The Sussmann trial yesterday had another surprising disclosure when an agent revealed that FBI leadership, including then-Director James Comey, was “fired up” about the alleged secret communications channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank. The question is why Comey and others were so reportedly eager given the lack of foundation for the false claim — a record that even the researchers told the Clinton campaign could be mocked as utterly unsupported. Yet, as with the Steele dossier claims (funded and spread by the Clinton campaign) there was a strikingly receptive audience for such claims at the top of the FBI.
The new disclosure came with the testimony of the supervisory agent for the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe (“Crossfire Hurricane”) Joe Pientka. He sent a note to FBI Special Agent Curtis Heide that stated “People on the 7th floor to include Director are fired up about this server,” Pientka messaged Heide. “Did you guys open a case? Reach out and put tools on?”
The description of the eagerness of Comey and others only magnified concerns over the alleged bias or the predisposition of the agency on the investigation of Trump and his campaign. It is particularly striking in an allegation that was viewed as unsupported even by the researchers and quickly dismissed by the government as baseless.
According to Durham, the Alfa Bank allegation fell apart even before Sussmann delivered it to the FBI. The indictment details how an unnamed “tech executive” allegedly used his authority at multiple internet companies to help develop the ridiculous claim. (The executive reportedly later claimed that he was promised a top cyber security job in the Clinton administration). Notably, there were many who expressed misgivings not only within the companies working on the secret project but also among unnamed “university researchers” who repeatedly said the argument was bogus.
The researchers were told they should not be looking for proof but just enough to “give the base of a very useful narrative.” The researchers argued, according to the indictment, that anyone familiar with analyzing internet traffic “would poke several holes” in that narrative, noting that what they saw likely “was not a secret communications channel with Russian Bank-1, but ‘a red herring,’” according to the indictment.
“Researcher-1” repeated these doubts, the indictment says, and asked, “How do we plan to defend against the criticism that this is not spoofed traffic we are observing? There is no answer to that. Let’s assume again that they are not smart enough to refute our ‘best case scenario.’ You do realize that we will have to expose every trick we have in our bag to even make a very weak association.”
The alleged response from Comey and the FBI leadership would seem to confirm the view of campaign associates that they only needed a “useful narrative” to achieve their purposes. It only took an unsupported, implausible theory to get Comey and his top aides “fired up.”