The Alfa Bank Hoax Hoax

  
Via:  John Russell  •  one month ago  •  17 comments

By:   Tim Miller (The Bulwark)

The Alfa Bank Hoax Hoax
MAGAs once again think they have proof Hillary did the Russia scandal—and once again they are full of shit.

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More than six years after the Russian government began a wide-ranging cyber attack on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and our political system, MAGA Republicans believe they finally have evidence that this scheme's guilty party was neither Russia nor the Trump campaign that cheered on the attack, but Clinton herself.

This latest attempt at victim-blaming is premised on information revealed during the trial of Michael Sussmann, a lawyer who has been charged with lying to the FBI when he did not reveal his association with Clinton at a meeting during which he turned over data to the bureau that purported to show additional ties between Trump and Russia. Sussmann denies that he was working on behalf of the campaign.

The specific evidence Sussmann was providing demonstrated that there was an unusual connection between servers affiliated with the Trump organization and those connected to Alfa Bank—Russia's largest private financial-services company. The evidence presented was based on Domain Name System (DNS) logs identified by a team of computer scientists.

Whether there was anything nefarious going on between Alfa and Trump remains a bit of a mystery. The FBI eventually closed the book on this lead—more on this a moment—resulting in a presumption that any suggestion of impropriety was false. But a satisfactory explanation for the DNS pings has never really been provided. If you want to nerd out on the various possibilities ranging from "random coincidence" to "there's something fishy here," the New Yorker did a deep dive on the available evidence back in 2018.

The part of Sussmann's trial that has the Trump crowd rubbing their nipples is testimony from Clinton 2016 campaign manager Robby Mook in which he revealed that the candidate was briefed on the potentially dubious Alfa Bank accusations and was fine with the campaign's decision to share the information with reporters. (Point of fact: Many in the Trump orbit have stated that Clinton approved the Alfa Bank oppo's dissemination, but Mook testified that he told her only after the campaign had shared it with a reporter.)

This rather mundane bit of opposition-research dissemination was treated as a bombshell in the conservative press, where it has been presented as the long-yearned-for evidence that when it comes to Russia's involvement in the 2016 election, it was Hillary who perpetrated a scheme on poor innocent Donny Trump, not the other way around.

"Hillary Clinton Did It," screamed the headline from the wizened graybeards of the Wall Street Journal editorial board over the weekend. According to the WSJ, Mook's testimony about sharing the undeveloped Alfa Bank information with the press proves that "Vladimir Putin never came close to doing as much disinformation damage" as Hillary. Интересная претензия, Comrades!

Lil' Donny Trump Jr. chimed in, arguing that Mook's testimony somehow proves that Hillary was "behind the Russia, Russia, Russia smears against Trump." Elon Musk tweeted that she advanced a "hoax." And myriad troll accounts started retweeting my old article mocking the MAGAverse's Russia Hoax false-flag theories (which you should really treat yourself to if you haven't).

Among the problems with the reaction from the WSJ, Jr. and assorted otherMAGAmediainfluencers: Mook's admission didn't come close to proving any scheme orchestrated by Hillary. The only new information he provided is that the candidate said she was okay with her campaign having shared research with reporters about potential ties between Trump and Russia amid an unprecedented cyberattack on her which had been perpetrated by Russia and, at minimum, weaponized by her opponent. (As a former Republican opposition research aficionado, I can testify that passing along not-fully-verified information to journalists in the hopes that they could suss out more details is a time-honored, bipartisan practice.)

In short: The MAGA crowd's big gotcha is that Hillary was okay with her campaign sharing rumors of questionable veracity about her political opponent with reporters and then tweeting the published information.

Seriously, that's all they have.

The friends of Donald Trump are upset that someone might have made an accusation that they weren't completely, totally certain was true.

Donald Trump.

A man who can barely open his mouth without passing along a "people are saying" smear. The king of apophasis himself.

Try not to go blind from the eye-roll.

I recognize that it's not exactly a breaking news story that these assholes are acting in bad faith.

But the problem is that these smears work. People hear little bits of info out of context and it plays into the broader narrative that Trump was the victim of some elite cabal that was out to get him—a narrative which Trump and his media whores have been pimping since the very beginning.

But this is where the Alfa Bank saga gets really interesting: If you learn how the DNS server revelations actually came to light, what is revealed is that the Alfa Bank story completely undermines this "Russia collusion hoax" narrative that the Trumpists have successfully imposed on the American public.

So if your constitution is sturdy enough to survive some PTSD, then saddle up. I want to go back to 2016 and revisit how, exactly, the "Deep State" addressed these accusations.

By the time the Alfa Bank/Trump connection had been identified in the summer of 2016, the Russia op against the Clinton campaign was long underway. The phishing emails and DNC hack took place in the spring and the Clinton campaign was desperately trying to get the media and the public to take seriously the notion that Russia was conducting a full-scale effort to interfere in the election in order to push Donald Trump into the White House.

According to an interview with the New Yorker, the independent researchers who uncovered the Alfa Bank/Trump link decided to hand over what they found to Eric Lichtblau, a reporter at the New York Times, in August 2020. A month later Sussmann brought data suggesting this connection to a friend who was working at the FBI. Sussmann claims it was provided to him by Rodney Joffe, a tech executive and data scientist who was his client at the time.

In the intervening month, Lichtblau had been sharing the data with other cybersecurity experts. He told the New Yorker in 2018 that those conversations led him to believe that "Not only is there clearly something there but there's clearly something that someone has gone to great lengths to conceal."

In late September 2016, Lichtblau had determined that he had enough information to write a story about the servers. On September 21, he reached out to Alfa Bank's lobbyists in D.C. about it. Two days later the Trump domain that had been the recipient of the Alfa Bank DNS lookups disappeared from the internet. Within a week the connection stopped.

What a coincidence!

As this reporting was underway, Lichtblau was called by an FBI official who asked him to come to the bureau's headquarters. During that meeting the FBI asked Lichtblau to delay his story about the servers, as it might interfere with their ongoing investigation into the potential relationship between the Russians who were interfering in our elections and domestic contacts possibly associated with Trump.

The Times decided to honor this request after what executive editor Dean Baquet described as "a really intense debate," since the paper had not determined the underlying reason for the server connection.

For the next month the Alfa Bank affair went dark. In the meantime the Clinton campaign was hit with a barrage of stories about the information in the emails that had been hacked by the Russians. Trump famously asked Russia to continue the hack, if they were listening and he would reference the leaked emails over 160 times on the campaign trail.

During this period the New York Times was not shy about covering the hacked materials. On October 10 the Times published "highlights" from the Clinton campaign emails. The word Russia does not appear in this article. The same day, the Times ran another article about the topic: "Hillary Clinton's Campaign Strained to Hone Her Message, Hacked Emails Show." The only time the word Russia appears in this article is in reference to a quote from Clinton's spokesman.

So throughout the final month before the 2016 election the paper of record sat on evidence of potential ties between Trump and Russia, doing nothing with it at the FBI's behest—yet it reported extensively on the emails resulting from the Russian operation and how they were harming the Clinton campaign.

Meanwhile, the same FBI that had pressured the Times to avoid making public any information relevant to their investigation of ties between Trump and Russia did not show that same circumspection when it came to Clinton. The Comey letter to Congress about reopening the investigation into Clinton's email server was published on October 28.

Sure doesn't seem like all the players in this pro-Hillary cOnSpiRaCy were on the same page.

Alfa Bank came back into the picture on October 30, 2016, after a frustrated Harry Reid penned an outraged letter to the FBI charging that the bureau was withholding information about the ties between Trump and Russia related to the email hacks.

The next day, on Halloween, Slate's Franklin Foer provided some of that evidence, reporting on the data initially presented to Lichtblau—which had been shared with him by the Clinton campaign, though he developed additional sources, including one of the original data scientists.

Foer's article was not at all like the Gateway Pundit-style fabrications targeting Hillary that were saturating the internet at the time. He was meticulous about presenting the evidence available and highlighting the possible holes. He wrote:


One scientist, who wasn't involved in the effort to compile and analyze the logs, ticked off a list of other possibilities: an errant piece of spam caroming between servers, a misdirected email that kept trying to reach its destination, which created the impression of sustained communication. "I'm seeing a preponderance of the evidence, but not a smoking gun," he said. . . .

What the scientists amassed wasn't a smoking gun. It's a suggestive body of evidence that doesn't absolutely preclude alternative explanations. But this evidence arrives in the broader context of the campaign and everything else that has come to light: The efforts of Donald Trump's former campaign manager to bring Ukraine into Vladimir Putin's orbit; the other Trump adviser whose communications with senior Russian officials have worried intelligence officials; the Russian hacking of the DNC and John Podesta's email.

We don't yet know what this server was for, but it deserves further explanation.

Two days later Foer wrote a follow-up article that provided a "public airing" of the "valuable objections and credible alternative theories" that were presented after the article was published.

This—this!—is the Slate content that led the WSJ ed board over the weekend to claim that Hillary spread more disinformation than Putin.

It's unclear if these people are idiots, villains, or crazies.

Meanwhile, back in 2016 the Times story on Alfa bank which was published that same day did not share Foer's curiosity as to what underscored this connection.

The paper's headline read "Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia." (That didn't turn out to be quite right, seeing as the Mueller probe would go on to either indict or get plea deals from six Trump advisers). The Times story mentions Alfa Bank in paragraph 13, saying the FBI had dismissed the connection as possibly "innocuous."

The NYT is the gold standard when it comes to investigative reporting. Seriously. But if the paper had been actively on Trump's side, it's not clear what it would have done differently in this case.

So here's the output from the elite media and deep state's supposed plot to frame Donald Trump.

Clinton's campaign was materially damaged, day in and day out, by stories about emails that had been hacked by Russia. At the same time, Trump's campaign repeatedly used these stories to brand Clinton as "crooked," lied about its attempts to coordinate with the Russians, defamed a dead DNC staffer who had nothing to do with the leak, and suffered no consequences for being the dissemination arm of a cyberattack by America's enemies.

Also: The Clinton campaign's attempts to push back on this through their supposed allies in the press and the deep state were completely rebuffed. Not only did the FBI refrain from using the Alfa Bank information to try to take down Trump—they went out of their way to block the New York Times from reporting the story. And then the bureau provided sourcing that the Times used to preemptively exonerate Trump.

Meanwhile, the FBI publicly announced the reopening of its investigation into Clinton, which the Times giddily covered, alongside every development from the leaked emails.

And then, even Franklin Foer—the supposed vehicle for disseminating this anti-Trump "disinformation"—produced a balanced, well-sourced story about the strange Alfa Bank/Trump server connection that presented more questions than accusations and followed it up with another piece that more thoroughly addressed the doubts that it demonstrated foul play.

The true story of the Alfa Bank saga is that all the players at these much maligned Elite Institutions acted with extreme discretion in not overplaying speculative information during the heat of the campaign. And yet they are still smeared by conspiracists who showed no such discretion themselves at the time and are still looking for any excuse to justify their complicity in Russia's successful attack on our political process.


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JohnRussell
Professor Principal
1  seeder  JohnRussell    one month ago
The part of Sussmann's trial that has the Trump crowd rubbing their nipples is testimony from Clinton 2016 campaign manager Robby Mook in which he revealed that the candidate was briefed on the potentially dubious Alfa Bank accusations and was fine with the campaign's decision to share the information with reporters. (Point of fact: Many in the Trump orbit have stated that Clinton approved the Alfa Bank oppo's dissemination, but Mook testified that he told her only after the campaign had shared it with a reporter.) This rather mundane bit of opposition-research dissemination was treated as a bombshell in the conservative press, where it has been presented as the long-yearned-for evidence that when it comes to Russia's involvement in the 2016 election, it was Hillary who perpetrated a scheme on poor innocent Donny Trump, not the other way around.
 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
1.1  Texan1211  replied to  JohnRussell @1    one month ago

Your last sentence is surprisingly accurate!

 
 
 
Dismayed Patriot
Professor Participates
1.1.1  Dismayed Patriot  replied to  Texan1211 @1.1    one month ago
Your last sentence is surprisingly accurate!

On one hand we have Russia who hacked US political parties and released private emails in an effort to sway the election toward the candidate they preferred. They spent millions a month on fake ads pretending to be domestic in origin to manipulate voters into believing things that were patently false. Over a dozen of Trumps campaign staff including the campaign manager had multiple ties to Russian operatives and either were convicted or plead guilty to multiple crimes including giving sensitive campaign data to a Russian operative and lying to investigators and a Republican led Senate investigation concluded that such contacts and actions of the Trump campaign represented a “grave counterintelligence threat”.

“President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”

“Yes, I did. Yes, I did."

So the current war criminal committing genocide and attacking a neighboring country unprovoked saw something he liked in dirty Donald. Birds of a feather.

On the other hand you have an improper categorizing of campaign money spent on opposition research, an attorney who apparently did not disclose his close ties to a political campaign and that campaign wanting to release the rumors of the connections of their opponent and Russia to the media in an effort to help their campaign.

Anyone with more than half a brain and any sense of patriotism can see which is a bigger threat to our nation, but the sad sack morons still defending their liar-in-Chief cannot admit any fault and spend all their time trying to rationalize their twisted reasoning and apparent lack of education. It's no wonder more than half of them believe Qanon conspiracy theories while rejection facts and reality.

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
1.1.2  Texan1211  replied to  Dismayed Patriot @1.1.1    one month ago

Old, regurgitated nonsense.

No crime committed by Trump, period.

If you have evidence of one, you should alert the authorities.

It's your patriotic duty, after all.

 
 
 
Hallux
Sophomore Principal
2  Hallux    one month ago

Charlie Sykes, Bill Kristol and the entire staff of the Bulwark are card carrying commies ... /s

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
3  JBB    one month ago

Beginning by at least 2014 and continuing right up to election day in 2016 Trump was in secret talks with Russian spies to build Trump Tower Moscow.

If course the CIA and FBI investigated all of that...

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
3.1  Texan1211  replied to  JBB @3    one month ago

And found nothing to charge Trump with.

Old stuff.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
PhD Guide
3.2  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  JBB @3    one month ago
Beginning by at least 2014 and continuing

Still running with unfounded nonsense?  Not that it matters.  No evidence.  No charges.  No trial.  No conviction.

 
 
 
arkpdx
PhD Participates
3.3  arkpdx  replied to  JBB @3    one month ago

OMG! A business man who builds and operates hotels and want to build one in Moscow negotiated with Russians? Who was he supposed to negotiate with, the Japanese?

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
3.3.1  Texan1211  replied to  arkpdx @3.3    one month ago

Have you noticed how, despite his claims of years of investigations by multiple agencies, no one ever found ANYTHING to charge Trump with?

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
3.3.2  JBB  replied to  arkpdx @3.3    one month ago

Then he can't complain if questions are asked about his conflicts of interest with Russia?

We never had Presidents beholden to Russia!

Until Don Trump. Of course there is the fact Russia helped Trump in his run against Hillary...

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
3.3.3  Texan1211  replied to  JBB @3.3.2    one month ago

What crimes do you now allege Trump committed?

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
PhD Guide
3.3.4  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  JBB @3.3.2    one month ago
his conflicts of interest with Russia?

You still haven't provided anything to show what these conflicts are.   

 
 
 
arkpdx
PhD Participates
3.3.5  arkpdx  replied to  JBB @3.3.2    one month ago

You don't seem to have any problem with the Biden family being a wholely owned subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party. 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3.3.6  Sean Treacy  replied to  Texan1211 @3.3.1    one month ago
spite his claims of years of investigations by multiple agencies, no one ever found ANYTHING to charge Trump with?

Lol. He can't even offer proof the "years of investigation" occurred, let alone any charges resulted. 

 
 
 
Hallux
Sophomore Principal
3.3.7  Hallux  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.3.6    one month ago
Biden family being a wholely owned subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party.

Wrong family, it's the Trudeau family that is. /S

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
4  Sean Treacy    one month ago

Whether there was anything nefarious going on between Alfa and Trump remains a bit of a mystery.

Lol... The shit you still fall for. 

Here's the FBI supervisor testfying at trial about the "evidence" Sussman submitted to the FBI on behalf of the CLiton Campaign.

 "I felt that whoever had written that paper had jumped to some conclusions that were not supported by the technical data,” he said.

“I did not feel they were objective in the conclusions they came to. The assumption is so far-reaching it just didn’t make any sense..

It feels a little 51-50ish,” Hellman wrote.

Defense lawyer Sean Berkowitz then asked Hellman what the message meant.

I thought perhaps the person who drafted this document was suffering from a mental disability, ” Hellman answered.

Section 5150 of California’s Welfare and Institutions Code allows authorities to involuntarily hospitalize mentally ill people for up to 72 hours and has been widely adopted as slang to refer to someone who’s crazy.

Moreover, the CIA : 

 “concluded in early 2017 that the Russian Bank-1 data and Russian Phone Provider-1 data” — the Alfa Bank and YotaPhone information — was not “technically plausible,” did not “withstand technical scrutiny,” was “user created and not machine/tool generated," “contained gaps,” and “conflicted with [itself]."

And left wing media is still gulling it's readers into thinking that this might be legitimate. 

Sad.

 
 

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