Schiff Aide Threatened Researchers Who Refused to Investigate False Trump–Russia Links

Special Counsel John Durham's report reveals Democratic efforts to push the Alfa Bank conspiracy

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) / Getty Images
May 16, 2023

Staffers for Democratic congressman Adam Schiff (Calif.) and Senator Jack Reed (R.I.) threatened two university researchers to force them to help with an investigation into former president Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, the researchers told Special Counsel John Durham.

The researchers, from Georgia Tech University, told Durham that they were invited to Washington, D.C., in November 2018 to provide what they thought was a briefing about the school’s federal research contracts. Instead, they were lured into a meeting with staff members working for Schiff at the House Intelligence Committee and for Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The researchers said the Democratic staffers asked them to analyze a news article about alleged links between Trump’s company and Russia’s Alfa Bank.

When they balked at the request because it was "inappropriate" conduct for a public university, the Democratic staffers issued what one researcher believed was a "mild threat." A staffer for Reed told the researchers that "we are now in charge," and a staffer for Schiff pointed out the Democrat would soon take over as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, one researcher told Durham.

Durham’s office investigated whether the Democrats’ pressure campaign merited prosecution "for contract fraud or abuse of government resources," though no charges were filed.

The revelation marks yet another black eye for Schiff in his failed quest to establish ties between Trump and Russia. The California Democrat, who is running for Senate, infamously claimed in 2017 that he had seen "more than circumstantial evidence" of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He also read portions of the discredited Steele dossier at a congressional hearing on March 20, 2017. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) stripped Schiff of his House Intelligence position in January, citing the Democrat’s promotion of Trump conspiracy theories.

The allegation about Alfa Bank and Trump, which Schiff touted in an interview in 2017, has also been debunked. Federal investigations have found that there were no nefarious links between the Trump campaign and Alfa Bank. The false claim originated with the Hillary Clinton campaign and its opposition research firm, Fusion GPS.

Clinton advisers and Fusion GPS schemed in September 2016 to publicize that Trump’s company had a covert computer link to Alfa Bank. Clinton personally approved the plan, according to her campaign manager. Clinton and Jake Sullivan, a campaign adviser who now works at the White House, touted an Oct. 31, 2016, news article that laid out the Alfa-Trump theory. They said the story revealed "Trump’s secret line of communication to Russia."

Durham’s report shows that Democrats continued the effort to prove the Alfa Bank link well into Trump’s presidency. The report confirms the Washington Free Beacon’s report that a staff member for Reed recruited an investigator bankrolled by George Soros to probe the Alfa-Trump link. Kirk McConnell, the Reed staffer, asked former FBI agent Daniel Jones in 2017 to investigate the Alfa Bank claims.

Jones formed a research firm in January 2017 after discussions with former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS. Soros and other Democratic billionaires funded Jones’s research group, the Democracy Integrity Project.

Schiff and Reed did not respond to requests for comment.