Closer evaluation of the data would have involved scrutiny of Sussmann; Sussmann leads to Crowdstrike and the supposed Russian hack of the DNC; Crowdstrike leads Perkins Coie and Fusion GPS; Fusion GPS leads to Glenn Simpson telling Christopher Steele about the Alfa Bank-Trump Inc. internet contacts; Alfa Bank leads you back to Sussmann.
Those connections would have been readily discovered by Mueller’s SCO. Maybe they were discovered by Mueller’s SCO. But that wasn’t the purpose for why the SCO was needed. No one wanted to uncover that spider’s web of connections with the Clinton Campaign and Perkins Coie at the center.
Oftentimes overlooked in an analysis of actions taken by a group under scrutiny are the decisions made about what actions to not take that, in retrospect, seem to have been called for.
The Mueller SCO prosecutors either pursued the Alfa Bank issue or they did not.
There has never been a public answer or explanation given for what was — or was not — done. But it only takes a whisper from one well-placed party operative to a single partisan member of the Mueller SCO to ‘Not got there” for the potential implications to be obvious. The Mueller SCO prosecutors were too smart to not realize early on that the information in the Steele reports was unreliable.
To draw attention away from that reality, the Mueller SCO first went after Paul Manafort, a long-time Washington political consultant with longstanding ties to the GOP, and a lengthy history of doing business in Russia and Ukraine.
The Mueller SCO also went hard after Russian “active measures”. When the SCO unveiled two “speaking indictments” spinning wild tales of Russian influence over the Red State hinterlands with millions in Facebook ads, it gave the media the exact “Shiny Object” needed to draw attention to the Russians.
Given what Durham uncovered about the bogus origins of the Alfa Bank story, the failure to pursue or report on Alfa Bank while focusing efforts on two ridiculous indictments that were never going to see the inside of a courtroom — or at least the Mueller SCO didn’t expect that for either — takes on a more suspicious light.
This is why witnesses who were inside the investigation on a day-to-day basis are key to finding out the “whys” as to these subjects.
Witnesses like Kevin Clinesmith and William Barnett.
I’m going to save for Part II the issues surrounding the indictment of Igor Danchenko and why it was that the Mueller SCO was not interested in the lies he told to the FBI.
The same Mueller SCO that could find nothing better to do on their way out of town than to string up Roger Stone for lying to Congress.
I might even write a Part III that goes back and re-examines the farce that were the two Russian-related indictments which the Mueller SCO did pursue.