FBI’s Russian Hack-and-Leak Investigation as Disclosed by the Sussmann Trial

Now that he has been acquitted, it’s easy to conclude the Michael Sussmann prosecution was a pointless right wing conspiracy theory. It was!

But the exhibits that came out at trial are a worthwhile glimpse of both the FBI’s investigation into the 2016 Russian hack of Democrats and the Bureau’s shoddy investigation of the Alfa Bank anomalies.

I’ve started unpacking what a shitshow the FBI investigation into the latter was here and collecting technical exhibits pertaining the investigation here (though that post is currently out of date).

As to the Russian hack-and-leak, Sussmann’s team facilitated the process with a summary exhibit they included showing a selection of FBI communications pertaining to the investigation that either involve or mention Sussmann. Sussmann introduced these documents to show how obvious his ties to the Democrats would have been to the FBI, including to some people involved in the Alfa Bank investigation. A few of these communications refute specific claims Durham made, showing that meetings or communications Durham argued must relate to the Alfa Bank effort could be explained, in one case far more easily, as part of the hack-and-leak response. That is, some of these documents show that Durham was taking evidence of victimization by Russia and using it instead to argue that Sussmann was unfairly victimizing Trump.



Below, I’ve grouped the communications by topic (though a number of these communications span several topics). Note that Latham & Watkins’ paralegal only used the last date on these communications, which I will adopt. But a number reflect a communication chain that extends months and includes dates that are far more important to the Durham prosecution.

Some of these files include topics that have attracted a great deal of often misleading coverage, such as the efforts to get server images from the Democrats. Importantly, by the time the FBI asked for server images, according to these communications, the only place to get them was at CrowdStrike.

I don’t believe DNC/DCCC have the images that CS took. Only CS have those. It’s like paying ATM fees to your bank to get your cash. DNC/DCCC will be charged to get the images back.

After some discussion about who would pay CrowdStrike to create a second image, the firm offered to do it for free.

These communications also give a sense of the extent to which Democrats faced new and perceived threats all through the election. Given the communications below and some details I know of the Democrats’ response to the attacks, I suspect these communications do not include real attempted attacks, either because they were not reported or because the report went to FBI via another channel. While CrowdStrike attempted to ensure Sussmann was always in the loop, for example, that discipline was not maintained. And we know CrowdStrike found the compromise of the Democrats analytics hosted on AWS in September, a compromise that may only show up in these communications mentioned in passing. Some in the FBI seemed entirely unsympathetic to the paranoia that suffering a nation-state attack during an election caused, which couldn’t have helped already sour relations between the FBI and Hillary’s people.

Perhaps the most interesting communications — to me at least — pertain to efforts to authenticate the documents that got publicly posted and to identify any alterations to them. At least as laid out in these communications, the Democrats were way behind the public in identifying key alterations to documents posted by Guccifer 2.0, and it’s unclear whether the FBI was any further ahead. But these discussions show what kind of alterations the Democrats were able to identify (such as font changes) as well as which publicly posted documents the FBI was sharing internally.

FBI public statements

160614 DX102 A discussion of Jim Trainor’s preparation for a meeting with Ellen Nakashima in advance of her June 14, 2016 reporting the hack and CrowdStrike’s attribution. Among other things, they note Nakashima’s confidence that GOP PACs were also targeted.

160725 DX112 This email chain between Sussmann and Trainor captured Sussmann’s frustration that FBI made an announcement of an investigation into the DNC hack without first running the statement by Sussmann.

160729 DX117 Before FBI sent out a statement about the DCCC hack, Jim Trainor sent Sussmann their draft statement. In response, Sussmann complained that FBI said they were aware of media reports but not of the hack itself. The timing of this exchange is important because Durham’s team repeatedly described a meeting between Marc Elias and Sussmann that day pertaining to a server as relating to the Alfa Bank anomaly.

Points of contact

160616 DX105 An email thread sent within FBI OGC (including to Trisha Anderson) discussing an initial meeting between Jim Trainor, Amy Dacey, Sussmann, and Shawn Henry.

160621 DX107 Starting on June 16, Amy Dacey thanked Assistant Director Jim Trainor for meeting with the Democrats about the hack. The thread turned into a confused request from the campaign for a briefing about whether they, too, had been compromised.

160725 DX114 This chain reflects Hawkins’ confused response after Sussmann provided the contact information for a Hillary staffer with a role in technical security. Hawkins stated, “Nothing concerning HFA has come up.”

160809 DX127 After Donna Brazile replaced Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sussmann set up a meeting between her and Jim Trainor.

160811 DX128 An email chain among cyber FBI personnel discusses three Secret threat briefings for the DNC, DCCC, and Hillary campaign. Sussmann was scheduled to attend all three briefings, and Marc Elias was scheduled to attend the DCCC and Hillary briefings (though he testified that he did not attend).

160811 DX130 Sussmann sent the FBI notice of a public report of the DNC’s establishment of a cybersecurity advisory board. The report was passed on to Jim Trainor.

DHS outreach

160802 DX106 A Lync chain starting in the initial aftermath of the Nakashima story, referencing an Intelligence Committee briefing, and discussing how to facilitate DHS assistance to the Democrats through Sussmann.

160802 DX120 With the goal of reaching out to the Democratic victims to offer assistance, DHS asked who the point of contact for both would be.

160816 DX125 This email chain documents DHS’ “SitRep” of their understanding of the DNC/DCCC hacks and their efforts to reach out to help. This includes sharing of DNC/DCCC “artifacts” with NCCIC.

Authentication and venue

160708 DX109 An email chain seeking DNC help authenticating a document released by Guccifer 2.0.

160723 DX110 A discussion starting on July 21 about authenticating and extending after the initial WikiLeaks dump. Hawkins observed, “Looks like there will be multiple releases on that [the WikiLeaks] front.”

160802 DX118 After Adrian Hawkins asked CrowdStrike’s Christopher Scott a question about a public report that the Democrats’ analytics had been hacked, Scott explained that Sussmann had to be involved in any discussions between the FBI and their cybersecurity contractor. Hawkins also asked for specifics about the compromised servers that the FBI could use to establish venue.

160816 DX134 An email chain mentioning but not including Sussmann describes the efforts to establish venue (especially for Field staff who rely on laptops and travel a lot) as well as the efforts to authenticate documents.

160822 DX136 Two Lync messages describing a script that can be used to match WordPress documents with files stolen from the DNC.

160922 DX145 NSD’s Deputy Chief of  Cyber, Sean Newell, asks Sussmann to meet to discuss some information requests from NDCA. They set up a meeting for September 26.

160930 DX147 Hawkins follows up on Newell’s request for information with a much more detailed request from the San Francisco Division. This request includes details of the forensics NDCA was asking for, generally to include the CrowdStrike reports, network diagrams, logs, and images for the compromised hosts.

161004 DX148 In response to WikiLeaks promises about an upcoming file release, Newell follows up on a September 27 request he made of Sussmann for any files that were altered as well as a list of files that had been released but not circulated outside of the victim organizations first, including some indication whether those had been altered. Sussmann says they would have information available later that week.

161012 DX150 In another chain of responses to Newell’s information request, someone at Perkins Coie passes on a description from the DCCC about how an image posted by Guccifer 2.0 differed from the file structure as it appeared on their server, including as it pertained to a file named, “Pelosi Vote Email.”

161026 DX154 This chain is a follow-up to the Newell request, though it actually includes Guccifer 2.0 documents about Trump’s taxes discussed. It includes description of an altered document published by Guccifer 2.0, in which the font was changed. It also includes a DOJ NSD person asking FBI to print out the document because they don’t have any unattributable computers.

161024 DX165 This is yet another continuation of the Newell request, this one included the Trump Report altered by Guccifer 2.0. It includes some discussion of alterations to that document (as compared to unaltered ones released by WikiLeaks). It also describes documents that a DNC research staffer believes were taken from his local desktop.

CrowdStrike Reports

160815 DX132 Burnham to Farrar explaining there are two CloudStrike reports, one for the DNC and the other for the DCCC. The former is done, while the latter will be done soon.

160825 DX137 Hawkins asks Sussmann about the DNC CrowdStrike report, Sussmann explains it’s still a few days away, but then the next day says he’s reading “it” (which may be the DCCC report). Sussmann’s response gets forwarded to a few more people.

160830 DX 138 A Lync chain conveying that Sussmann had alerted the FBI that the CrowdStrike report was done and asking if WFO should pick it up.

Server images

161013 DX151 In another chain of responses to Sean Newell’s information request, the discussion turns from Sussmann’s effort to make sure the Democrats respond to all the FBI’s data request to how to obtain images (whether to have CrowdStrike spend 10 hours to do it or let FBI onsite to do it themselves). As part of this chain, Sussmann says that “in theory” the Democrats would be amenable to letting the FBI onsite to image the serves themselves, but then checks to see whether the data is at CrowdStrike or the DNC.

161013 DX152 This chain is follow-up to the request for server images. Sussmann connects the FBI and CrowdStrike, CS offers to image the servers for free, and the FBI provides the address where to send them.

161028 DX153 A Lync that starts with Newell requesting someone attend the October 11 meeting with Sussmann, continues through a discussion about how to get images of the compromised servers (including whether Sussmann may have misinterpreted the ask), and includes a discussion about a re-compromise.

Lizard Squad ransomware threat

160803 DX121 Late night on August 2, Sussmann reported a ransomware threat from the Lizard Squad. This email discusses the various equities behind such a threat and involves a guy named Rodney Hays, whom the Durham team would at one point insist must be Rodney Joffe.

160806 DX124 This chain reflects more of the response to Sussmann reporting a ransomware threat from Lizard Squad. As noted, it involves a guy named Rodney Hays that Durham’s team insisted must be Joffe.

160922 DX144 Over a month after the Democrats reported the Lizard Squad threat, Eric Lu wrote up the intake report, including the bitcoin address involved and Sussmann’s email to Rodney on August 9 thanking him for his assistance.

Other threats

160726 DX115 Sussmann set up a meeting with Hawkins and others so someone could report “some offline activity related to the intrusion.” This was around the time when Ali Chalupa believed she was being followed, though nothing in this chain describes the threat.

160908 DX140 On August 26, EA Hawkins wrote Sussmann directly alerting him to a new phishing campaign targeting Democrats. On September 7, he wrote back with three accounts that may have been targeted.

160916 DX141 Moore emailing Josh Hubiak — a cyber agent in Pittsburgh — asking for contact information for Michael Sussmann so she can obtain the contact information for a DNC bigwig whose Microsoft Outlook account was compromised, apparently by APT 28. Hubiak is one of the agents also involved in the Alfa Bank investigation.

160917 DX142 The day after the request for contact information for the DNC bigwig, there’s further discussion about how to contact him. The FBI also shares new files reflecting the network share for a different DNC person, a former IT staffer, that was uploaded to Virus Total.

160927 DX146 In response to public reports that some Democratic phones may have been targeted and a potential compromise of Powell’s phone (probably Colin, whose communications were posted to dcleaks), there’s some chatter about what information is available from Apple and Google. One of the key agents involved complains that, “it would be awesome if Google helped out, as I know they are at least 2 steps ahead of me and I’m in a sad, losing game of catchup.”

161011 DX149 This seems to be a collection of Lync notes from October 11, showing three different issues pertaining to Sussmann happening at once: the transfer of custody of the thumb drives to the Chicago office, a reference to a meeting with Sussmann, and a report of a new Democratic concern about exposed Social Security numbers.

161230 DX155 A Lync chain that goes from October 28 through December 30 covering the concern about a bug at DNC HQ, the response to the NYT article naming Hawkins, and another compromise alert.

161017 DX164 This may be a summary prepared for Mother Jones. Whatever the purpose (there is no date), it describes the timeline of FBI’s response to a request for a sweep of DNC headquarters in response to some anomaly. Sussmann permitted the sweep but asked that it be done covertly, so as not to alert DNC staffers.

Crossfire Hurricane

160804 DX123 On August 4, Joe Pientka forwarded the original June 14 Nakashima story to the agents who had just been assigned to the Crossfire Hurricane team with the explanation, “Just going through old — possibly pertinent emails.”

61 replies
  1. wetzel says:

    You look this evidence set and see good lawyering. Maybe Sussman’s presentation of himself ‘as a private citizen’ was some kind of deceptive Boy Scout ruse. It was completely immaterial. Everybody at the FBI knew who this guy was. What a joke.

    It’s incredible how you are able to synthesize the evidence set from other perspectives, Dr. Wheeler, and demonstrate how poorly Democrats were served by the FBI while our party was nation state attacked during the 2016 election. There must be some way to get the message to the FBI this was a travesty of justice and a betrayal of national security. Apparently, Putin has been at war with the United States for at least a decade.

    This trial was a travesty. Thank you so much, Dr. Wheeler, for your careful dissection these many months. Now that the trial is over and it becomes ‘history’, I feel it is fair to call the behavior of Attorney General Barr and Durham’s Office in facilitating this prosecution fascistic, a striking and dangerous signifier like a black sun. It was a prosecution for the purpose of propaganda, a show trial.

    A propagandistic prosecution is like terroristic violence by the government. It is evidence of fascism. This prosecution wasn’t done from a criminal investigation, but to create a false history of what happened in the 2016 election.

    • G-LETTS says:

      Your comments reveal what I have believed all along that the stop the steal, shameless prosecutions, and the unending conspiracy theories lead to only one outcome, creating false narratives to prop up a lie to the American people.

    • BrokenPromises says:

      I would not characterize the trial as a travesty after all Sussmann’s defense team put on an excellent defense and the judge covered all the bases necessary leading to the jury understanding that the prosecution was a travesty. Your description explains that in all it’s ugliness. Prosecuting Sussmann was the travesty.

  2. LadyHawke says:

    Thank you again, Dr. Wheeler, for your meticulous, valuable research. So much documented history that the Republicans want everyone to believe never happened.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      Yes, agreed. You’ve done totally awesome work, on the scale of Pamela Jones work at Groklaw during the SCO vs. Linux debacle.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        I should note, BTW, that having been part of the “inner circle” at Groklaw, I know how long it takes to research/write even a single article of the type EW posts daily. We’re talking hours and hours of very serious, difficult work, with frequent deep dives into some very difficult material. EW is doing extraordinary, difficult work on a daily basis!

      • Rayne says:

        Whew. Accurate. That’s one helluva comparison, all that deeply weedy detail in SCO-Linux.

  3. klynn says:

    Was the FBI shoddiness on Alpha due to bias toward Clinton? Is there any estimate on how much national intel risk FBI’s failures may have caused?

    Should there be any follow-up on the failures by the FBI that have yet to be done?

  4. freebird says:

    This prosecution reminded me of John Nash in that movie a “Beautiful Mind” when Nash got all these disparate magazine articles and tried to make a connected world-wide conspiracy. The movie showed Nash in a manic state with all these disjointed tear-outs from Newsweek, Time, US News and the like in this cluttered room with all these equations and arrows that seemly made all these articles related. Everyone in the theater thought Nash was nuts.

    The problem we have here is that a significant portion of the country thinks that this verdict was a miscarriage of justice.

    • wetzel says:

      I think that is too strong. To be found innocent in trial by jury has ancient auspices. The court is an ancient institution. It speaks to truth in the oldest form of a human institution that could make a prose history, the decidings in the court of law with a jury trial. It resonates deeply, so the drum-beat that Russia-gate was a conspiracy won’t have findings in a court of law to support those claims. That is so important.

      Next year there will be hundreds of prominent GOP on the docket for the coup attempt. Now we can get back to the main event here at emptywheel. In my conspiratorial mindset, I felt like Saruman had to win this case to have any footing on socially constructing the reality of his alternative history. Where is the center of this conspiracy? Wherever the planning is happening, I think the Sussman trial was vital to their propaganda. They are desperate for a counterweight for what is about to happen to their party. If Sussman had been found guilty, it was to serve as a foundation for Congressional investigations. This was a win like the Battle of Kyiv. Momentous like El Alamein. From an outsider’s perspective, I think it’s worth celebrating the great research and lawyering that made it possible.

      • BobCon says:

        I think vital is an overstatement. I also think it’s pretty dubious any significant part of the country thinks it was a miscarriage of justice. It was and will remain largely insider stuff.

        It matters, though. I think Durham’s exposure helps tamp down the worst instincts of NY Times political writers and editors to give credence to Bill Barr insider types. It doesn’t stop them from chasing stupid pitches, but it probably adds to the burden of proof and slows down the news cycle a bit. It’s not nothing.

        • wetzel says:

          The stakes involved are evidenced by the effort they made, the professional self-immolation of Barr, Durham and so many others. This was a show trial to establish a set of facts where there can be no stronger argument. A jury verdict has a phenomenology. You can’t argue with a guilty verdict, in the press, anywhere. It attaches to the event.

          A show trial is like hangings in the square. You don’t want to be living in the world where Sussman is guilty. Just think about it a while. It would have equal weight to the Jan 6 coup investigation and the Russia counter-intelligence investigations themselves. Truth would be fiction. Reciprocal accusations like Lysander and Demetrius in the woods chasing devils. We would be within the totalitarian mindset and we would not know how it happened. Fascism would seem self evident because the truth would only be the fasces, the bundle of rods which is its own argument. Same stakes as the Battle of Kyiv to my mind.

        • eyesoars says:

          That was the clear goal of Durham’s (and Barr’s and Trump’s) activities. Had a guilty verdict been returned, that’s where things would be.

        • freebird says:

          I wish I was more sanguine about the state of Trumpers. But, they are of the same ilk that believes that the election was stolen. Trump sent out an email protesting the verdict.

      • gmoke says:

        “To be found innocent in trial by jury has ancient auspices.”

        In modern jurisprudence, no one is found innocent in a trial. They are found not guilty. A few do go on to sue to reclaim their innocence but it’s a long process.

        • bmaz says:

          Lol, who would Sussman sue? Can’t be the prosecutors who have absolute immunity.

          And when the jury not only acquits him, but said there was no basis for even bringing the case, that is pretty darn close to being found innocent.

        • wetzel says:

          A person is presumed innocent. Sussman is guilty or not guilty. That’s an important idea! That was sloppy of me. Thanks for the correction. Should be ingrained but there’s something about saying it that feels right to say it wrong. If a trial is a kind of crisis of doubt, being found ‘not guilty’ has a feeling like a rebirth into the innocent state. You regain the original presumption though your reputation is not the same. Maybe we say ‘presumed innocent’ as a kind of denial of the damage being does to a person’s reputation. Nothing can attach formally without a verdict, so you have not been damaged. Your presumption of innocence is inalienable, but that’s just a logic game.

      • Phil A says:

        “They are desperate for a counterweight for what is about to happen to their party”

        They will always have Hunter Biden.

    • Rayne says:

      We really need a visual narrative explainer which distills the case in 10 minutes or less aimed at the significant portion of the country who’ve been led by the nose to believe lies about this prosecution. Can’t be hyperbolic and partisan, must strip out all other crap hung on this case. Without a stripped down narrative, the right-wing media ecosystem will continue to gin up crap the same way they did after Election Day 2020.

      Hell, we don’t even have a good visual narrative which explains the ~60 lawsuits which ruled against Trump and his minions.

      • freebird says:

        The thing is that I know FBI agents and federal prosecutors. I have heard people say crazy and unsupportable things to them all the time on the basketball court, softball field and golf course. These trained people have the sense enough to evaluate what they are being told.

        I am befuddled and bemused by this case. When I was in grade school a teacher told me that a false statement is not necessarily a lie. For perjury, a false statement must be intentional and material. So for Durham to prevail he had to convince the jury that he was a mind reader when Sussman requested a meeting with an acquaintance.

      • Bill Crowder says:

        I hate to admit it, especially to a group which contains a number of savants, but a 10 minute breakdown would be very helpful/necessary for me. Likewise for the general public.

        • Rayne says:

          The brevity is nice, achieved by avoiding the technological content which could have bogged it down (same stuff bogged down so much reporting to date and like the mythic “single server” was intended to obscure the public’s understanding).

        • matt fischer says:

          Re: “the mild snark it projects,” e.g.

          The reason Sussmann was afraid Trump posed a security threat to the United States is that Trump posed a security threat to the United States.

        • pdaly says:

          Of course the Republican-run state legislatures may be playing a long game, and they expect to return to the argument of “states’ rights” when and if they deliberately defy the voters’ will and select a slate of republican electoral college electors– despite a democratic party win.

      • Sue 'em Queequeg says:

        Rayne, re explainers, narratives, distillations of complexity and the like (particularly legal/compliance things): I do this for a living, and I’d happily volunteer my services. If that’s of interest, you or anyone else at EW is free to contact me at the email associated with this post.

  5. BobCon says:

    Sussman’s team was obviously right not to call Lichtblau — they must have understood that he wouldn’t have gotten the jury to a not guilty verdict any faster than they already did, and that was the defense team’s responsibility.

    But it would have been interesting to see if Lichtblau had any insights to offer on where that idiotic Trump cleared of Russian ties story came from.

    I’m still on board with the idea that Dean Baquet and the Times were wildly irresponsible with both the timing and content of that story. One thing that has puzzled me though is Lichtblau’s byline is shared by Steven Lee Myers who doesn’t appear to be a compromised hack in the Schmidt/Haberman model.

    I’m curious if someone at a high level in the FBI was actively pushing the “no collusion” angle at the PR level on top of the Bureau’s apparent foot dragging and smoke screens. Myers may well have done the best job he could have under those circumstances.

    Another possibility is that someone (probably more respectable than Giuliani) outside the FBI but with close ties to the investigations was pushing this angle, and knew how to package up the sources in a way needed to create and confirm the story to the Times’ satisfaction.

    I realize potential Lichtblau teatimony at Sussman’s trial would be a million to one shot for revealing anything more than breadcrumbs. But right now we’re still ridiculously in the dark about how and why the Times screwed up, and anything would have been nice to know.

      • BobCon says:

        CBS News should force Catherine Herridge to talk about this now. I’m going to bet she knew a long time ago and didn’t bother to upset any of her narratives. Neeraj Khemlani is too much of a hack to bother, though.

  6. The Old Redneck says:

    This timeline shows how silly the premise of the entire case was. The notion that the FBI was duped about who Sussman was, and what his ties were, is laughable. Maybe that’s why the jury foreperson said everyone could have much made better use of their time.
    This really hasn’t gotten the attention it deserved in media world. Coverage elsewhere has been superficial and sometimes downright inaccurate. Kudos to Marcy for diving in and showing the prosecution to be a shit show.

    • Rugger9 says:

      What I’ve seen in the media coverage so far is how Durham bungled the case, which I object to because that narrative presumes there was a case to be made. There never was, but as a warning to all this is what we should expect if the GQP ever regains power.

  7. Nigel Senna says:

    I respectfully nominate Morgan Freeman to narrate any docudrama made about this non-case.

    • Peterr says:

      I love Freeman, but in this case, I’d lean toward David Attenborough. “Behold Washington DC, the natural habitat of a host of political animals . . .”

      The Barr, who uses misdirection to fool his prey
      The Durham, who tries bluster and intimidation
      The lawyers, who see right through the Durham
      The migratory Trumps, who move between the canopy above Manhattan and the swamps of Florida
      The myriad species of lobbyists, spies, and henchmen

      You get the idea

      • Bay State Librul says:

        Excellent — but I would like Dylan to sing a 16-minute rendition like he did in Murder, Most Foul.
        Set it to music, a ballad… Twas a dark day in Dallas, November ’63

    • What Constitution? says:

      This isn’t in Morgan Freeman’s league — and he’s done penguins. I’d go with Sam Elliot, if only for the good mustache to further humiliate Durham.

      • Chill-dawg says:

        Sam Eliot: “Sometimes you eat the Barr, and sometimes the Barr eats you…”

        [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your third user name; you’ve commented previously as “Chill dawg” and “Mark JW.” Thanks. /~Rayne]

      • Peterr says:


        Another possibility in that regard would be Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, which would come with the added benefit of ready-made dialogue. “Durham keeps using that word. But I do not think it means what he thinks it means.”

  8. Chill dawg says:

    other than the Igor trial, what’s left for Durham?
    is Joffe still in legal jeopardy?

    or was that all a bluff?

  9. harpie says:

    Sussmann Acquittal Raises Question: What Is Durham Actually Trying to Do? Supporters of the Trump-era prosecutor are lauding his work as a success in unearthing politically charged information, even though his first case to go to trial ended in failure. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/01/us/politics/john-durham-michael-sussmann.html
    Charlie Savage June 1, 2022

    […] What really mattered, [Trump’s supporters] they essentially claimed, was that Mr. Durham had succeeded in exposing how Hillary Clinton framed Mr. Trump for the “Russia collusion hoax,” an argument that ricocheted across the right-wing news media.

    Indeed, Mr. Durham did show that associates of the 2016 Clinton campaign — a victim of Russian hacking — wanted reporters to write about the allegations that played a role in the case, an obscure theory about the possibility of a covert communications channel between Mr. Trump and Russia. But most news outlets were skeptical, and the F.B.I. swiftly discounted the matter. […]

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