Hillary Clinton lied about Russiagate. Hillary paid experts to create two data sets, one purportedly showing Russian cellphones accessing Trump Wi-Fi networks, and another allegedly showing a Trump computer pinging an Alfa Bank server in Russia. We’ve seen the lipstick on the collar before, but how do we know this time she was in on it all?
Because former Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias, on May 18, 2022, during the trial of his former partner, Michael Sussmann, swore to it under oath. Special Counsel John Durham brought Sussmann to trial for allegedly lying to the FBI and committing perjury. Sussmann claimed he was not working for a client when he was, in fact, surreptitiously representing the Clinton campaign. Small world: Sussmann previously represented the DNC in litigation surrounding the server break-in.
Elias also admitted to briefing Clinton campaign officials, including Clinton herself, campaign chair John Podesta, spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri, and policy director Jake Sullivan, now Joe Biden’s national-security adviser. Elias also personally briefed campaign manager Robby Mook.
In a bombshell moment in the Sussmann trial, Mook testified that Hillary Clinton signed off on the plan to push out the information about the link between Trump and Alfa Bank despite concerns that the connection was dubious at best. Mook’s testimony is the first confirmation that Clinton was directly involved in the decision to feed the Trump-Alfa story. It explains some of her later actions.
Here’s the new timeline of events, revealing the “why” behind the timing of Russiagate:
On July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey issued a statement clearing Hillary Clinton of any wrong doing in connection with her private email server. That removed what was thought to be her last major hurdle to nomination.
Then, Wikileaks released information taken from the DNC servers which showed, interalia, the Clinton campaign’s efforts to disparage Bernie Sanders. The leaks broke during the Democratic Convention (July 25 to 28) and threatened to split the party. It was crisis time for Democrats.
Concurrent with the Wikileaks disclosure and the sense of panic inside the campaign at the 2016 Democratic National Convention came Clinton’s sign-off to begin the Russiagate dirty tricks campaign (as Mook testified to, Smoking Gun One). That is the specific “why” behind the timing of the Russiagate narrative.
On July 28, 2016, CIA Director John Brennan briefed President Obama on Hillary Clinton’s plan to tie candidate Trump to Russia as a means of distracting the public (Smoking Gun Two). Why Brennan, from CIA, was briefing Obama on internal Democratic Party strategy is unclear. However, a highly redacted document states, “We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED]. Cite alleged approved by Hillary Clinton on July 26 a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service.”
The FBI then opened its omnibus investigation into all things Trump-Russia, Crossfire Hurricane, on July 31, 2016, a Sunday, coincidentally only days after Clinton initially approved the dirty-tricks campaign and just as the Democratic convention ended with Clinton’s nomination.
Crossfire Hurricane was opened on the ostensible basis of information about Trump campaign member George Papadopoulos relayed to investigators by an Australian diplomat. Many believe the timing of the investigation suggests it was actually based the Clinton campaign’s disclosures of the Steele dossier to the FBI, not diplomatic gossip about Papadopoulos. Steele himself ran the dossier data to the FBI and media the same way Sussmann ran the Alfa Bank data to the FBI and media, claiming no link to the Clinton campaign.
Brennan may have been personally tipped off by Jake Sullivan, now Joe Biden’s national-security advisor and the most likely “foreign-policy advisor” inside the Clinton campaign to have run the Russiagate caper. As CIA Director, Brennan briefed Obama on Clinton’s July 26 sign-off on the dirty-tricks campaign. His own agency would not come to the same conclusions until September 2016, when it forwarded to the FBI an investigative referral about Hillary Clinton. If not for a tip-off, then how did Brennan, always a public Hillary supporter, know before his agency did?
Aiming for an October surprise (a game-changing political event breaking in late October, early enough to influence the election but too late for the opposition to effectively rebut), Sussmann then met with FBI attorney James Baker (now working at Twitter) to lay out the Alfa Bank and smartphone story on September 18, 2016.
The FBI (via fraud) on October 21 obtained the first FISA warrant against a Trump team member. And following a press release by Jake Sullivan, Hillary tweeted on October 31, 2016, that Trump had a secret server communicating with Russia (Smoking Gun Three). She knew her campaign paid to create that information and push it into the public eye via Sussmann and a woman named Laura Seago.
Seago was an analyst at Fusion GPS, the organization that commissioned the infamous Steele dossier on behalf of Clinton. Seago testified at the Sussmann trial that she and others went to journalist Franklin Foer’s house to pitch the story, telling him it had been vetted by “highly credible computer scientists” who “seemed to think these allegations were credible.” Foer ran the story on October 31, 2016, timed with Sullivan’s statement and Hillary’s tweet suggesting the server connecting Trump with Alfa Bank was used as a clandestine-communications tool. The story stated “the knee was hit in Moscow, the leg kicked in New York.”
Clearer? Comey cleared Clinton of legal trouble over her emails. The last barrier to nomination was thought to have been breached. Then WikiLeaks disclosures threatened to derail the convention. Something else was needed. Hillary signed off on the Russiagate dirty-tricks campaign per Mook and Brennan. Just days later, the FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane based on either flimsy foreign gossip or the Clinton paid-for Steele dossier. Hillary and Sullivan timed their disclosures with the media making near-identical claims.
So does all this matter? Yes. “The trial is the vehicle Durham is using to help bring out the truth, to tell a story of a political campaign that in two instances pursued information that was totally fabricated… to mislead the American voter,” said Kevin Brock, the FBI’s former assistant director for intelligence. The Sussmann trial shows that if nothing else, Hillary Clinton herself was personally the start and the end of Russiagate’s false story. As dirty tricks go, this was a helluva tale to sell to a gullible public and a credulous media.
But so what? Politicians approve dirt being spread on their opponents all the time. The short answer? They don’t peddle outright, fabricated lies, which constitutes defamation. And Jake Sullivan, Biden’s active national-security advisor, played a still-hidden role in all of it.
And what kind of president would Hillary have made if she was willing to lie like this to get elected? She is all appetite, still active in her party, and still a dangerous animal. The spiteful Clinton still maintains that Trump has ties to Russia and, through surrogates, kept Russiagate alive to defang the Trump administration even after she lost the election.
The real insurrection—the fact that Russiagate did not end with Trump’s victory—is chilling. Comey and Brennan repurposed the false information from a campaign smear and turned it into bait, which they dangled in front of Robert Mueller for three years in hopes he would stumble on to something illegal once he exercised his powers as special prosecutor. This was a coup attempt against a sitting president.
Meanwhile, Twitter has still not removed the Clinton and Sullivan Russiagate tweets from 2016 nor marked them as “disinformation.” That silence allows the lie a second life, which is important, because Trump is almost certainly going to run for president again, and polls show almost half of Americans still think he colluded with Russia.
It is easy enough to still say “so what?” Most people who did not support Hillary Clinton long ago concluded that she is a liar and untrustworthy. Her supporters know she’ll never run for public office again, hence the sense of anti-climax.
What matters in the end is less the details of Hillary’s lie than that as someone close to being elected as her would lie about such a thing, treason, claiming her opponent was working for Russia against the interests of the United States to which he would soon swear an oath. This week’s revelations and the way they fill in “motive” in the timeline are bombshells, if you blow the smoke away.
No doubt that, in many minds, Clinton’s manipulations are measured alongside Trump’s transgressions, “whataboutism.” Those who think that way may have missed the day in kindergarten when everyone else was taught how two wrongs don’t make a right. Trump did not win to absolve Hillary of her sins.
And those who worry about the 2024 election being stolen over simple vote miscounts are thinking way too small. If you want to really worry, think like a Clinton.
Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.