Special counsel John Durham is using court filings to spread conspiracy theories about the 2016 election, attorneys for defendant Michael Sussmann said in a late Monday court filing.
Durham set off a furor in conservative media over the weekend after adding some more flavor to his now-familiar mélange of allegations waving toward a broad conspiracy involving the Clinton campaign. In a Friday night court filing, Durham said that a tech executive linked to Sussmann had “exploited” access to White House servers by “mining” them for data in a bid to gather “derogatory information about Donald Trump.
Via that access, Durham claimed, the executive was able to observe internet traffic from “(i) a particular healthcare provider, (ii) Trump Tower, (iii) Donald Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and (iv) the Executive Office of the President of the United States.”
Conservative media and the Trump family seized upon the allegation to dust off a familiar refrain: that the Obama administration and/or the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign had “spied” on Trump during or after the election.
Durham did not specify in the filing under what administration the alleged “gathering” by the tech executive — identified by the New York Times and others as Rodney Joffe — took place. But the narrative seemed to tee up a conclusion that conservative outlets quickly leapt to: that the White House had been monitored during the Trump administration.
This led to an outpouring of rage on the right, which cast the filing as proof that Trump was right about the spying allegations all along.
Kash Patel, the former Devin Nunes operative, said that Durham had revealed a plan to “infiltrate” Trump Tower and the White House. Fox News used that quote to headline an article claiming that the filing demonstrated that the Clinton campaign masterminded the effort.
Per Sussmann’s and Joffe’s attorneys, that is not true.
“The Special Counsel is well aware that the data provided to Agency-2 pertained only to the period of time before Mr. Trump took office, when Barack Obama was President,” reads the filing from Sussmann. (Agency-2 is widely reported to be the CIA, to which Durham alleged Sussmann relayed Joffe’s findings.)
Joffe’s attorneys separately told the New York Times that Joffe only examined data from the Executive Office of the President while Obama was in office, and that it was part of an attempt to see whether there was malware on White House servers — a job for which he had been hired.
Sussmann’s attorneys added that Durham didn’t allege anything to do with the supposed spying scheme in the initial indictment, and questioned how it was relevant to the case.
“Sadly, the Special Counsel seems to be succeeding in his effort to instigate unfair and prejudicial media coverage of Mr. Sussmann’s case,” the filing reads. “Indeed, since the Motion was filed, numerous outlets published stories suggesting that the Special Counsel’s latest filing revealed a vast conspiracy involving Mr. Sussmann and the Clinton Campaign.”
Trump himself added to the elaborate universe created around the Durham filing, saying that it vindicated his grievances.
“The press refuses to even mention the major crime that took place,” Trump said in a Monday statement. “This in itself is a scandal, the fact that a story so big, so powerful and so important for the future of our nation is getting zero coverage from LameStream, is being talked about all over the world.”
Sussmann attorneys used that to make argue a point about how politicized Durham’s probe has become.
“Worse still, Mr. Trump seized upon the Special Counsel’s filing, stating that it ‘provides indisputable evidence that my campaign and presidency were spied on by operatives paid by the Hillary Clinton Campaign in an effort to develop a completely fabricated connection to Russia,'” attorneys added.