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A Bureaucrat’s Guide to the Durham Report

Disclaimer: what follows is speculation exclusively based upon my reading of the Durham Report. My access to information is limited by laziness but also by my inability to view privileged documents and classified appendices referenced in the Report. Hence I’ve chosen to rely upon my knowledge of human nature and custom to fill in the gaps. Do not take my speculative conclusions as facts. You must do your own research and never trust the experts.

In the 1960s, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard penned a series of policies for dealing with critics of Scientology known as Fair Game. The policies endorsed legal and potentially illegal actions to silence and destroy critics. Among the tactics endorsed, and still widely practiced by Scientologists, were vexatious litigation, infiltration and surveillance of critic operations to collect opposition research, character assassination campaigns in the media, and various other harassment techniques.

In summary, the policies prescribed Machiavellian tactics that exploited legitimate institutions like the First Amendment, the courts, the press, freedom of association and so forth to pursue immoral and potentially illegal ends. At the height of Scientology Fair Game operations, Scientologists implemented Operation Snow White, achieving the largest known infiltration of the Federal government in American history. While some Scientologists were imprisoned for the operation, Hubbard and core Scientology organizations remained insulated from law enforcement.

The effectiveness of Scientology Fair Game depended upon the creation of a parallel non-state institution with loyal cadres who were employed in, and capable of directing, the operations of various legitimate public and private institutions toward the goals of the parallel non-state institution.

Legitimacy is a vague concept that can be defined for various purposes. For example, we can understand legitimacy purely operationally from a microeconomic standpoint as a state of equilibrium where people lack sufficient incentives to treat an institution as unacceptable and oppose or destroy it.

When I use the term in this series, I usually mean that the institution is believed by most to be impartial in how it is applied to, or deals with, individuals and groups, and that it therefore carries authority that should be trusted. Ordinary people can feel comfortable delegating diligence and responsibility to a legitimate institution without worrying about the institution being used partially against their interests, which means the institution has liberal-democratic legitimacy. For example, the public views parts of the press as legitimate and feels confident that it can delegate the task of fact-finding to journalists.

While many authors attribute Fair Game to Scientology’s unique status as a cult or fake government-recognized “religion”, it’s apparent that Fair Game is a general strategy for all parallel non-state organizations that emerges as a natural feature of the American constitutional ecosystem.

The American ecosystem includes more individualistic, putatively neutral public institutions like the Department of Justice and private institutions like the media, as well as legal and cultural institutions like our civil rights and popular sovereignty, each category of which possesses public legitimacy.

Non-state organizations like political parties, religions, ethnic groups, special interest blocs like AIPAC, the ADL, NRA etc., seek through various kinds of Fair Game tactics to exploit legitimate institutions to advance group-level interests. For purposes of this article series, I’ll refer to such institutions as machines.

Machines are representative of the forms of power that classical and enlightenment regimes were developed to suppress. Philosophical/enlightenment regimes impose neutral laws and procedures designed to obstruct the tendency of power to impose its will partially and without regard for truth.

Human nature nevertheless dictates that power will tend toward secrecy and partiality. In the United States, the Constitution and our civil-religious culture of tolerance of private individuality imposes restrictions on power by, for example, giving individuals a suite of rights against public impositions on what they say, their form of worship, and their privacy, and against surveillance of their communications with their spiritual advisors, spouses, and attorneys.

History and microeconomic analyses of human behavior demonstrate that, given a long enough timeline, hidden power on the old model will begin to assert itself over and above these enlightenment controls, creating a sort of metalanguage or metalaw of power. In the infancy of enlightenment regimes, such power is more difficult to impose for a variety of reasons, but we should always expect hidden power to assert itself.

Chicago’s infamous Daley machine is a relevant local example. The Democratic Party in Chicago and Cook County became a vehicle for ethnic group and individual self-advancement that eventually overpowered and exploited Chicago’s institutions of public legitimacy for party-insider ends, creating an environment of self-dealing, criminality, and political incompetence supported by the interests of a hidden locus of power. The great journalist Mike Royko summarized certain aspects of the machine and one of its group-oriented codes:

[Daley’s] police department’s intelligence-gathering division gets bigger and bigger, its network of infiltrators, informers, and spies creating massive files on dissenters, street gangs, political enemies, newsmen, radicals, liberals, and anybody else who might be working against him. If one of his aides or hand-picked officeholders is shacking up with a woman, he will know it. And if that man is married and a Catholic, his political career will wither and die. That is the greatest sin of all. You can make money under the table and move ahead, but you are forbidden to make secretaries under the sheets. He has dumped several party members for violating his personal moral standards. If something is leaked to the press, the bigmouth will be tracked down and punished. – Source

In their book American Pharoah, Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor present a similar take on the Machine’s code:

“Daley, who subscribed to his own version of Tammany Hall leader George Washington Plunkitt’s famous distinction between “honest graft” and “dishonest graft,” saw nothing wrong with … kickbacks. “A real crook, in the eyes of Daley, was somebody who’d take the $5,000 for himself,” said Lynn Williams, a township committeeman and member of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee. “A fellow who would ask someone to make a $5,000 contribution to the party was a loyal party worker.”

Daley’s Democratic Party Machine circumvented impartial and neutral controls on power by extracting kickbacks through its control of government employment, trading government jobs for favors, and sometimes requiring government employees to donate a percentage of their salaries.

The machine additionally secured political subservience through the control of licensing, zoning, and permitting, giving it the power to control private business and elicit business kickbacks.

Finally, the machine’s control of law enforcement and judicial and related political appointments allowed it to collect protection money from criminal operations and violently or legally coerce dissenters.

On the private sector side, Machine insiders had (and continue to have) revolving-door access to high level corporate and non-profit organizations, likely because of their historic control of public institutions that regulate industry, but also because of social networking and homosocial reproduction among public and private elites. (I use the term “homosocial” throughout this article to refer not just to same-sex friendships and mentorships, but rather any-sex friendships and mentorships among individuals inhabiting influential social networks and legitimate institutions).

Further, Mayor Daley’s relationship with the press is best illustrated by Royko’s anecdote about the former mayor’s press secretary admonishing journalists not to report what the mayor said but what he meant.

Machines therefore work by exploiting public legitimacy for illegitimate – illegal and immoral — internal group ends. Legitimacy begins as an obstacle to the machine’s partial power projection but in the end becomes both a means for the machine to achieve its goals and for insulating machine membership from responsibility.

A crucial factor in machine manipulation of legitimacy is that many of the machine’s direct actions are not committed by individuals with the intent to defraud or otherwise engage in illegal activity, even though a core conspiratorial and criminal cadre is often behind many of the machine’s schemes.

This is largely because of the phenomenon of compartmentation or compartmentalization, which intelligence communities intentionally employ as a strategy for a variety of reasons, but which often organically emerges as a byproduct of a group having absolute control over large and impersonal institutions with public legitimacy, which are by their nature compartmentalized.

For example, public lawyers and the law enforcement investigators they advise are often naturally compartmentalized by geographic, procedural, professional, and social barriers. Legitimate institutions, processes and procedures allow for machines to predict (and therefore manipulate) outcomes while preserving compartmentalization and the autonomy of individual actors, who often unwittingly serve the machine’s goals.

This brings us to the 2016 Presidential Election and the subsequent and ongoing attacks upon Trump, his organizations, and his political agenda. The DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) and special prosecutor John Durham compiled ample evidence on the operations of some kind of machine directly connected to the Democratic Party, Clintons, and GOP, all surrounding attempts to connect Trump to Russia. Perhaps it is significant that this machine once again emerges in connection with the Democratic Party, which is the party of downscale group-identitarian interests like ethnic and racial groups that historically trend toward machine-like organizations, but it should be stressed that this machine does not entirely overlap with the Democratic Party.

While the OIG and Durham Office were restricted in their conclusions by legal standards of proof, the public should not be so limited for pragmatic reasons that I’ll explore more fully in the final article. The public, including individuals from across the political spectrum, should approach Durham’s report from the standpoint of predictability to protect themselves from the consequences of being outsiders to institutions they trust, and to empower themselves with a metapolitical understanding of an American empire, the legacy institutions of which have long been circumvented by machine activity.

Stated differently, the public should use the information in reports like Durham’s to predict political outcomes and decode the actions of legitimate institutions with an eye to protecting their own interests. In a sense, this means that the American public should use the reports to add a sort of Bureaucrat Mindset or Holmesian Bad Man perspective to their political heuristic toolkit.

The following article series is therefore broken up into three parts focused upon inculcating this mindset, not to encourage illegal or unethical behavior, but simply to help Americans understand their government. I stress here that I do not think this mindset or perspective should be transformed into a norm. I’m simply advocating for a realistic understanding of the world and not stating that this is the way things ought to be or that it is the way things necessarily must be.

The first part of the series uses evidence and analyses from the Durham report, coupled with my own analyses and speculation, to construct a model of a non-violent political assassination operation. The second part will look at the relationship between conspirators and the nuts and bolts behind the operation, specifically the lower rank and file employees caught up in the scheme with little or no knowledge of the overarching conspiracy (a Bureaucrat’s story). The final part sets forth my general observations about the possibilities for reform through a broader scope than what was used in the Durham Report.

The operation against Trump (“Operation”) was (and continues to be) pursued by DNC/GOP insiders and the Clinton campaign (the “Machine”) and was borne of two expressly documented goals as well as a third goal that reasonably can be inferred from the facts presented in the Durham report.

The first goal initially was to deflect public attention away from the scandal of Clinton’s email server, and later, from the DNC and Podesta email leaks. The second goal was to smear the Trump campaign in the eyes of the public. The third and inferable goal was to collect compromising information on the Trump campaign to either destroy its leadership or manipulate its legitimate exercise of Executive power after the election (and as we’ve seen with recent indictments, even after the 2020 election). Each of these goals were mutually reinforcing, as were the steps taken to achieve them.

Of crucial importance here was that these goals had to be pursued without material evidence of wrongdoing by Trump and associates. This means that the Operation was principally about spreading false information.

The best way to approach exposition of this Fair Game operation is to look at the scope of penetration of the Machine into legitimate institutions and then ask, given those resources, how the goals described above could be met while minimizing culpability for participants.

The following sections aim to assist in this approach by analyzing some of the key institutional and individual players in the Operation and then exploring how they may have fabricated and laundered defamatory information about Trump.

Getting your opponent in a democracy involves defaming them with “opposition research”. The Durham report informs us that opposition research is a legitimate American institution rooted in The Founding:

“While many may find this practice unseemly, political opposition research is a firmly entrenched feature of U.S. electoral politics and existed, in one form or another, since the founding of the nation.” [233]

From the perspective of Holmes’s Bad Man or the Bureaucratic Mindset, opposition research means the spread of defamatory information in connection with which victims and prosecutors lack sufficient evidence or incentives to pursue legal remedies against the propagators of the defamatory information. Because defamation is a tort and making false statements to government officials is a crime, America encourages opposition research to be true or at least give the reasonable appearance of truth.

The reasons for the Clinton campaign and GOP allies like John McCain settling upon Russia as the basis for their “research” have not fully been documented. Apart from the reasons set forth above — that it was a ploy to deflect attention from the content of leaks about Clinton and the DNC to an external enemy and associate Trump therewith — there likely were other reasons for choosing Russia.

Given Trump’s bombastic statements about Russia, starting in 2013 when his Miss Universe pageant was hosted there and escalating throughout the 2015 GOP Presidential debates, and given the Machine’s attempts to blame their email server and email content leaks on an external enemy, Russia was a semi-plausible conspiratorial actor to invoke.

As this CNN article documents, Trump’s statements about Russia had almost universally been presented in his capacity as a GOP surrogate against Obama (which began during the 2012 campaign), involving assertions that Russia was acting against American interests and that Putin was a superior leader to Obama (note that early on Trump would often qualify statements by saying that Romney was right about Putin and Obama).

Peppered throughout are statements suggesting that Trump somehow knew or met Putin (it appears they never met but Trump was happy to boast that they had), and that at a minimum he had received an award from Putin. Trump’s most cherished award from Putin was that Putin had called him a genius.

Trump never strayed from the line that Putin was acting aggressively toward the United States because Obama was a weak leader, and that if Trump were President, America’s relationship with Putin would improve and Russia would fall back into line. This background undermines the common anti-Trump refrain that he’s always digging his own grave with his mouth (at least in this context).

Nonetheless, as the CNN timeline unintentionally demonstrates, the Machine used their control of the media to escalate the controversy toward the end of the 2015 GOP primary, constantly harassing Trump in interviews about Russia.

By the beginning of 2016, Trump had become the presumptive nominee and so the DNC and Clinton campaign began farming opposition research related to Russia.

It turns out that political assassinations based upon foreign entanglement “research” can be far more effective than purely domestic “research.” Domestic operations look like the Stormy Daniels “campaign contribution” scandal and have limited effect, are far more expensive, and are burdened by being under the jurisdiction of American law.

Foreign entanglement research allows the Machine to circumvent the Constitutional protections afforded to American citizens by bringing in foreign surveillance operations not bound by the Constitution. Crucially, it also allows the exploitation of foreign-born “sources” who are less susceptible to legal action by virtue of their foreign ties (in some cases to countries without extradition treaties, in others, because of their diplomatic immunity), who are more naïve about the nature of American politics, and who are more desperate to secure the benefits of American citizenship or partnership.

On the domestic side, the Machine needs both public and private institutions of legitimacy to facilitate the campaign. The media is of course the primary vehicle for the character assassination component but it’s also important for creating the appearance of information corroboration that public institutions like the DOJ depend upon to justify surveilling the target. The media serves another related function that I’ll take up in the second part of this series.

Though they carry significant public legitimacy (often because of the appearance of a lack of private conflicts of interest), and though they employ talented researchers with broad informant networks, public institutions are hamstrung by American law and jurisdictional limitations such that they can’t engage in opposition research without sufficient rationalization or predication. However, public institutions like the DOJ have far more intrusive and expansive powers of surveillance and enforcement, and their employees are insulated from liability for forms of misconduct like negligence, which apply to private sector employees.

The private sector can engage in such research, though at the cost of being marked with conflicts of interest over the profit motive and partisanship; and the private sector’s surveillance techniques are correspondingly limited by American law (though it enjoys broader jurisdiction by default). Therefore, it is salutary for the Machine to have a partnership between private opposition research organizations and public law enforcement/intelligence, so as to circumvent the limitations, and supplement the functions, of each.

The Durham report documents machine penetration into public and private institutions of this nature, which penetration legitimized the Operation and simultaneously insulated Machine operators from responsibility.

Since the Russiagate smear content was based upon intentionally fabricated information and information that the FBI was never able to corroborate, it was reasonable for the Machine to take steps to insulate itself from responsibility for creating and promoting the content.

The most effective way for private entities to conceal evidence of conspiracy is through the assertion of attorney-client privilege. Thus, the managerial authority for Trump-Russia “opposition research” was delegated to Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias.

However, Marc Elias himself needed privilege protection and access to a more seasoned libel attorney with public-private connections, so he employed the (now former) Perkins Coie Biglaw Partner Michael Sussmann. Sussmann had connections in the FBI, specifically a close friendship with former FBI counsel and former Twitter general counsel James Baker [255], who presumably connected Sussman with other FBI resources. The timeframe for these initial organizational steps seems to be between January and early March of 2016.

Through his FBI contacts, Sussman likely (though not necessarily) becomes aware of another friend of the Machine named Bruce Ohr, a DOJ official whose wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for the private opposition research firm Fusion GPS. Sussmann accordingly hires Fusion GPS on April 1, 2016. Evidently these relationships pose no professional-ethical obstacles to DOJ employees, just as the same sorts of nepotistic relationships never created a problem for the Chicago Machine.

Because the Machine wants to focus on a Russian entanglement angle for its assassination campaign, Fusion GPS hires a UK-based opposition research company called Orbis, which is run by Christopher Steele: a former UK intelligence officer and Russia expert who despised Russia, a “former” confidential human source (“CHS”) for the FBI, and whose handler and longtime friend just happened to be Bruce Ohr. These entities and individuals form an initial core of the Machine conspiracy.

Culpability of the Machine is already heavily compartmentalized at this point, with the Clinton campaign and Machine leadership being doubly insulated by Elias and Sussmann’s attorney-client privilege shields. Further, Perkins Coie is insulated from responsibility by hiring Fusion GPS, which is in turn insulated by subcontracting to Orbis, a foreign entity.

Before getting into the details of how these groups further insulate themselves and use their legitimacy to launder false information, we’ll make a brief digression on attorney-client privilege and legal industry legitimacy.

Bureaucratically speaking, attorney-client privilege allows attorneys to prevent opposing parties and the government from viewing incriminating communications. By way of example from Durham, Fusion GPS alone moved to withhold 1,500 documents from the view of Durham [248], and Perkins Coie withheld over 15,000. Durham explains that he nonetheless

“successfully moved the Court to inspect a sampling of approximately 38 documents in camera. After reviewing the materials and receiving briefing not only from the government and Sussmann’s counsel but also from Fusion OPS’s counsel, counsel for the DNC and counsel for the Clinton campaign, the Court determined that 22 of 38 emails were improperly withheld as privileged. Specifically, the Court rejected their privilege claims because the emails at issue “solely related to disseminating the information they [Fusion GPS] and others had gathered.” United States v. Sussmann, 21-CR-582, 5/12/2022 Order at 6-7.” [249]

It’s reasonable to assume given this sample rate and the quantity of privileged documents that there were several other material documents improperly concealed by attorney-client privilege.

Sussmann was able to further muddy the waters through “irregular billing practices”, for which Durham notes he “did not receive a satisfactory explanation from Perkins Coie.” The professionalism and diligence one expects from an international BIGLAW VAULT 100 like Perkins Coie did not stop there, however, as Durham carefully documents in this description of Sussman’s elite tradecraft:

“Sussmann also engaged in questionable client record keeping. For example, and for reasons unknown, Sussmann’s client retention letter to Tech Company-2 Executive-I was addressed to a “Ms. Tina Wells” with the address of “1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20004.” Sussmann’s letter memorializing his joint representation of Joffe and Tech Company-2 Executive- I was addressed to “Ms. Tina Wells” and “Mr. Bob Hale.” See Representation letters from Perkins Coie to Rodney Joffe and Tech Company-2 Executive-I dated 4/12/2017 and 4/13/2017. These fake names are apparent references to the actors who played “Mary Ann” and the “Skipper” on the television series “Gilligan’s Island.” (Though “Mary Ann” was actually played by Dawn Wells and the “Skipper” was played by Alan Hale.) The address provided for “Ms. Wells” (Tech Company-2 Executive-I) is “1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.,” which is the William Jefferson Clinton EPA Headquarters and which has no apparent connection to Tech Cornpany-2 Executive-I. The use of false names would appear to prevent a law firm from, among other things, conducting proper conflicts checks.”

Perkins Coie would go on to assert in multiple official communiques to the media that Sussmann never billed his infolaundering through James Baker at the FBI, despite the fact that he did so in their own billing system [272].

This sort of evidence documenting the diligence of top tier BIGLAW firms is not necessarily harmful to the industry, however, as what’s ultimately important is not compliance with the law but rather the ability to manipulate the metalaws upon which the Machine operates.

Sussmann’s antics, while enormously damaging to traditional measures of legal legitimacy, greatly increased Perkins Coie’s prestige on the plain of Machine metalaw. One could imagine the typical DC creature in search of counsel saying to himself, “sure, they lied to the press or demonstrated egregious levels of incompetency regarding their own internal operations, but that’s all part of the game of deceiving the public. What’s important in my positive assessment of Perkins Coie is that they were at the center of this investigation and integral to the political assassination of an American President.”

The goal of the machine is not simply to fabricate any defamatory information about Trump, but rather defamatory information that evinces a level of legitimacy sufficient for the press, law enforcement, and national security institutions to justify publicizing and investigating the information.

The social and institutional positioning of the participants allows the Machine to exploit the institutions themselves for conspiratorial ends, as will be discussed in part 2. Additionally, such penetration also covers information originating from Machine operators in these institutions with a pall of legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

The means for insulating the Machine from culpability described in the previous section also legitimize the Operation. The attenuation of responsibility through attorney-client privilege, the use of multiple firms, and the public-private revolving door confer a significant amount of legitimacy upon the operation. Elias enjoys the legitimacy afforded to lawyers by virtue of their professional ethical obligations, and Sussman enjoys the legitimacy of Biglaw.

Just one example of how legal legitimacy was exploited in the Operation can be seen in a May 8, 2017 letter Senator Harry Reid sent to the FBI concerning Sussmann’s Alfa Bank and Yotafone smear content (described in more detail below). Reid’s letter cited an anonymous source but reassured the FBI that the anonymous source was “represented by an attorney.”[273]

The purpose of retaining the source’s anonymity in this case was to conceal his private conflicts of interest, including his connections to the Clinton campaign, while the purpose of pointing to his representation by counsel was to legitimize his anonymity by reference to the legal profession’s legitimacy.

As another example, Fusion GPS enjoyed the public-institutional legitimacy of having a former senior intelligence officer “sourcing” the research. Fusion would often refer to Steele in their press astroturf campaigns as a “former senior Western intelligence official.” [205] Steele himself would add a patina of “Intelligence” legitimacy to his reports by labeling them as “Company” reports, a common euphemism for the CIA.

The press agrees to publish information when it is legitimized by institutions in this manner. Reflexively, and for this reason, the press confers legitimacy upon the information it publishes in the eyes of the public and other legitimate institutions, like the FBI.

The Operation’s false information also needs the appearance of plausibility, which means it needs to be connected to people with plausible connections to other legitimate sources to create the appearance of narrative legitimacy. This is necessary to convince institutions to which the information is presented, like the press and FBI, but also to create plausible deniability for information fabricators. For example, it’s a better defense to be able to prove one knows a legitimate source and that one only distorted or misheard the source than it is to be in a position where one cannot prove any connections to legitimate sources.

On the public sector side, the Machine already has access to putatively legitimate sources of information in the form of its broad network of CHSs, who make recurring appearances throughout the Operation. On the private side, the Machine has access to similar resources which include public officials who engage in partisan leaking to the press.

Regarding the Steele reports, such sources importantly include Charles H. Dolan Jr., a longtime Clinton machine apparatchik [138] and foreign policy official in the Executive branch [139] with business and social ties to high-level Kremlin officials like Putin’s “right-hand man” [139], as well as a history of providing advisory services to the Valdai Club, an infamous source of pro-Putin propaganda where Dolan once dined with Medvedev [142]. When Steele communicated Dolan’s identity to law enforcement/intelligence in connection with the defamatory information in his reports, Dolan’s background conferred legitimacy upon the information.

(Yes, if you wondering about the Kremlin’s role in Russiagate, consider that the most Kremlin-connected actor in Russiagate wasn’t affiliated with Trump but rather Clinton.)

But people like Dolan are valuable Machine insiders who need insulation from culpability and need to retain their institutional legitimacy, which legitimacy is the cache exploited by the Machine for power.

Thus, patsies, willing fall guys, and fanatical partisans are needed to compartmentalize and serve as official sources who launder information from individuals like Dolan and others who fabricate information on behalf of the Machine. This is analogous to how mainstream parties and activist NGOs leverage extremist groups and urban dysfunction to do their dirty work while insulating themselves from responsibility and retaining their institutions’ public legitimacy.

FBI agent Kevin Helson summarized the function of information compartmentalization while recounting his confusing participation in the Operation (which we’ll further document in the next article):

“There is an individual we kind of [wereJ watching pop up a lot and that’s Chuck Dolan, formerly with Ketchum Group. He’s in the same circles. I’m like, are you sure that, I mean, because it would be classic potential tradecraft [to be] like, if you can get information corroborated by one, you can attribute to one, and mask exactly where you got it

Indeed, one of the reasons Durham did not prosecute Dolan was that he was unable to establish that Dolan ever knowingly worked with Steele to create the information in the Steele reports, although Dolan was on email chains with Steele, and although both Steele and Dolan were both in Cyprus on the same day [148]. The compartmentalization of information fabrication effectively insulates protected sources form culpability.

In the following three subsections I’ll provide examples of a few of the patsies and fall guys who were essential to the Operation.

The primary patsy or fall guy behind the Steele dossier was Igor Danchenko. The best patsy or fall guy is gullible, boastful, and harbors a vested interest in promoting false information.

Danchenko is an interesting case potentially exhibiting all three traits. In 2008, while working at the Brookings Institute, a Brookings employee informed the FBI that Danchenko was soliciting classified information from Brookings employees on behalf of Russia [129]. The FBI investigated and interviewed Danchenko for three years but mysteriously closed the case when it “mistakenly” concluded Danchenko had left the country (he bought a ticket to Russia but never boarded the plane – great investigative work!) [131].

Shortly thereafter in 2011, Steele began employing Danchenko, presumably so that Danchenko could assist in Steele’s “opposition research” activities. The incentive for Danchenko to submit to Anglosphere cooperation is likely related to whatever dirt the FBI dug up on him (perhaps converting him into a CHS), as well as his desire to remain in the United States where his daughter evidently lived.

Accordingly, Steele contrived a sham contractual relationship with a Virginia IT company whereby Danchenko would be an employee of the IT company and secure an American work visa, with Steele paying the VA IT company, which in turn would pay Danchenko a salary. Danchenko of course had no IT expertise and never performed any work relevant to the VA IT company’s purposes. Trust the plan, however, that Durham investigated this relationship and deemed it legal. [239] So much for our work visa system.

Totally coincidentally, and in another instance of homosocial networking within the Machine, the same Brookings employee who snitched on Danchenko introduced Danchenko to Dolan in early March of 2016 [140]. Apparently, Danchenko and the Brookings employee had remained buddies notwithstanding Danchenko’s alleged attempted criminal subversion of American interests during his employment at Brookings.

Dolan and Danchenko then struck up a friendly – even intimate (Dolan would procure and bring pharmaceuticals from Russia for Danchenko [158]) – business relationship related to Dolan’s business in Russia, and totally unrelated to the political assassination campaign against Trump hatched at the same time during the first few months of 2016. Dolan would go on to employ Danchenko to assist with a Moscow convention/conference Dolan was hosting in cooperation with high-level Kremlin operators.

Dolan was aware of and exploited Danchenko’s vulnerable visa situation. In June of 2016, Dolan sent the following email to an acquaintance:

On Monday night I fly to Moscow and will meet with a Russian guy [Danchenko] who is working with me on a couple of projects. He also works for a group of former MI 6 guys in London who do intelligence for businesses [Orbis]. Send me your questions and I’ll pass them on to Igor. He owes me as his Visa is being held up and I am having a word with the Ambassador.

Danchenko’s reputation for providing accurate information was generally very poor, which I suspect was a feature and not a bug of this Operation. For example, Durham reports that Danchenko’s visa laundering employer had a low opinion of Danchenko:

“As relevant to this investigation, [Danchenko Employer], an ethnic Russian, described Danchenko as someone who was “boastful … having low credibility, and a person who liked to embellish his purported contacts with the Kremlin.”

In sum, we have a young Russian guy who got caught trying to spy on behalf of Russia, was likely turned by someone (perhaps not the FBI), and who was, I speculate, allowed to remain free in the U.S. on the condition he complied with that someone’s demands. Steele and Dolan could therefore exploit their contacts with high level officials and companies within the Machine, such as the VA IT company and Dolan’s Ambassador, (homosocial network advantage) to incent compliant behavior from Danchenko, which likely included Danchenko fabricating and manipulating the information in the Steele reports, as well as protecting Dolan when pressed by the FBI.

This interpretation is supported by the observations of another fake source in the Steele report, Sergei Millian, who expressed in a 2020 email that Danchenko appeared to be Steele’s “fall guy” [179]. It is further supported by Danchenko’s own deceptive attempts to conceal the roles of his “sources”, which I document in a later section below.

This kind of manipulation and exploitation of foreign sources was not unique for Dolan. In March of 2016, Danchenko brokered a meeting between Dolan and Danchenko’s childhood friend, Olga Galkina. Galkina and Dolan would eventually meet in Cyprus (while Steele was totally coincidentally – for Durham, “curiously” — also in Cyprus) and enter into a contractual relationship (Olga ran some kind of “server” company which would mysteriously be implicated in election-related “hackings” perpetrated by Russia) [148].

Dolan would go on to ply Galkina with stories of political intrigue and, based upon Galkina’s statements, the suggestion of patronage and insider access to the Clinton machine. Galkina would then emerge as a “source” of some of the content in the Steele dossier, mediated once again by Danchenko. The Durham report documents what looks like Dolan’s grooming operation:

“During this July trip and continuing through the fall of 2016, Dolan and Galkina communicated regularly via telephone, email and social media. In several of these communications, Dolan and Galkina discussed their political views, support for Clinton, and Galkina’s future employment. For example, during the July 2016 meetings in Cyprus, Dolan gave Galkina an autobiography of Clinton, which he signed and inscribed with the handwritten message, “To my good friend Olga, A Great Democrat.”

And again:

On July 22, 20 I6, Dolan sent an email to Galkina and informed her that he would be attending a reception for Hillary Clinton. Shortly thereafter, Galkina responded: “[T]ell her please she [Clinton] has a big fan in [ city name], Cyprus. Can I please ask you to sign for me her (anything).”

Dolan also evidently wrote a personal letter to Russian President Press Secretary Dimitry Peskov endorsing Galkina for a position in the Russian Presidency. [148]

As evidence of the effects of Dolan’s grooming operation on Galkina, the following communication from Galkina is informative:

“In August 2016, Galkina sent a message to a Russia-based associate describing Dolan as an “advisor” to Hillary Clinton. Galkina further commented regarding what might happen if Clinton were to win the U.S. presidential election, stating in Russian, “[W]hen Dolan takes me off to the State Department [to handle] issues of the former USSR, then we’ll see who is looking good and who is not.”

During interviews with Durham, Dolan denied ever discussing political matters with Galkina [149]. Galkina herself, her email correspondences with Dolan, and the inscribed autobiography directly contradict this claim, yet Dolan was never charged for making false statements to Durham and was allowed to refresh his memory and modify his statements at a later date. [149]

Notably, Dolan expressed the opinion to Durham that he would be surprised if Galkina had any real connections to the Kremlin, notwithstanding Galkina’s claims. [155] Once again we have a boastful and unreliable character with vested material interests in promoting the Operation.

Galkina eventually realized in 2017 that she had been turned into a patsy, melodramatically asking a Mueller FBI agent to remove his glasses so she could look him in the eye before informing him that Dolan was the second unnamed individual she had provided information in connection with the Steele report (the other being Danchenko) [167].

Another fall guy or willing conspirator and information fabricator/massager was the tech executive Rodney Joffe, whose firm collected networking traffic data. According to Durham, Joffe was already a CHS for the FBI but it isn’t clear whether he was created as one specifically for the Operation or whether he had been providing information to the FBI in connection with other matters [262].

Joffe was tasked with drumming up, and serving as an “independent source” of, the hilarious Alfa Bank and Yotafone “scandals”, which purported to connect Trump to double secret backchannels to Russia through incoherent interpretations of massaged and incomplete data collected by Joffe’s cronies. We’ll delve more into this “op” in the next section.

Joffe’s motivations, like Galkina’s, were likely related to Machine patronage, and are evidence by an email Joffe wrote in November of 2016 stating that he “was tentatively offered the top [cybersecurity] job by the Democrats when it looked like they’d win.” [262] Of course, we can’t foreclose the possibility of coercion or other monetary incentives given Joffe’s CHS status.

The Joffe operation ran in parallel to the Steele operation and was directly managed by Clinton counsels Marc Elias and Michael Sussman, with Sussman promoting the allegations to the FBI through his friendship with Baker [255], to the CIA through email backchannels and a connection to a “retired” CIA officer [267], to the Senate Armed Services Committee [279], and to the press [250]. Fusion GPS was also astroturfing its press connections on the fake IT scandals [184].

Joffe would insulate himself from liability while boosting the legitimacy of his “information” by roping in other tech companies and a public university [248]. Joffe’s cronies and other participants in the Operation assisted Joffe for reasons that will be discussed below and in the next part of this series. Additionally, Sussman would ink engagement letters with Joffe and other individuals Joffe used in his operation to provide yet another layer of attorney-client privilege.

With the basic actors and institutional structure set forth above, we can run through some of the key parts of the Steele report saga to flesh out a model of defamatory information laundering.

The Steele report was not just important for poisoning public opinion but also, and not unrelatedly, essential to opening and renewing the Carter Page FISA warrant, a mechanism which the Machine used to illegally surveil the Trump campaign for the purpose of collecting compromising information.

The Steele report operation worked in the following manner. Steele used his legitimacy as a “senior former western intelligence” operator to “source” fraudulent information and then pass that information onto Fusion GPS and Sussmann, who in turn passed the information to the FBI, CHSs, the CIA, Congress, and the press.

Steele sources his information from Igor Danchenko, who then claims to source his information from a subset of sources, including Charles Dolan, two unnamed U.S. citizens (one of whom is a GOP lobbyist), Sergei Millian, and Olga Galkina. Steele is aware that these are Danchenko’s sub-sources and each of Steele and Danchenko further invoke the sub-sources of these sub-sources to legitimize their information.

Steele is then able to state with a clean conscience to the FBI and journalists that he has a primary source with access to a set of sub-sources with demonstrable access to the primary sources of information on Russiagate, i.e., his information is ethically sourced from legitimate, organic sources.

Each of these sub-sources is insulated from culpability, however, by claiming they were unaware that Danchenko was providing information to Steele. Steele is in turn insulated from culpability by not knowing that Danchenko sub-sources were unwitting sources.

Of course, Durham documents plenty of circumstantial evidence supporting the inference that many of the sub-sources were willing, while others were completely fabricated, but the crux of the layering operation is Danchenko assuming responsibility for fabricating and manipulating information from legitimate individuals, who present themselves to Durham as unwitting sources exploited by Danchenko and Steele.

Let’s take a closer look at how the laundering operation played out. On July 5, 2016, Steele provides a New England FBI field office with the first of his reports. During the meeting he is open about doing opposition research for Fusion and FBI agent notes indicate Steele communicated that Hillary Clinton was aware of the research. [87] Then on July 21, an “ex-CHS” reaches out to the same field office with virtually identical information and a list of names connected to the Trump-Russia conspiracy [64]. These constitute initial efforts to seed the FBI with opposition research and the appearance of corroboration from multiple sources.

Simultaneously, Fusion GPS is providing Steele report information to the press and Steele is providing the reports to Jonathan Winer, Secretary of State John Kerry’s Special Envoy to Libya [63]. Winer then provides the information to Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and “a confidant of former-Secretary of State Clinton”.[118]

As Durham notes, the pattern of seeding multiple public and private sources with the same information is part of the general Machine pattern. We’ll see below how this plays out in the Alfa Bank operation, but the general model is to seed law enforcement/intelligence and the press with information and then inform law enforcement that the press also has the information, which encourages law enforcement to escalate internally and reach out to the press to ask them not to publish anything.

Law enforcement/intelligence reaching out to the press effectively legitimizes the opposition research in the eyes of the press, as documented by Durham. [17] A useful example is Michael Isikoff’s September 23, 2016 article in Yahoo News spouting the debunked Steele report claim that Trump campaign advisor Carter Page met with sanctioned Russian official Igor Sechin. Isikoff’s article refers to Steele as a “well-placed Western intelligence source” and asserts that the information has been confirmed by a “senior U.S. law enforcement official.” [118] (Isikoff’s article is titled “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin“).

While Durham notes with alarm that the FBI never investigated the “law enforcement” leak mentioned by Isikoff [196], I suspect the reason they didn’t investigate is because the “leak” operated in the same manner as described above, that is, with a law enforcement official having plausible deniability baked into his reasoning for reaching out to the press (to ask them not to publish the information).

Taking a step back, let’s look at the function of the press-public laundering operation.

The article is intended to prejudice the public, and as we’ll see in the next article, lower level public employees.

The article is justified by being validated by, and originating from, legitimate intelligence and law enforcement sources.

The most important factor for the public — Steele’s private conflict of interest — is not reported by the press. The public is instead treated to an article suggesting that U.S. intel officials and “law enforcement” are looking into Trump’s ties to Russia. Because journalism is an unregulated industry, it is not required to disclose conflicts of interests of the kind harbored by Steele, the proven source of the article.

On October 3, 2016, the FBI met with Steele in Italy to corroborate Steele report claims, during which they offered Steele $1M for corroborating information (the CHS information program has its own perverse incentives).

While Steele could not provide any such information, he did provide the FBI with names that might have more information, chief of which were Dolan, the two unnamed American citizens, and Sergei Millian. Steele also asserted that a significant source was Russian Presidential Spokesman Dimitry Peskov, Alexey Pavlov, and that another source knew Medevedev (Dolan had close connections with these individuals and had of course dined with Medevedev). [118-19][142] The FBI would subsequently identify Danchenko as Steele’s primary source in December, 2016.

During interviews with the FBI, Danchenko denied that Dolan provided him with any information in the Steele report, a claim which turned out to be false. [137] Dolan appears to be the source of significant amounts of information in the Steele reports, including the infamous Presidential Suite pee pee tapes scandal, with the rest being fabricated by Danchenko himself or others with whom he was in contact.

While none of the Steele reports were ever corroborated by the FBI, I’ll focus on some of the content that the Durham investigation was able to conclusively expose as fabrications, beginning with the most important claim of the Steele dossier.

The most “spectacular claim” of the Steele dossiers, according to Durham, was the assertion that there was a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” between Trump and Putin. [172] According to Durham, this spectacular claim rested “entirely on a purported anonymous telephone call Danchenko said he received from someone he had never spoken to before”, namely, Sergei Millian [172].

Millian is a Russian real estate magnate in the United States and was a strong Trump campaign supporter in 2015-2016. He was also an FBI CHS from 2007-11 because everyone in this story is a current or former CHS for reasons we’ll have to explore later [185].

Durham goes on to destroy Danchenko’s claims to having had contact with Millian and exposes the true function of Millian in the Operation.

Danchenko claimed to have received an anonymous call from Millian describing the “spectacular claim” because Danchenko recognized Millian’s voice from a Youtube video [172]. That Youtube video happened to be referenced in a RAW OSINT report about Millian compiled by Fusion employee Nellie Ohr on April 22, 2016, which in addition to likely being shared with Danchenko and Steele, made its way to the FBI through Nellie’s husband and DOJ official Bruce Ohr. [180] Durham concludes that the timing of Steele and Danchenko’s actions “strongly supports the inference that Fusion GPS directed Steele to pursue Millian” [182].

While Danchenko was busy spamming Millian’s email to create the illusion of contact with Millian (to no avail), Fusion GPS was astroturfing Millian as a source of Trump-Russia collusion information to the press. [182]

Here’s an example of how Fusion GPS promoted the story by engaging in internet-tier RAW OSINT analysis, concluding with the rigorous guilt by associationist standard of proof that is the hallmark of conspiracy theorizing:

“Fusion GPS principal Peter Fritsch sent an email to Franklin Foer, a reporter at Slate magazine, with subject line “we think.” The email stated: this dude is key: https.// he is clearly kgb. That minsk [sic.] state linguistic university is something of a giveaway. If you are downtown, come by …. ”

Wow, compelling stuff!

But if you’re down on the prestige of Slate, consider that Fusion was also laundering the info through ABC producer Matthew Mosk, whose team eventually taped an interview with Millian [182]. Mosk’s partisanship and the standard of proof that motivates mainstream media journalism is best illustrated by the following passage from Durham:

On September 13, 2016, Mosk emailed Simpson and Berkowitz [of Fusion] and asked “What’s the most official thing we have showing Millian tied to Trump? That would make it hard for the Trump org to disavow Millian?” Berkowitz responded with a screenshot of Millian’ s Trump Gold Donor card that Millian had posted on his Instagram page. [182]

Notable here is that private contractors are allowed to build a case against people in the public sphere by virtue of the contractors’ privileged access to journalists. There is no similar privilege afforded to the other campaign as there would be in a court of law, and the internal sausage-making process is never exposed to the public. Above all, the public is never apprised of the conflicts of interest animating the stories in the first place, such as Fusion’s conflicted relationship with the Clinton campaign or Millian’s history as a (presumably paid) CHS for the FBI.

Steele would go on to try to use Millian, known as “Source E” in Steele’s reports, as a source for the infamous pee pee tapes story. However, Durham demonstrates that Danchenko claimed his first contact with Millian was nearly a month after the pee pee tape dossier report was published, proving that Millian could not have been Danchenko’s (and therefore Steele’s) source for the story. [146]

In 2017, Danchenko informed the FBI that he personally sourced the information about Trump’s sexual behavior while Danchenko was a guest at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton. [146] In fact, the information likely came from Dolan and another U.S. citizen.

In June of 2016, Dolan travels with an unnamed American source to work on the conference he had been planning in Russia, and with which Danchenko was assisting. During this time, Dolan stays at the infamous Ritz-Carlton in Moscow and he and the other source are given a tour of the hotel.

According to Durham, Dolan’s statements about this part of the trip “vacillated over the course of several interviews” while the other source accompanying Dolan recalled the tour of the Ritz-Carlton, claimed that the hotel general manager said Trump had stayed in the Presidential Suite, but denied any mention of sexual activity. Dolan similarly denied any information about sexual activity but said it was possible he told Danchenko about the visit. [145]

The timeline indicates that Danchenko lunched with Dolan in Moscow after Dolan’s stay at the Ritz-Carlton and that, shortly thereafter on June 17, 2016, Danchenko travelled to Steele’s home base in London. Three days later, the pee pee tape Steele report was published. [144]

Durham goes on to establish that Danchenko never visited the hotel, despite Danchenko’s claims to the contrary. Further, Durham concludes that the only person to interact with both the hotel general manager and Danchenko was Dolan. [147].

Durham also interviewed the general manager, whom Steele designated as “Source E” and described as a “senior (Western) member of staff at the hotel”, learning that the general manger didn’t speak Russian (he was a German national). The general manager denied knowledge of the information in the report and denied conveying the information to Danchenko or anyone else.

Durham assessed the general manager’s statements as credible given the general manager’s background and demeanor. [145] Finally, Durham obtained records confirming that Trump had stayed in the hotel in 2013 but verified that Trump had never stayed in the Presidential Suite in 2013 or at any other time, effectively refuting the Steele report and the hearsay about Trump staying in the Presidential suite relayed to Durham by Dolan’s travel companion. [145]

In summary, the pee pee tapes story was likely false information concocted by Danchenko (and possibly Dolan), with Dolan’s contemporaneous business activities in Russia and Moscow serving to legitimize the story to Steele and other individuals down the human centipede of information laundering, the end of which was the FBI.

This was the general pattern for Dolan sourced info. Durham concludes that “there appears to be a real likelihood that Dolan was the actual source of much of the Ritz Carlton and Pavlov information contained in the Steele Reports.” [148]

Dolan shows up as a suspicious source for several other Steele dossier claims. For example, Durham succeeded in getting Dolan to admit to fabricating information in an email to Danchenko, which Danchenko included in a report to Steele, and which Steele then included in the dossier. [138] Friends and colleagues just make up stories and send them to each other.

In August of 2016, Danchenko emailed Dolan stating he was “working on a project against Trump” and requesting information on Paul Manafort. Dolan eventually responded to Danchenko with a false story about meeting with a GOP friend who provided Dolan with information about Manafort and Corey Lewandowski, which information Dolan had in reality gleaned from a Politico article. The Steele report would report this information and list Dolan’s “GOP friend”, who may have been the GOP lobbyist source, as a “close associate of Trump.” [149-50].

In interviews with Durham, Dolan denied knowing the extent of Danchenko’s “project against Trump”, but as we’ll see in part 2, there is more to the story than Dolan’s denials.

Dolan and the Republican lobbyist also met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Russian Diplomat Mikhail Kalugin on multiple occasions from May to October of 2016. [152] Danchenko wasn’t present at any of the meetings but claimed close connections to the Russians and took credit for information about them in the Steele reports.

In one instance, Dolan received a courtesy email blast from Kalugin’s office announcing the diplomat’s retirement from his position. Shortly thereafter, records show that Dolan and Danchenko had a phone call. The Steele report re-interpreting Kalugin’s retirement as a hasty removal by a paranoid Putin was published the next day on September 14, 2016. [153].

When pressed by the FBI, Danchenko claimed that he had maintained a relationship with Kalugin since 2014 and that the two had a meeting during which Kalugin conveyed this information. [154] Danchenko provided no evidence of the relationship or the meeting to the FBI, except for a Mihail Kalugin business card. During a subsequent interview, Dolan conceded that the handwriting on the back of the business card was his own. [154] Woops!

Steele report 2016/111 documents yet another incident claiming that Putin had sacked Sergei Ivanov for advising Putin that engaging in Russiagate election interference would incur limited blowback. On August 12, 2016, the day Ivanov supposedly was fired, Olga Galkina sent Dolan a Facebook message reading “Russian presidential administration is making significant changes right now.” [156] Records reflect that Dolan and Galkina then had a call. No such message was sent to Danchenko but Danchenko claims Galkina was the source of the claim in the Steele report. [157]

As a final example of Dolan’s involvement, and as further evidence of his tight connection to the Kremlin, Dolan sent emails indicating that he was in direct contact with Putin spokesman Peskov in connection with the convention/conference Dolan was planning. [157] Dolan would subsequently inform the FBI that during the conference, he sat next to the head of the Duma Foreign Relations Committee, Kostantin Kosachev. [158]

A Steele report published two weeks after the conference in October of 2016 says Kosachev is an important figure in the “Trump campaign-Kremlin liaison operation” and implicates Trump’s counsel Michael Cohen in the relationship. [158] Danchenko would once again claim this information came from Olga Galkina and Steele would report the same to the FBI. [158]

Dolan and Danchenko would go on to have multiple meetings in temporal proximity to subsequent Steele publications, often at public parks or under suspicious pretextual circumstances like Dolan delivering pharmaceuticals from Russia to Danchenko. [159] For instance, Dolan explains one documented meeting at a park as an impromptu base-touch spurred by Dolan just happening to notice Danchenko posting pictures on Facebook of himself at the park playing with his daughter.

While Durham was unable to produce evidence sufficient to indict Dolan, as we’ll see in the next article, there’s sufficient evidence for a reasonable poaster to conclude that Dolan either fabricated the information himself or intentionally seeded information to Danchenko with the knowledge that he was performing a legitimation function for Danchenko, who would then modify the information for defamatory purposes before it was disseminated to the press and law enforcement/intelligence.

Dolan’s performance of unwitting involvement culminates in January of 2017, after Buzzfeed begins publishing the Steele reports, with a series of emails by Dolan expressing shock and ignorance of Danchenko and Steele’s operation, and with Dolan filing a lawsuit against Orbis. [159]

On September 16, 2019, Michael Sussmann provided the FBI, through his friend FBI counsel James Baker, with white papers purporting to detail secret backchannels between the Trump organization and Russia using email servers and Russian supplied Yotafones. Durham would indict Sussmann for making false statements to the FBI in connection with this part of the Operation.

As described above, tech executive Randal Joffe was offered patronage in a future Clinton regime and leveraged the data harvested by his company to massage into existence evidence of clandestine communications between the Trump organization and Russia. At the time, Joffe was already embedded in the public-private Machine through his negotiations with DARPA to sell his data, and through a related connection to a public university.

Starting in August of 2016, Joffe began meeting with Sussmann and Elias and instructing his employees, an executive of another tech company called Packet Forensics, and researchers at a public university who were assigned to a then-pending federal cybersecurity contract with DARPA, to mine data. [248]

Internal emails show Joffe expressly stating ‘that a purpose of this effort was to please certain “VIPs,”’ which Durham interprets to mean Elias, Sussmann and the Clinton campaign. [246] Hilariously, Joffe dubbed the project “Crimson Rhino”, a term I have interpreted to refer to Trump [247].

In response to skepticism from his cronies, Joffe sent an email conceding that the “task is indeed broad” but qualified again that the ability to “provide evidence of *anything* that shows an attempt to behave badly [by the Trump org]” would make “the VIPs … happy.” [252] Joffe stressed that he was looking for a “true story that could be used as the basis for a closer examination.” [252] In other words, like the Page FISA warrant we’ll discuss in part 2, it was a fishing expedition.

As a starting point, and as evidence of how the American tech industry values individual privacy and confidentiality agreements, Joffe provided his cronies with lists “containing the physical addresses, email addresses, Internet Protocol (“IP”) addresses, email domains, and other personal information associated with various Trump associates, including information about some spouses and family members.” [248] Neither of the companies involved were in the business of conducting opposition research [248].

In the ensuing period, Joffe worked with his cronies to massage data, which he then, in cooperation with Sussmann, integrated into specious “white papers” capable of passing muster with journalists and FBI and CIA leadership, but which were easily debunked by technical experts.

The Alfa Bank white paper concluded, for example, that “[t]he Trump Organization is using a very unusually-configured ‘secret’ email server in Pennsylvania for current and ongoing email communications with Alfa Bank (Moscow).” [257] The TOR node and related claims surrounding Alfa Bank were easily refuted by FBI cybersecurity experts [254][258][285].

The Yotafone allegations were even more spurious. Joffe and his cronies mined telephone data purporting to show a network of Russian Yotafone users among Trump’s people. This was also debunked by the FBI, with at least one Yotafone user evidently operating out of Haifa, Israel. [276][282]

To technical experts in the private sector and in the FBI and CIA, the “research” on Alfa Bank and Yotafones was analogous to the technobabble used on Star Trek: technical-sounding incantations used to dazzle non-experts. However, as we’ll see in the next article, this did not stop the FBI from using the white papers as pretext for further surveillance.

Prior to connecting with the FBI and CIA, Sussmann provided the “research” to Eric Lichtblau, a reporter at the New York Times. [248] Fusion also tried to connect Sergei Millian to the operation in a hilarious email to Lichtblau that exposes the kinds of raw intelligence with which opposition researchers evidently manipulate journalists:

“[O]n September 27, 2016 Fritsch and Simpson emailed Millian’ s website (the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce) IP look-up information to Eric Lichtblau at the New York Times…In the email, Fritsch pointed out that “Alfa” was the website service provider for Millian’s website. However, the [Durham] Office determined that the relevant IP information does not indicate that “Alfa Bank” is the service provider, but rather Alfa Telecom, a Lebanese-based telecom company, which appears to have no affiliation with Alfa Bank whatsoever.”

Sussmann then approached his friend James Baker via text message, and under false pretenses that would form the basis of Durham’s indictment of Sussmann, writing:

“Jim- it’s Michael Sussmann. I have something time-sensitive (and sensitive) I need to discuss. Do you have availability for a short meeting tomorrow? I’m coming on my own – not on behalf of a client or company – want to help the Bureau. Thanks.” [255]

Durham observes that Baker welcomed the invitation because Baker considered Sussmann to be a “friend and colleague.” [255]

Consistent with the Steele report laundering operation, Sussmann informed Baker that the press was already in possession of the information and was intent upon publishing it, causing Baker to escalate the matter within the FBI, because “if a news organization were to publish the allegations, any secret communications channel would likely disappear.”[255]

Thus at this point we have insider patronage incentives flowing from the Clinton campaign to Joffe and his employees, and then to the University by way of Joffe’s negotiation leverage over DARPA. Concurrently, Sussmann exploits homosociality to astroturf the defamatory claims to the media and law enforcement/intelligence.

However, this wasn’t enough for Joffe, who independently laundered elements of his “research” through another FBI agent, just as the Steele report was independently laundered by an ex-CHS through the New England field office. [262] After unmasking Joffe as the anonymous source, Durham concludes that the “most likely reason Joffe decided to provide the [information] to the FBI via Cyber Agent-3 anonymously was to create the appearance of corroboration.” [262] Durham says this conclusion is supported by the fact that although Joffe was already a CHS with an FBI handler, he chose to anonymously provide the information to a different FBI agent. [262]

But even this wasn’t enough for the Machine, as Durham notes that the FBI once again received the Alfa Bank whitepaper from yet another CHS in October of 2016. [263]

Further, Sussmann began spamming the CIA in January of 2017 with the fabricated information, first emailing the CIA’s general counsel, who appropriately rebuked Sussmann, before reaching out to a “retired” CIA officer who took the bait.[267]

Sussmann first told the CIA officer about the Clinton Campaign not wanting to take the information to the FBI because it didn’t trust the FBI, which is interesting because this occurred after Sussmann, a representative of the Campaign, had himself taken the whitepapers to the FBI, which means he either unethically disobeyed his client’s wishes or was lying to the CIA officer. [267] Sussmann then invokes the same media manipulation strategy he used with the FBI:

Retired CIA Employee-I also recalled Sussmann’s statement that, should the CIA not investigate the allegations, he would provide them to the New York Times. 1554 Following the meeting, Retired CIA Employee-I drafted a memorandum describing the meeting and sent it to active CIA officers, who then scheduled a meeting with Sussmann for early February 2017 [267]

The CIA would go on to easily debunk Sussmann’s information. [270] But this didn’t stop Sussman, who simultaneously began spamming friendly Congressmen with the data.

In March of 2017, Congress then begins spamming Comey with Alfa Bank allegations, demanding investigations. [272] During the Congressional operation, Sussman would not reveal that the data were sourced from conflicted private interests but instead insisted that he was “working with the government” on it, and that he was “frustrated” with the FBI’s inaction. [279]

Eventually, former FBI agents turned Congressional staffers begin engaging in their own related “opposition research,” culminating in a suspicious series of events connected to Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, which we’ll discuss in the next article [272].

These researchers in turn tried to rope in the Department of Defense’s (“DOD”) Enhanced Attribution Program, bringing DOD staffers in for a briefing by the House intelligence committee. At the outset of the briefing, the intelligence committee researchers immediately cut off the DOD staff and began showing them articles from the press about the Alfa Bank and Yotafone operations, thereby demonstrating the reciprocal function of the press in legitimizing information to manipulate public institutions like the DOD. [281]

During this same time period, Fusion GPS continued to astroturf the Alfa Bank story to the press with the express purpose of drawing attention away from Wikileaks:

“on October 18, 2016 – two weeks before news stories would first appear about the Alfa Bank allegations – Mark Hosenball of Reuters emailed Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritsch, stating in part, “anything new Russkie/Donald wise?,” to which Fritsch [at Fusion] responded, “‘do the [expletive] Alfa Bank secret comms story. It’s hugely important. Forget the wikileaks side show.”

As part of the laundering operation, Fusion encourages the press to contact the university to corroborate the claims, while of course leaving out any reference to Joffe and the university’s conflict of interest related to the contract. [264] Fusion further points to public evidence that FBI Director Comey was in possession of the research as corroboration:

Fritsch forwarded to [Slate reporter] Foer a tweet stating that the U.S. Senate Majority Leader had ·’talked w/ top NatSec officials who say that [the FBI Director] ‘possesses explosive information’ about Trump’s ties to Russia.” 1524 Fritsch’s email stated: “time to hurry.”t 525 Foer replied “Here’s the first 250 words,” and included in the email a partial draft of an article about Alfa Bank and Trump on which Foer was working for Fritsch’s review. 1526 The reporter published an article shortly thereafter. 1527

Thus, we can see how easy it is to exploit the legitimacy of multiple sources like the FBI, Congress, and a public university to satisfy the press’ minimal criteria for newsworthiness. While skeptics will point to the measured tone of the New York Times’ coverage of the Alfa Bank disinformation [256], as Steve Sailer has pointed out, what’s salient is what the New York Times chooses to cover and not necessarily the content of the coverage itself, given the Times’ outstanding public influence and legitimacy.

The ensuing trial of Sussmann further provides us with a roadmap for insulating participants from liability. For example, both Marc Elias and Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook testified that they did not authorize Sussmann to go to the FBI, effectively insulating Clinton from the operation. [266] John Podesta likewise indicated that he was only aware that Perkins Coie was performing opposition research. [277]

The model described above demonstrates how homosociality and the penetration of legitimate institutions can empower a machine to exploit legitimacy to accomplish a political assassination. It further shows how each of the legitimate institutions, their interpenetration, and their collective penetration by a machine can make the private sector collude with the public sector, law enforcement and intelligence dictate what is newsworthy, and the press dictate what is relevant and corroboratory for law enforcement and intelligence.

We’ve also learned how individual and entity-level compartmentalization allows a machine to insulate favored conspirators from culpability while exploiting legitimacy and patronage to farm patsies and fanatical fall guys.

Yet this article did not deeply delve into evidence of conspiratorial thinking and behavior by key players in legitimate institutions. Further, it left open the question of why these defamation laundering operations were so successful, ultimately catalyzing and informing more intrusive and harmful actions by the FBI and the private sector.

Each of these unexplored factors are interrelated. The conspirators exercise control and direction at an attenuated distance from lower-level employees who really aren’t in on the game, but whose behaviors are made predictable (and therefore manipulable) by the Machine.

The next article addresses these factors.


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