Senate Democrats tapped a political operative bankrolled by George Soros to investigate debunked allegations that President Donald Trump colluded with Russia, claims that are now at the center of an indictment in Special Counsel John Durham's investigation.
According to court filings, a staffer for Sen. Jack Reed (D., R.I.) enlisted Daniel Jones—a former FBI agent who has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from Soros—to analyze computer data that purportedly connected Trump's real estate company with the Russian oligarch-owned Alfa Bank. Democrats pushed the allegation and others about Trump and Russia to build a narrative that Trump's campaign colluded with the Kremlin to steal the 2016 election. The FBI disproved the Alfa Bank claim, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of a larger Trump-Russia conspiracy.
The Alfa Bank allegation has resurfaced in the wake of Durham's indictment of Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity attorney who represented the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee. A federal grand jury indicted Sussmann on Sept. 16 on charges that he lied to the FBI about his efforts to investigate the purported Alfa-Trump links. Sussmann provided research to the FBI's general counsel on Sept. 19, 2016, which he claimed showed that Alfa Bank's computer servers had secret communications with the Trump Organization. Durham was appointed in April 2019 to investigate whether any U.S. officials improperly surveilled the Trump campaign.
Jones, a former FBI agent, has reportedly been called to testify before Durham's grand jury in Washington. Best known as the Senate Intelligence Committee staffer who investigated CIA torture of suspected terrorists, Jones formed a nonprofit research group in January 2017 to investigate Trump's alleged ties to Russia.
George Soros and other wealthy progressives have funded Jones's operation. Tax filings show that Soros gave $1.5 million to Jones's group, the Democracy Integrity Project, in 2017 and 2018. Television producer Norman Lear has also contributed to a related group formed by Jones called Advance Democracy, Inc. Jones worked closely with opposition research firm Fusion GPS and former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled a largely discredited dossier accusing Trump of colluding with Russia. Jones's organizations paid Fusion GPS more than $5 million and Steele more than $1 million for research in 2017 and 2018, according to tax filings.
Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee obtained the Alfa Bank data in early 2017, according to a court filing Jones submitted this month. Jones said the committee asked him in early- to mid-2017 to investigate the Alfa Bank data. The committee also set up a meeting between Jones and a representative for the source who gave the Alfa Bank data to the committee. According to Jones, the committee told him the source for the records had a history of helping U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies and had "sensitive contracts" with the U.S. government.
Thomas "Kirk" McConnell identified himself as Jones's Senate contact in a court filing he submitted in July seeking to quash a subpoena from Alfa Bank. McConnell is a staffer for Sen. Reed on both the Armed Services and Senate Intelligence Committees.
It is unclear whether McConnell or Jones had contact with Sussmann regarding Alfa Bank.
According to the Durham indictment, Sussmann said that a tech executive he represented on other matters provided him with computer logs in July 2016 that allegedly showed suspicious server traffic between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank. Sussmann briefed journalists and Clinton campaign officials about the data prior to his meeting with FBI general counsel James Baker, according to Durham's indictment. The indictment also alleges that the unnamed executive pressured subordinates at multiple internet service providers to access non-public information about Trump and his associates.
Alfa Bank's owners allege that someone fabricated computer data linking Alfa Bank to Trump's company. The bankers have subpoenaed a number of experts in an attempt to discover the origins of the Alfa-Trump conspiracy theory, including Mikey Dickerson, a cyber expert who worked in the Obama White House.
Dickerson's connection to the Alfa Bank case is unclear, though he was identified in connection with another Democrat-funded disinformation campaign several years ago. Dickerson founded American Engagement Technologies, a tech startup funded by billionaire Democratic donor Reid Hoffman. According to the New York Times, American Engagement Technologies paid a tech firm called New Knowledge to create fake social media accounts to help Democratic candidate Doug Jones during the 2017 special election. New Knowledge created fake Twitter accounts to make it appear that Russian bots were following Jones challenger Roy Moore.
Prior to the exposé about New Knowledge, the Senate Intelligence Committee relied on research from the tech firm for an investigative report on Russia's social media activities. Tax filings show that Jones's organizations paid $485,000 to New Knowledge for research in 2018.
A lawyer for Jones did not respond to a request for comment. McConnell did not respond to a request for comment, and the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to comment. Alfa Bank's lawyers have also not responded to requests for comment.
The Washington Free Beacon was once a client of Fusion GPS. All of the work Fusion GPS performed for the Free Beacon was based on public sources, and none of the work product appeared in the Steele dossier. For more information, see here.