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21 Sep, 2021 14:15

What did he know and when? Biden’s National Security advisor implicated in Alfa Bank Russiagate scam

What did he know and when? Biden’s National Security advisor implicated in Alfa Bank Russiagate scam

The indictment of lawyer Michael Sussmann promises to shed more light on what really went on during Russiagate. And it also raises questions about the possible involvement of Jake Sullivan – now National Security Advisor.

On September 16, Special Counsel John Durham charged Sussmann, a partner at Perkins Coie, the law firm which represented the Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, with making false statements to the FBI over the course of its Trump-Russia probe.

Sussmann met with counsel James Baker in September 2016, and claimed the Trump Organization had used a secret server of Russia’s Alfa Bank as a communications channel with the Kremlin. What he didn’t mention, according to the indictment, was that he was conducting “opposition research” on Trump, and “coordinating” with the Clinton campaign to present that information to the FBI and mainstream media. In fact, the indictment suggests Sussmann lied, stating he said outright he wasn’t conducting work “for any client.”

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This led Baker to “understand that Sussmann was acting as a good citizen merely passing along information, not as a paid advocate or political operative,” when in fact, Durham asserts, he was acting on behalf of three specific clients – an unnamed US tech industry executive, a US internet company, and the Clinton campaign. 

Sussmann denies any wrongdoing, and has pleaded not guilty, claiming the charges are politically motivated – his defense lawyers argue that he didn’t make any false statements, and who he was representing was not a material fact. However, in December 2017, the defendant told the Congressional committee on intelligence that information on Alfa Bank was given to him “by a client” and “absolutely” not by “any other source,” and that his client had explicitly directed him to speak to Baker and others.

In any event, dossiers outlining the incendiary allegations were passed anonymously to every major US news outlet over the course of the 2016 presidential election campaign, with many eagerly seizing upon them. However, not all journalists were convinced, and several organizations refused to publish anything on the material. The Intercept issued a withering report on the charges a week prior to the vote, documenting how DNS records provided by the anonymous source “can’t really prove anything at all, and certainly not ‘communication’ between Trump and Alfa,” and no one “can show that a single message was exchanged between Trump and Alfa.”

That same day however, Clinton drew attention to the “covert server” on social media, sharing a statement on the subject by her senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan, acting as if the information her team had passed to the media was new to her.

“This could be the most direct link yet between Trump and Moscow…This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia. It certainly seems the Trump Organization felt it had something to hide,” he boldly asserted. “We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia as part of their existing probe into Russia’s meddling in our elections.”

The indictment makes clear that Sullivan was a key player in the Clinton campaign’s efforts to publicize the Alfa Bank disinformation. It records how Sussmann was “alerted” to the Alfa Bank allegations by his tech executive client in July 2016, and “over the ensuing weeks, as part of their lawyer-client relationship,” the pair engaged with a Clinton campaign lawyer and individuals acting on the candidate’s behalf to share the false charges “with the media and others.”

In mid-September, that lawyer exchanged emails with the “campaign’s manager, communications director, and foreign policy advisor” concerning the false charges, and Sussmann’s success to date with cultivating media interest. This contact was so significant, the lawyer specifically billed the Clinton campaign for the correspondence, an accompanying entry – titled “re: Alfa Bank Article” – naming Sullivan, the campaign’s manager and its communications director.

Sullivan went on to be appointed Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor in November 2020. Now there must be questions as to whether his position remains tenable, given that Durham set up a dedicated grand jury to investigate the Alfa Bank fraud, and several other individuals involved may also subsequently face charges of giving false information to federal officials – the indictment can only raise questions about whether Sullivan was one of them, what he knew, and when.

Durham’s investigative hypothesis is that the Clinton campaign consciously used Perkins Coie to submit dubious information to the FBI about Trump’s non-existent Kremlin ties in order to “gin up” the agency’s investigative activity in that regard, and damage his electoral prospects. If true, Sussmann certainly seems central to these cloak-and-dagger efforts – he was the Democratic National Committee representative who contracted cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, personally reaching out to its president Shawn Henry for his company’s assistance in investigating the leak of internal emails from the DNC’s servers.

CrowdStrike concluded that the emails had been hacked by Russian intelligence services, which has informed the universally received mainstream wisdom on the subject. Henry’s repeated admissions in December 2017 to the House Intelligence Committee that his company possessed no “concrete evidence” the files were hacked, let alone by Russia, went entirely unreported upon their public release in May 2020. That the CIA maintains technology, dubbed the Marble Framework, which can falsely attribute cyberattacks to foreign countries – including Russia – has likewise never been acknowledged by a Western media outlet.

Another strand of Perkins Coie’s informational assault was the hiring of Fusion GPS, which infamously enlisted the services of former MI6 operative Christopher Steele to compile a dossier on ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The August 2017 testimony of the company’s cofounder Glenn Simpson to the Senate Judiciary Committee would appear to reinforce Durham’s hypothesis, given he revealed that Fusion GPS engaged in a number of insidious schemes to ensure the dossier reached the “leadership level” of the FBI, as it was felt senior operatives would “treat [the information] very seriously.”

One subterfuge involved Steele briefing the Bureau on the allegations, whereupon Fusion GPS “encouraged” journalists to ask the FBI whether they were investigating Trump's connections with Russia. Another, which proved decisive, saw Steele’s associate Andrew Wood, former UK Ambassador to Russia, speak with John McCain about the dossier at the November 2016 Halifax International Security Forum in Canada. Suitably concerned, McCain arranged for a copy of the dossier to be provided to him, which he then passed to FBI Director James Comey. In turn, it reached President Barack Obama’s desk in the first week of January the following year.

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Other schemes may be unearthed over the course of Sussmann’s trial. Fusion GPS alone clearly has much to hide – in 2017, the owners of Alfa Bank sued Fusion GPS and Simpson for publication of false statements accusing the organization of “bribery, extortion, and interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election.” In May this year, the bank’s lawyers filed a motion to compel the disclosure of around 500 documents wrongfully withheld over the course of the trial.

Fusion GPS and Simpson have fought tooth and nail to prevent their release ever since, questionably arguing that they are subject to “attorney-client privilege” and thus should not be subject to production. Among the communications the pair seek to keep secret are those between Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie, including correspondence with Sussmann mere weeks before he met with Baker. Watch this space.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.