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How FBI HQ hamstrung the Alfa Bank investigation
The latest from the Michael Sussmann Trial
Today in the Michael Sussmann trial, we received additional information regarding the FBI leadership’s involvement in the opening - and execution - of the Alfa Bank/Trump investigation. This included FBI Headquarters not approving an FBI agent’s repeated requests to interview the sources of the Alfa Bank “materials.”
But first we’ll start with the examination of Trisha Anderson.
Anderson is currently the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel. Back in 2016, she was an FBI deputy general counsel and reported directly to then-FBI general counsel James Baker.
The purpose of her testimony was to prove-up her notes from a September 19, 2016 meeting she had with Baker, where Baker discussed his meeting with Michael Sussmann. (The notebook was necessary because Anderson didn’t recall the meeting itself.)
Anderson stated she knew of Sussmann prior to September 2016 but denied knowing he was an attorney for the DNC. In response, she was presented with an intersting e-mail discussing an FBI meeting with Sussmann, the DNC CEO, Shawn Henry of Crowdstrike, and another FBI official (Cyber Division’s James Trainor) to take place on June 16, 2016:
For reference, that meeting took place two days after the DNC announced on June 14, 2016 that it had been a victim of Russian hacking and over a month before the DCCC said it had been hacked by the Russians.
Back in September 2016, FBI Special Agent Curtis Heide was assigned to the Alfa Bank “investigation in a co-case-agent capacity.” His trainee, FBI Agent Allison Sands, was the lead investigator on the case. The case came from FBI Headquarters in DC - specifically from Joe Pientka. While Heide understood the Alfa Bank allegations came from an “anonymous source,” Heide never learned the identity of that source:
The Alfa Bank opening communication drafted by Heide said it was opened as a “Full Field Investigation.” He was “ordered” to open the investigation by FBI headquarters:
Pientka made clear that the opening of the investigation was demanded by the FBI’s 7th Floor - including Director Comey - at the behest of Bill Priestap.
This is the type of investigation, as Heide said, that “employs all of our resources.” As Agent Heide explained:
“In order to open a full field investigation, we would need specific and articulable facts that a threat to U.S. national security has occurred or there’s been a violation of federal law.”
This is in contrast to lower investigative levels - those for which the Alfa Bank allegations would be more appropriate - which “allows limited investigative techniques to see if an allegation or an investigation is warranted.”
As to some of the Alfa Bank allegations brought by Sussmann?
Q: Now, Agent Heide, what, if anything, did you find regarding these allegations and the purported findings in this white paper?
Heide: We were not able to substantiate any of the allegations in the white paper.
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The FBI’s Cyber Division also discounted the Sussmann white paper:
Heide: The cyber division “were also unable to substantiate any of the allegations in the white paper, and they deemed that the information provided was not in accordance with how the Russians would conduct cyber activities.”
In fact, Agent Pientka (whom we have long-criticized) relayed the Cyber Division’s conclusions to Heide, stating:
Relatively early on in the investigation - on September 26, 2016 - Agent Heide sent a message to Pientka, requesting an interview of the source of the Alfa Bank white papers. By that time, Heide knew the white paper was bunk. He received no response from Pientka. He repeated this request on October 3, 2016. Agent Heide’s requests were rebuffed by his liaison at FBI headquarters:
Regarding Heide’s background - he supported “the initial efforts of Crossfire Hurricane” and was involved in the George Papadopoulos case. He said he is currently under an administrative investigation by the FBI for intentionally withholding classified information in a Carter Page FISA warrant.
When asked about the details of his involvement in the FISA applications, Heide said he “didn’t author any of the affidavits or any of the materials related to the applications in question.”
Then there’s the testimony regarding another FBI confidential human source. According to today’s transcripts, another person provided information to the FBI regarding the Alfa Bank allegations:
Who is this CHS? Someone with media connections (or someone in the media) close to the Joffe researchers with a political interest in the Alfa Bank allegations.
The significance of this is two-fold. First, we have another source that needs to be identified. A source that is seemingly close to the Joffe “researchers” with politics that likely lean left.
Second, not interviewing sources - and not providing information of the sources to the investigating agents - is part of Sussmann’s defense. Agent Heide admitted they didn’t interview Dagon. During their case in chief, and during closing, Sussmann’s attorneys will argue that it was the FBI, and not Sussmann, who prevented inquiry into Sussmann’s sources.
Edit: Last thoughts about the latest CHS. “He” was close with the Alfa Bank researchers. He had an agenda. He was interviewed by the Washington Post. He spoke with Hope Hicks. He seems to be in the media.
Is the CHS David Corn? A discussion:
Corn has an agenda and was close to those who spread the Alfa Bank hoax.
Corn was interviewed by the Washington Post on November 2, 2016. Today’s transcript, however, references an October 5, 2016 “Status update on Alfa-Bank case” where the CHS had potentially already been interviewed by the Washington Post. I say “potentially” because the FBI discussion isn’t entirely clear on the topic.
Corn spoke with Hope Hicks about the Alfa Bank issue: “In an email to Mother Jones, Hope Hicks, a Trump campaign spokeswoman, maintains, ‘The Trump Organization is not sending or receiving any communications from this email server. The Trump Organization has no communication or relationship with this entity or any Russian entity.’)” Reporting from the CHS mentions a call with Hicks - but does not rule out e-mails.
Or, consider the possibility that the CHS was Michael Isikoff. On the same date as the FBI “Status update on Alfa-Bank case” where the CHS is discussed - October 5, 2016 - Fusion GPS sent this Alfa Bank e-mail to Isikoff. The attachment to that e-mail, titled “Alfa Group Overview 9.1.16.docx”, would have provided context to prior discussions with Isikoff regarding Alfa Bank.
I’m working through the CHS issue as more information gets released during the trial, and doing almost a real-time thought process on the topic.
Other theories - the CHS is in academia. Or it might be Franklin Foer, who had been in contact with Fusion GPS all summer and who eventually ran the now-debunked Slate article linking Alfa Bank with Trump. Like Corn, Foer had reached out to Hope Hicks regarding the Alfa Bank allegations. Foer was a believer. And he had knowledge of other other reporters’ efforts to corroborate the story.
Or, the CHS is Joffe - who is relaying information from a “reporter.” If that “reporter” even exists.
Update with the afternoon transcript below:
The testimony of Jared Novick, former CEO of BitVoyant.
Novick was a former business partner of Rodney Joffe at BitVoyent, a company that focused on private sector cybersecurity. He reported directly to a board on which Rodney Joffe was a member. In August of 2016, Joffe gave Novick a task to dig up data “related to Donald Trump and Russia”:
Who did Joffe target? According to Novick:
Rodney tasked me, and I received a PDF document. And in that PDF document, there were, you know, a handful -- five, seven names -- of individuals, their home addresses, if they had a spouse, their spouse name and companies related to their spouse, their personal email addresses. So everything about the document was -- it was very personal.
This list included Carter Page, Sergei Millian, and Richard Burt. The name of this project? They called it “Crimson Rhino.” Novick stated he complied with Joffe’s request and “cast a large net” on these individuals using “a 90-day history of data.”
On cross-examination, counsel for Sussmann attempted to play-up Joffe’s qualifications and reputation. Novick had this response:
Q: Are you aware of the respect that Mr. Joffe had in the government communities in 2016?
Novick: It’s an interesting question because I do know some government agencies were suspect of Rodney.