A Glaring Hole in the Alfa Bank/Trump Server Story Could Unravel the Russia Hoax

Does anyone recall the Alfa Bank/Trump server story? Among all the false allegations of Russian collusion, perhaps none had so little public impact as Slate’s October 31, 2016 report of a possible cyber “backchannel” between then-candidate Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Four years later, however, the littlest scandal might resurface to expose the fatal flaw in the wider plot against the president.

According to last week’s New Yorker article by Dexter Filkins, Special Counsel John Durham has recently subpoenaed multiple sources quoted in Filkins’ 2018 report on the server saga. Filkins writes that Durham’s recent subpoenas are for testimony before a grand jury: “Some agents told scientists that they were exploring a potential criminal charge . . . for giving false information to the government.” (Emphasis added.)

The evidence below—which I believe has not been published elsewhere, though it has long been open-source—makes a strong case for the veracity of Filkins’ sources. It suggests that false information about a Trump-Alfa-Putin backchannel was indeed passed to the FBI.

Frankly, I am not aware of a simpler, more persuasive piece of evidence that shows “Russian collusion” was entirely and intentionally false. Indeed, it was the largest criminal abuse of power in American history.

Alfa Bank is the largest private commercial bank in Russia. According to the original Slate story, from May 5, 2016 until late September of 2016, an Alfa Bank server performed 2,820 DNS lookups of a server operated by a marketing firm contracted by the Trump Organization. Slate quoted several DNS and cybersecurity experts. To varying degrees, each supported the article’s thesis: That the DNS lookups appeared to show a covert backchannel between Trump and Vladimir Putin through a Russian cutout.

Slate described one of the experts as a “malware hunter” who used the nickname “Tea Leaves” for anonymity. Tea Leaves reportedly discovered the DNS lookups in late July 2016, and eventually brought the data to Slate and other media outlets.

Tea Leaves had provided the above chart of the activity. It shows very few DNS lookups from May 5 until late June. Then, the activity increased in a series of spikes until late September. Hundreds of thousands of words have since been published about this supposedly unsolved mystery, both by cybersecurity experts and the otherwise curious.

Since April 26, 2018, they need not have bothered.

At RealClearInvestigations, author Lee Smith published a story headlined “Unpacking the Other Clinton-Linked Russia Dossier” that day. Smith, who has since written two popular books on the Russia collusion plot, was referring to the lesser-known “Shearer dossier.” In 2016, longtime Hillary Clinton operative Cody Shearer reportedly wrote two four-page memos about Donald Trump and his associates. The two memos contain many claims that were also described, in similar fashion, within the Steele dossier. In September 2016, Sidney Blumenthal—the well-known Clinton insider—passed the Shearer dossier to the State Department.

The Shearer dossier includes the following information, reported Smith:

Shearer quotes a conversation with former CIA officer Robert Baer, again hinting at another intermediary between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Shearer writes that Baer told him “the Russians had established an encrypted communication system with a cut out between the Trump campaign and Putin.”

The Shearer dossier describes almost perfectly the Alfa Bank/Trump server story. It even includes the existence of a “cut out.” Corroboration?

No, as Smith goes on to show. “Fatal error” is more apt:

Baer told [Smith] that “he’d heard that story from acquaintances at the New York Times who were trying to run the story down.” Baer said he remembered speaking with Shearer about Trump and Russia in “March or April” of 2016.

Got that? Both the New York Times and Clinton operative Cody Shearer reportedly were tipped off about the “established” backchannel up to two months before the purported evidence of the backchannel existed.

The first DNS lookup did not occur until May 5.

Further, Tea Leaves, according to Slate, did not begin poring through millions of DNS recordsa task Tea Leaves undertook despite having no reason to presume this particular haystack even contained a needleuntil mid-June. Tea Leaves reportedly did not make the exceptionally improbable find of a potential “encrypted communication system with a cut out” until late July.

Alfa Bank has filed several lawsuits over the backchannel allegations. Alfa Bank has also presented an expert analysis that concludes Tea Leaves’ data was likely created by a criminal “spoof” of the email marketing server. 

More Reason for Skepticism

With the New York Times’, Cody Shearer’s, and Tea Leaves’ apparentMinority Report” stunts in mind, the other known facts below should point even the skeptical reader towards concluding Trump/Russia was an elaborate scandal of historic criminal proportions.

Tea Leaves did not rush the discovery to law enforcement in late July 2016. Instead—according to congressional testimony—Tea Leaves apparently brought it to cyberlaw attorney Michael Sussmann.

That’s correct: In a nation of 1.3 million attorneys, Tea Leaves evidently chose to bring the data to the Hillary Clinton campaign’s cyberlaw attorney at Perkins Coie. Sussmann was the very lawyer who had hired Crowdstrike to investigate the DNC hack.

Sussmann did not rush the supposedly world-changing data to law enforcement, either. According to recent testimony from the United Kingdom, Sussmann instead rushed the information to . . . Christopher Steele:

[Steele] revealed that Sussmann, a former Justice Department official, told him during a meeting on July 29, 2016 about suspicious network traffic between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank … [Steele] also said that the theory about the computer server traffic was the catalyst for the dossier memo he would write six weeks later about Alfa Bank …

“I’m very clear is that the first person that ever mentioned the Trump server issue, Alfa server issue, was Mr. Sussman [sic],” Steele told Hugh Tomlinson, a lawyer for the Alfa Bank owners, on March 17, the transcript shows.

Sussmann’s December 2017 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee is possibly in conflict with Steele’s testimony above.

Sussmann told the committee that Perkins Coie election lawyer Marc Elias—yes, the attorney who hired Fusion GPS to create the Steele dossier—had asked Sussmann earlier on July 29, 2016 to meet and “vet” Steele later that day. Sussmann testified that he’d never before heard of Steele, and was extremely busy that day. He said the impromptu “vetting” meeting “was an annoyance” to him.

So Steele testified to receiving extremely sensitive data from Sussmann at this meeting. Yet Sussmann testified to “vetting” a stranger.

The following morning, July 30, Steele had a breakfast meeting with the FBI’s Bruce Ohr and his wife, Nellie. She had recently worked for Fusion GPS.

On September 19, 2016, Sussmann finally brought Tea Leaves’ story and data to the FBI. That very same day, Steele gave six of his dossier memos to the FBI.

Also around this time, Sussmann gave the Tea Leaves story to the New York Times, the Washington Post . . . and Slate.

Only Slate ran with it, on October 31. It quickly received Twitter attention from—small world!—Hillary Clinton. Yet cybersecurity professionals at multiple left-leaning outlets denigrated the Slate article within 24 hours, and that was that.

I have trouble comprehending how a Joe Biden partisan could absorb the above evidence without concluding that Biden—due to his involvement in targeting General Michael Flynn—was a party to the wider Russia collusion hoax. It really is the worst political scandal in U.S. history.

Durham’s grand jury, however, only must establish probable cause for an indictment of a particular crime. It is reportedly considering if false information about a Trump backchannel to Putin may have been knowingly passed to the U.S. government. If it finds that Michael Sussmann or Marc Elias knowingly violated the law on behalf of the Clinton campaign or the DNC, then federal investigators can pursue breaking that attorney-client privilege.

Surely, that’s where the complete history of the plot against the president is to be found.

About David Steinberg

David Steinberg was New York City Editor at PJMedia from 2009-2019, primarily handling coverage of Israel, homeland security, and political corruption. His investigation of Eric Cantor’s 2014 primary campaign is credited (ask Dave Brat!) with tipping the historic loss, perhaps the beginning of the “Trump Era.” Since 2018, Steinberg has published several articles of exclusive evidence uncovering Rep. Ilhan Omar’s past. Follow David Steinberg on Twitter: https://twitter.com/realDSteinberg

Photo: Kirill Kukhmar\TASS via Getty Images

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10 responses to “A Glaring Hole in the Alfa Bank/Trump Server Story Could Unravel the Russia Hoax”

  1. what a load of dog poo, how can you even call this journalism, every basic fact is wrong in this article, and shows the writer did no research or even read the dexter filkins article, what a embarrassment, to reduce PJ media to the level of cnn…

  2. Durham and Barr will investigate this for eternity or until the socialist dems regain the presidency. Either way nothing will come of this – just like the Mueller investigation.

    I have lost faith that Durham and Barr will ever indict anyone for the obvious law breaking.

    The swamp lives on.

    • Absolutely true. People need to hang for this, yet nothing will be done because Americans no longer have the stones to demand and force the law to be applied.

    • You may be right, unless they dump what they have on the public right now. There is no excuse or reason to wait, and We the People must demand it.

  3. None of this matters if Trump loses. This and Biden scandal will all be washed away. Thanks to Barr and his slow walking or no walking criminals to the courthouse.

    Get out and vote for Trump and we may a chance to clean up our corrupt government.

  4. John Durham…John Durham…where have I heard that name before…
    Oh yeah. He was that guy, prosecutor or something, investigating some kinda FBI infraction or something a few years ago. Whatever happened to that investigation, does anybody know?

  5. DNS lookup activity is not an indication of anything other than perhaps a DNS results cache with an expiry-time set too low. A genuine encrypted communication system would not rely on DNS lookups to obtain the IP-address of the remote system, but would use a fixed address and certificate-based identity verification. Any cybersecurity expert or even a network technician would immediately dismiss these findings as coincidental and not indicative of the presence of a tunnel.

    Virtually every one of the “computer stories” that get bantered about don’t hold water – particularly “hackers breaking into,” say, Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized bathroom server, which simple logic says that they wouldn’t have even been able to find among millions of unpublished IP’s. Categorically, “hackers” don’t “break into” systems: it is ALWAYS an inside job.

  6. I’d say it’s been thoroughly unraveled by now.

    Unfortunately, AG Barr is derelict in his duty, having lost his nerve to prosecute former colleagues.

    Two-tiered justice remains.