Dick Durbin Warns That Trump’s DOJ Nominee Is Linked To Putin

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Smoke and mirrors is the way that the Trump administration operates. Deflect attention from something critical by focusing the news cycle on something altogether different. This coming week will be focused on the SCOTUS nomination, which means the appointment of former Sessions staffer Brian Benczkowski to head the Department of Justice Criminal Division could fall through the cracks unnoticed — and that could be disastrous. Benczkowski “previously represented Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions, whose owners have ties to President Vladimir V. Putin.”

The back story is that computer experts discovered a stream of communications between a Trump Organization server and an Alfa Bank server, which fueled speculation about a back channel. The FBI investigated the matter and concluded that the servers’ interactions were not surreptitious exchanges between the campaign and Russia, but were emails promoting Trump hotel properties sent by a server controlled by a marketing firm named Cendyn. New York Times:

[Benczkowski’s law partner] Mr. Dinh attached two reports by independent cybersecurity experts — one by Mandiant, which looked at data transmissions in 2016, and another by Stroz Friedberg, which looked at another set in 2017 — and concluded that the data were not evidence of substantive contact between the bank and the Trump organization. The Mandiant report was spurred in part by records submitted to Alfa Bank by The Times last year as it investigated the data transmissions.

“As the victim of an apparent malicious hoax, Alfa Bank remains eager to get to the bottom of the false allegations against it, and stands ready to assist the committee and all other government authorities as needed,” Mr. Dinh wrote.

But Mandiant’s investigation of Alfa Bank was, at best, cursory. According to people familiar with Mandiant’s review, its experts were shown largely metadata, the information that travels along with a message, for the communications that took place. The contents of the messages — if there were any — were not available.

Without a much deeper forensic examination, the company could not determine the purpose of the communications. Its resulting report was carefully hedged, noting that without more study, it could not give the bank a clean bill of health. But the bank used that report, however limited, to make the case that it had been exonerated.

This is not something that can be allowed to slip under the wire.

 

 

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