The Mueller investigation might have vindicated President Trump, but the Durham investigation is detailing the effort that went into investigating him and his family in 2016. On May 16, the Michael Sussmann trial began, with each day’s testimony revealing more and more about the investigation into Russian collusion. Today’s testimony revealed the enthusiasm with which the leadership of the FBI delved into the data allegedly brought to them by Michael Sussmann.
Last week, James Baker testified about the meeting with Sussmann. A text message that had been released to the public as a part of prosecutor John Durham’s filings showed that Sussmann told Baker that he was coming on his own accord to present evidence on a “sensitive” matter. Baker even made notes during the meeting to that effect, also entered into evidence. Baker would also testify that he met with then-FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andy McCabe to brief them on the evidence presented to him by Sussmann.
Sussmann has been charged with lying to the FBI. Durham and his team of prosecutors have presented evidence they say is Sussmann billing the Clinton campaign for his time spent meeting with Baker.
Testimony on Tuesday by multiple FBI agents involved in investigating the case related that the leadership at the agency were “fired up” regarding the alleged covert communications between the Trump Organization and the Russian Alfa Bank. The bank is said to be backed by the Kremlin.
Other riveting testimony during the Sussmann trial shows that the Clinton campaign not only knew about the purported evidence – which would be two thumb drives and white papers – and that Hillary Clinton personally gave the go-ahead to release the information to a journalist at Slate magazine. Testimony holds that the campaign hoped the journalist would do due diligence and report on the story with the findings.
However, the now-debunked evidence only served to further divide an already-splintered country, at least politically. Furthermore, the investigation took more than one year to complete and cost American taxpayers over $40 million to complete. At the end of the investigation by Robert Mueller, no wrongdoing on the part of the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign was found.
Yet, the damage was already done. Many Americans believed that Trump was a puppet of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and the fallout would lead to divisions across the American government.
After the meeting, James Baker passed the thumb drives and white papers along to Bill Priestap, the head of the counterintelligence division at the Bureau. The cyber division had initially opened the investigation, but, the cyber division at the FBI determined that “there was no cyber equity, and that the conclusions that were drawn in the white papers were erroneous.”
On Tuesday, Special Agent Curtis Heide testified about messages between himself and a supervisory agent, Joe Pientka. Pientka sent a message to Heide: “People on the 7th floor to include Director are fired up about this server. Did you guyes open a case? Reach out and put tools on?”
Heide replied: “Roger. We are opening a CI (counterintelligence) case today.”
Pientka added in his original message that “Priestap says its not an option – we must do it.”
Multiple individuals have testified that the “7th floor” is a reference to the FBI leadership – including Comey and McCabe – as their offices are located in that area of the building.
Heide offered even more compelling testimony, however. Heide said that “the FBI was unable to substantiate any of the allegations in the white paper.”
Heide’s testimony corroborates that of Special Agent Scott Hellman from last week. Hellman testified that the “alleged covert communications channel between Trump and Russia that Sussmann brought to the FBI turned out to be untrue.” Hellman added that he “did not agree with the narrative.”
Hellman also testified that “whoever drafted the narrative describing the DNS data was 5150,” which is a term to describe someone with mental issues. Hellman would eventually say that “5150” for the Bureau means that “the individual who came to the conclusions was suffering from some mental disability.”
Baker also testified that the Bureau’s investigation found that it “did not reveal there was some kind of surreptitious communications channel.”