SSpecial Counsel John Durham’s investigation is not only enforcing accountability for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 political ploy to smear Donald Trump with the FBI; it also encroaches on the credibility of President Joe Biden’s current chief foreign policy adviser and front man on the current Russia-Ukraine crisis.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was a senior adviser to Clinton’s 2016 campaign and said he told reporters at the time that Democrats believed Trump was working with Vladimir Putin to hijack the election and had a secret computer channel to the Kremlin. Neither has come true.
But long before that narrative of collusion with Russia crumbled like a stale Starbucks muffin, Sullivan made an affidavit before the House Intelligence Committee denying that anything the Clinton campaign was spreading in Washington was misinformation .
“Are you aware of any collusion, coordination or conspiracy by yourself or other members of the campaign you have been collaborating with to obtain fake Russian information to harm Donald Trump?” Sullivan was asked in December 2017.
Sullivan answered without ambiguity. “I mean, you’ll forgive me if I want to say more than a straight ‘no’ to that answer, because I find that completely absurd,” he replied.
But Durham’s court filings in two cases last fall – one against Clinton’s campaign attorney Michael Sussmann and the other against the main source for the discredited Christopher Steele dossier – challenge that claim. Both defendants are accused of lying to the FBI.
Sullivan has not been charged with any wrongdoing. But court records in those cases say that Sullivan — identified only as Clinton’s “foreign policy adviser” in the Sussmann indictment — was involved in email exchanges with other Clinton campaign officials and attorneys about a story leaked to the news media and the suggesting Trump had a secret communications system with Russia through a computer server at Moscow-based Alfa Bank.
“On or about September 15, 2016, Attorney-1 exchanged emails with the Clinton campaign’s campaign manager, communications director and foreign policy adviser regarding allegations by Russian Bank-1, which Sussmann had recently shared with Reporter-1,” it said in Sussmann’s indictment.
“Campaign Attorney-1 has his time for this correspondence with the Clinton campaign with the accounting entry ‘E-mail correspondence with [name of foreign policy advisor], [name of campaign manager], [name of communications director] Subject: Russian Bank -1 item.’”
This revelation puts Sullivan squarely in the loop of talks aimed at spreading a story that the FBI, former Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Durham’s team all believed to be false.
A month after those email conversations — as the Trump-Clinton presidential race was winding down — the Alfa Bank allegations story surfaced in mainstream news media in late October 2016.
And it was Sullivan who took action and made a statement that added legitimacy to the article’s claim. “This may be the most direct connection between Donald Trump and Moscow to date,” Sullivan said in the statement. “Computer scientists have discovered a covert server connecting the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.”
His statement also gave his boss, Hillary Clinton, the opportunity to retweet her.
“Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server connecting the Trump Organization to a Russia-based bank,” Clinton crowed, trying to get the media to cover the allegations.
By the time Sullivan made the statement, there were already significant grounds for doubting the article. The FBI previously told this reporter and the New York Times that they had ruled out the secret communications channel and that the pings allegedly found by the computer researchers could be explained by basic marketing communications.
Recent Durham court records show that some of the computer executives who advised the Clinton campaign and her attorney on the allegation strongly doubted the conclusions themselves.
Durham refers to emails between the various actors supporting the research, saying they were simply looking for “a conclusion” or a “very useful narrative” that could make it appear like Trump is with Russia in bed.
But the tech company executive who was leading the effort wrote an email two months before the stories were published, expressing doubts about the evidence.
“Tech Executive-I expressed his own belief that the domain ‘trump-email.com’ (referring to the allegations that SUSSMANN submitted to the FBI) was not a secret communication channel with Russia’s Bank-1, but ‘a red one Herring,'” Durham wrote in Sussman’s indictment.
Other participants in the study expressed similar doubts. “How do we defend against the criticism that this is not fake traffic,” wrote one in an email dated August 22, 2016.
So the Durham court filings not only show that the story was proven wrong, they also show that there was reason to doubt it even before Sullivan lent his name and foreign policy credentials to it.
Court filings to date provide no evidence that Sullivan was directly briefed on the concerns, but experts told Just the News that as the Clinton campaign’s senior national security adviser, he had a duty to verify it before venting it to the media.
“If you’re the national security adviser or the foreign policy adviser to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, you need to be able to look at the information and validate it before you come to a conclusion,” said Daniel Hoffman, a respected CIA officer who station manager of the agency in Moscow.
“He never questioned his own assumption, and he never questioned the information he received,” he added.
Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said he has concerns about the accuracy of Sullivan’s testimony in 2017 and the fact that he now serves as Biden’s national security adviser. Nunes recently retired to head Trump’s new tech and social media company.
“Well, it certainly doesn’t look like it,” Nunes said when asked if Sullivan’s testimony was correct. “Because he was one of the propagandists that was out there during the 2016 election, promoting it in great detail.
“Look, it seems like everyone involved in the Russia hoax actually got promoted. So if you were in the Obama White House and participated in this hoax, you got a big promotion, you got a new job.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (RN.Y.), another lawmaker who played a role in exposing falsehoods in the Russian collusion narrative, said Sullivan should face an investigation to determine what he knows.
“Just because you’re being paid by Hillary Clinton, just because you’re Hillary Clinton or associated with Hillary Clinton, doesn’t give you a free pass from the justice system,” Zeldin told Just the News.
Brian Stekloff, the attorney who represented Sullivan in the 2017 filing, did not immediately respond Monday asking for comment.
In his 2017 testimony, Sullivan argued he was justified in pushing the Trump narrative because the Clinton campaign felt under attack from Russia after allegations of hacked emails surfaced in the summer of 2016.
“We feared that we would be attacked, not only by the Russians but also by a campaign coordinated with Trump,” he said at the time.
In the end, every probe into the collusion allegations concluded that there were none between Trump and Russia, although US officials believe that Moscow alone hacked and released emails related to Clinton.
Aside from the legal implications, experts said Sullivan’s role in spreading a now-debunked allegation against a campaign rival could undermine his credibility with US allies in his current role as Biden’s national security adviser, particularly during the current Russia-Ukraine crisis .
“I can’t say what the leadership in Ukraine thinks about this White House and the different characters that populate it, as well as the State and Defense Departments. But I’m sure, based on what you just said, you have many questions about statements coming from those very people about intelligence information related to their lives and deaths,” the former State Department adviser said , Kiron Skinner, to Just the News on Monday. “I think that would absolutely be the case.”