Stunned Republicans demanded answers Sunday after an explosive court filing linked the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign to a purported surveillance operation aimed at digging up dirt on Donald Trump both before and after he won the presidential election.
Special counsel John Durham alleged in a court filing Friday that a tech company working with a lawyer for the Clinton campaign exploited its access to servers for Mr. Trump’s residence, Trump Tower and the White House to mine data that would establish an “inference” and a “narrative” connecting Mr. Trump to Russia.
Mr. Trump has long accused the Clinton campaign of spying on him, claims that Democrats and mainstream media figures have dismissed as a conspiracy theory. But Republicans said this weekend’s bombshell allegations show it was even more extensive than previously thought.
“Yep, there was spying going on, and it was worse than we thought because they were spying on the sitting president of the United States, and it goes right to the Clinton campaign,” Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, said Sunday on “Fox & Friends.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted Saturday that “Democrats got caught spying, first on candidate Trump and then when he was President IN THE WHITE HOUSE.”
“The Russia hoax was a lie from day one — manufactured by his political enemies — and every person involved with this un-American activity must be brought to justice,” he said.
House Republicans are poised to do more than bluster.
The GOP is widely expected to retake the House in November, meaning that some of the fiercest critics of the Democrats’ collusion claims are poised to take over key investigative committees.
Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that he and Mr. Jordan, the ranking House Judiciary Committee member, would use “every aspect of congressional power to get to the bottom of this.”
“We have to get to the truth. This is a threat to our democracy itself,” Mr. Turner said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” “It doesn’t matter really which political campaign this is or which political party this is. This is so wrong, and allegations of such a level of illegal activity that goes directly to our faith in our own government, that the truth must be found.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise called the details “shocking,” tweeting that “if they can do this to a president, imagine what they can do to you. Scary. Time for serious consequences.”
In the filing, Mr. Durham says the government has evidence that an unnamed tech executive “exploited” an arrangement with the government to monitor Mr. Trump’s internet traffic at Trump Tower, Mr. Trump’s Central Park West apartment, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), and an unnamed health-care provider.
The tech executive was only identified in court filings as “Tech Executive-1”. In previous filings by Mr. Durham, “Tech Executive-1” referred to Rodney Joffe, an internet entrepreneur and internet data expert.
“Tech Executive-1 and his associates exploited this arrangement by mining the [EOP] for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump,” Mr. Durham writes.
Mr. Trump said Mr. Durham, who is investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion probe, had revealed the depth of the Democrats’ scheme to undermine his presidency.
He said the filing provides “indisputable evidence” that his campaign and presidency were spied on by Clinton campaign operatives.
“This is a scandal far greater in scope and magnitude than Watergate and those who were involved in and knew about this spying operation should be subject to criminal prosecution,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “In a stronger period of time in our country, this crime would have been punishable by death.”
Clinton campaign billed
The stunning accusations by Mr. Durham were included in a court filing alleging former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann has a conflict of interest with his attorneys.
Mr. Sussmann has been charged with making a false statement to the FBI about a now-debunked claim of a secret communication channel between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank. He has pleaded not guilty.
The filing alleges that Mr. Sussmann worked with a technology executive, an internet company and the Clinton campaign to assemble and convey the allegations to the FBI.
Mr. Durham said that billing records show that Mr. Sussmann “repeatedly billed the Clinton campaign” for his work on Russian bank allegations.
In July 2016, Mr. Sussmann, the tech executive and “U.S. investigative firm” hired by “Law Firm 1” on behalf of the Clinton campaign worked with researchers at internet companies to put together data and white papers.
“In connection with these efforts Tech Executive-1 exploited his access to non-public and/or proprietary Internet data,” Mr. Durham wrote. “Tech Executive-1 also enlisted the assistance of researchers at a U.S-based university who were receiving and analyzing large amounts of Internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract.”
Mr. Durham said the tech executive used the researchers to “mine internet data” to establish “an inference” and “narrative” tying Mr. Trump to Russia.
“In doing so, Tech Executive-1 indicated that he was seeking to please certain ‘VIPs’, referring to individuals at Law Firm-1 and the Clinton campaign,” Mr. Durham wrote.
The filing also states that the tech executive had come to access and maintain dedicated services for the Executive Office of the President as “part of a sensitive arrangement, whereby it provided [domain name system] DNS resolution services.
‘Russian phones’ debunked
Mr. Durham also alleged that Mr. Sussmann relied on the purported DNS traffic from Trump Tower, Mr. Trump’s apartment building and the health care provider to give the FBI additional allegations about Mr. Trump.
Those allegations sent to the FBI included claims that Mr. Trump and his associates were using rare, Russian-made wireless phones in the vicinity of the White House and other locations, Mr. Durham wrote.
The special counsel said he found no support for this allegation.
The tech executive’s claims that Mr. Trump and his associates were using rare Russian phones were suspicious DNS lookups affiliated with a Russian mobile phone provider.
But Mr. Durham said those lookups were far from rare.
He said between 2014 and 2017, there were more than 3 million lookups of Russian Phone IP addresses that originated with U.S.-based IP addresses.
Fewer than 1,000 of these lookups originated with IP addresses affiliated with Trump Tower, Mr. Durham said. The lookups near the White House also began as early 2014 during the Obama administration, the filing says.
“Another fact which the allegation omitted,” Mr. Durham wrote about the lookups during the Obama era.
Mr. Durham alleged that Mr. Sussmann took these allegations to a second government agency after first bringing them to the attention of the FBI. The special counsel says that like Mr. Sussmann’s meeting with the FBI, he also claimed he was not representing a client, when in fact he was there on behalf of the Clinton campaign.
“In his meeting with Agency-2 employees, the defendant also made a substantially similar false statement as he made to the FBI General Counsel,” Mr. Durham wrote. “In particular, the defendant asserted that he was not representing a particular client in conveying the above allegations.”
“In truth and in fact, the defendant was representing Tech Executive-1 — a fact the defendant subsequently acknowledged under oath in December 2017 testimony before Congress, without identifying the client by name,” the filing continued.
The 13-page document was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“That is what is so frightening here,” said Mr. Jordan. “You had the government working with the Clinton campaign to go after the Republican Party’s nominee for president, to spy on that campaign. We’ve never seen anything like that in history.”
Kash Patel, a chief investigator of the Trump-Russia collusion probe for former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, said the filing “definitively shows that the Hillary Clinton campaign directly funded and ordered its lawyers at Perkins Coie to orchestrate a criminal enterprise to fabricate a connection between President Trump and Russia.”
Mr. Sussmann is among three people indicated by Mr. Durham, who was tasked in 2019 to probe the FBI’s actions in the early stages of the Trump-Russia probe.
Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pled guilty to one count of making a false statement, a charge that had arisen from the Durham probe. He was sentenced to a year of probation for altering an email that made it easier for the FBI to surveil a member of the Trump campaign.
In October, Mr. Durham indicted Igor Danchenko, a Washington-based analyst who was a key source for the so-called Steele dossier. Mr. Danchenko is charged with five counts of lying to the FBI about where he got his information for the anti-Trump dossier.