New details on 2016 Russia probe lead to flawed espionage allegations


William Brangham:

This all stems from a court filing by Special Counsel John Durham, who was appointed by former Attorney General William Barr to investigate possible wrongdoing during the 2016 Russia probe.

The filing relates to a low-level case Durham brought against Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity attorney who had represented the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign. Durham alleges Sussmann lied to the FBI about who his client was during a meeting where Sussmann shared information about possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

But in a few extra sentences, Durham’s file mentions a second instance in which Sussmann attempted to raise concerns about a Trump-Russia connection, this time apparently to the CIA. This information came from one of Sussmann’s clients, technology manager Rodney Joffe.

Durham’s file noted that Joffe’s company, Neustar, had entered into an agreement to provide security-related work on computer servers, including those at the White House. But according to the filing, Joffe used that access to mine internet data to create a conclusion and narrative that linked then-candidate Trump to Russia.

Joffe has not been charged with any crime.

All of this has now been spun by conservative media and former President Trump himself to say that Sussmann and Joffe Clinton were agents paid to illegally hack into and spy on the Trump campaign and Trump White House .

Former President Trump wrote, “In a stronger era in our country, this crime would have been punishable by death.”

In a column this week, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie Savage of The New York Times wrote that the entire narrative appears to be mostly false or outdated, and its conclusions “are based on a misleading presentation of the facts or outright misinformation.”

Charlie Savage is joining me now.

I wonder if you could help us understand how we got to this point, how Durham’s investigation turned into this kind of explosive story in the conservative media.


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