A lawyer for the Clinton campaign in early 2017 gave computer data to the CIA that was obtained from the Trump White House and Trump Tower’s computer servers through a "sensitive" government contract, according to Special Counsel John Durham.
Durham alleged in a court filing that Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer who worked for the Clinton campaign, met with the CIA in February 2017 to provide the agency with a dossier of purported computer links between Trump and Russia. Sussmann obtained the sensitive data from a tech executive whose firm monitored web traffic for the White House executive office. Rodney Joffe, the executive, "exploited" the White House data, as well as that of Trump Tower and Donald Trump’s apartment building in Manhattan, in order to find "derogatory" information about Trump’s ties to Russia, according to Durham. The prosecutor said his investigators have found no evidence to support the information Sussmann passed to the CIA.
Durham leveled the explosive allegation in a court filing Friday as part of the federal case against Sussmann. He is charged with lying to the FBI in September 2016 about the extent of his efforts to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia. He is also accused of withholding information from the CIA during his February 2017 meeting that undercut the theory of nefarious web links between Trump and Russia. Durham refers to the CIA as "Agency-2" throughout court filings, but news outlets have confirmed the identify of the agency.
The court filing shows the extent to which Clinton operatives went to portray Trump as an agent of Russia. Sussmann’s fellow Clinton campaign lawyer, Marc Elias, commissioned the Steele dossier, which falsely accused Trump of colluding with Russia in order to win the 2016 election. Elias briefed Clinton campaign officials, including current national security adviser Jake Sullivan, about the investigation of Trump. Sussmann and Elias also provided their findings to media outlets in order to prompt investigations into Trump.
"This is a scandal far greater in scope and magnitude than Watergate and those who were involved in and knew about this spying operation should be subject to criminal prosecution," Trump said in a statement about the Sussmann revelation.
Sussmann’s meeting with the CIA has been previously reported, but it was not known that he provided the agency with information taken from White House web servers. According to Durham, Sussmann gave the CIA data purportedly showing a series of suspicious Internet lookups between Russian mobile phones and Trump associates at the White House. But according to Durham, the lookups were common and had also occurred during President Barack Obama’s tenure. Sussmann failed to provide the additional context about the Internet lookups to the CIA, Durham alleges.
It is unclear whether Sussmann knew that Joffe obtained the data from his company’s federal contract. Joffe served as chief technology officer at Neustar until he retired last year. He had long worked with the FBI and other federal agencies on cybersecurity issues. He received the prestigious FBI Director’s Award in 2013.
Sussmann began working with Joffe beginning in mid-2016 to investigate possible links between Donald Trump’s real estate company and Russia’s Alfa Bank. Joffe and a team of computer scientists, some working at Georgia Tech, claimed they found a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank. They gave the information to Sussmann who in turn provided it to the FBI and media outlets prior to the 2016 election. Several media outlets reported the Alfa Bank allegation, adding to the narrative that Trump had illicit contacts with Russia. It was not revealed until December 2019 that the FBI had debunked the Alfa Bank connection in early 2017.
Joffe has not been charged in the Durham probe, and his motives for accessing Trump’s data remain unclear. According to Durham, Joffe told associates that he was investigating Trump in order to please "VIPs" on the Clinton campaign. Joffe also allegedly told associates he hoped for a position in the Hillary Clinton administration.
Attorneys for Joffe and Sussmann did not respond to requests for comment. Neustar also did not respond.