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The unnamed technology executive from special counsel John Durham’s most recent indictment, who allegedly hired now-indicted lawyer Michael Sussmann and helped push claims of a secret backchannel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank, has been revealed.
Rodney Joffe, senior vice president of Neustar, was identified as "Tech Executive-1" on Thursday in a CNN report that said Durham issued more subpoenas to the high-powered, Democrat-connected law firm Perkins Coie that, until recently, had employed Sussmann.
Online sleuths figured out earlier this month Joffe was likely the unnamed technology executive. Alfa Bank, which denied the existence of a backchannel, is pursuing subpoenas directed at Neustar and Joffe in its own civil lawsuit.
The grand jury indictment this month against Sussmann centers on a September 2016 meeting between him and then-FBI General Counsel James Baker in which Sussmann passed along allegations claiming covert communications between Russia’s Alfa Bank and former President Donald Trump's business.
Although Durham alleged Sussmann told Baker he was not working for any specific client, the special counsel contends Sussmann was secretly doing the bidding of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and billing her campaign for it, as well as working on behalf of Joffe.
Joffe features prominently in the criminal case against Sussmann, who denies any wrongdoing.
“Sussmann’s statement to the FBI General Counsel that he was not acting on behalf of any client was knowingly and intentionally false. In truth and in fact, and as Sussmann well knew, Sussmann acted on behalf of and in coordination with two specific clients of Law Firm-1, i.e., Tech Executive-1 and the Clinton Campaign, in assembling and conveying these allegations. In particular, and as also alleged above, Tech Executive-1 consulted and relied on Sussmann as his lawyer to assist in disseminating the Russian Bank-1 allegations," the indictment says.
Shortly after Clinton’s loss to Trump in November 2016, Joffe said in an email, "I was tentatively offered the top [cybersecurity] job by the Democrats when it looked like they'd win. I definitely would not take the job under Trump."
Sussmann, a high-profile Washington, D.C. cybersecurity lawyer and Justice Department veteran who assisted the Democratic National Committee dealing with Russian cybertheft targeting Democratic emails earlier in 2016, pleaded not guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI in D.C. federal court.
Durham noted Joffe initially hired Sussmann in February 2015 “in connection with a matter involving an agency of the U.S. government,” and Sussmann “frequently served as outside counsel to Internet Company-1, which was a significant source of revenue” for himself and Perkins Coie. Durham said Joffe served as Sussmann’s “primary point of contact at Internet Company-1” during the relevant 2016 and 2017 time frame.
Durham said a computer researcher who goes by the moniker “Tea Leaves” — dubbed “Originator 1” in the indictment — was a “business associate” of Joffe’s and “assembled purported DNS data reflecting apparent DNS lookups between” Alfa Bank and an alleged Trump Organization email domain, with data spanning early May to late July 2016. Durham said Joffe “and others” were in possession of the “Russian Bank Data” by July 2016.
Joffe alerted Sussmann about the Alfa Bank claims by July 2016, Durham said, and “over the ensuing weeks, and as part of their lawyer-client relationship,” Sussmann and Joffe “engaged in efforts with Campaign Lawyer-1” — identifiable as former Perkins Coie lawyer and Clinton campaign general counsel.
“Individuals acting on behalf of the Clinton Campaign to share information about the Russian Bank Data with the media and others, claiming that it demonstrated the existence of a secret communications channel between the Trump Organization and Russian Bank-1," according to the report.
Clinton tweeted about the Alfa Bank allegations in the closing days of the 2016 race on Halloween.
“Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank," she said.
Clinton also shared a statement from Jake Sullivan, her foreign policy adviser who is now President Joe Biden's national security adviser, on "New Report Exposing Trump’s Secret Line of Communication to Russia.”
Slate reported at the end of October 2016 that researchers found “a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.” The New York Times then published a report that stated, “The FBI ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts.”
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in his December 2019 report on the Russia investigation the FBI "concluded by early February 2017 that there were no such links” between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. Horowitz also criticized the FBI for 17 “significant errors or omissions,” including reliance on British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier. That research was funded by the Clinton campaign through Fusion GPS, hired by Marc Elias, who was a Perkins Coie lawyer and general counsel for Clinton's presidential campaign.
A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report in 2020 did not find "covert communications between Alfa Bank and Trump Organization personnel."
“Rodney Joffe is a globally recognized pioneer and preeminent cybersecurity expert who has always acted in a professional and apolitical manner," Steve Tyrrell, an attorney for Joffe, told the Washington Examiner. "For over 15 years, he has deployed his expertise on behalf of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies and continues to be an invaluable partner in their efforts to protect the United States and its people.”
The indictment said Sussmann, Joffe, and Elias “coordinated and communicated about the Russian Bank-1 allegations during telephone calls and meetings, which Sussmann billed to the Clinton Campaign” from late July through mid-August 2016.
Sussmann, Joffe, and Elias met in a Perkins Coie office on Aug. 12, 2016, with Sussmann billing the meeting to the Clinton campaign, according to records cited in the indictment. The special counsel said the trio conducted another conference call, also billed to the Clinton campaign, the next day.
Sussmann and Elias held an in-person meeting on Aug. 19, 2016, which Durham said Sussmann’s calendar labeled as a “Meeting with Rodney” and that he once again billed to Clinton’s campaign.
Durham also said Joffe “exchanged emails with personnel from the U.S. Investigative Firm” — identifiable as Fusion GPS — later in August 2016.
The indictment noted that on Sept. 17 and Sept. 18, 2016 — the weekend before Sussmann’s Monday meeting with Baker — Sussmann “continued to work on disseminating the Russian Bank-1 allegations on behalf of Tech Executive 1 and the Clinton Campaign, and continued to bill his work to the campaign.”
Ultimately, Sussmann billed his meeting with Baker to the Clinton campaign as “work and communications regarding confidential project."
Joffe’s lawyer said the indictment against Sussmann "is full of cherry-picked portions of emails and gratuitously presents an incomplete and misleading picture of his actions and role in the events in question."
"Mr. Joffe stands behind the rigorous research and analysis that was conducted, culminating in the report he felt was his patriotic duty to share with the FBI. He had had a pre-existing relationship with Mr. Sussmann involving unrelated matters and sought his advice, having no idea his firm represented the Clinton campaign," Tyrrell added.
The New York Times published a report on Thursday that revealed the names of other people in the orbit of the Alfa Bank-related indictment.
The indictment’s “Researcher-1” was identified as Manos Antonakakis, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech. “Researcher-2” is David Dagon, a data scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology.“Originator-1” is April Lorenzen, the chief data scientist at the Zetalytics information services firm.
Durham said in August 2016 a federal government agency “was in the process of finalizing, but had not yet signed, a cybersecurity research contract with” a school.
"The primary purpose of the Agency-1 Contract was for University-I researchers to receive and analyze large quantities of public and non-public data (including DNS data) from various Internet companies in order to identify the perpetrators of malicious cyber-attacks and protect U.S. national security,” the indictment said.
Joffe “tasked” Lorenzen and “two computer researchers” — Antonakakis and Dagon, who worked at Georgia Tech — “to search broadly through Internet data for any information about Trump's potential ties to Russia,” the indictment said. Durham said Joffe’s “goal” was to support an "inference" and "narrative" regarding Trump that would please certain “VIPs.”
“University-1” appears to be Georgia Tech and “Agency-1” appears to be the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
A May 2016 press release from the school said “Georgia Tech researchers have been awarded a $2.9 million contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a cybersecurity method that will identify and defend against low-volume distributed denial of service attacks.”
"DARPA is cooperating fully with the FBI and Department of Justice," Jared Adams, the chief of communications at DARPA, told the Washington Examiner. "Since this matter involves an ongoing criminal investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."
Joffe appears to have referred to himself as “Max” in a 2018 article by the New Yorker pushing the Alfa Bank claims. “Max” described himself as “a John McCain Republican.”
Joffe has a lengthy history of working with the U.S. government. He was named to a third term on the FCC’s Communications, Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council in 2015, and in 2013 he received the FBI Director’s Award for Outstanding Cyber Investigation “given his role in uncovering and dismantling the Butterfly Botnet.”
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Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy