Jeff Carlson and Hans Mahncke: Inside the Two-Pronged Effort to Concoct the Trump-Russia Collusion Narrative
“After Trump was elected, [tech executive Rodney Joffe] was spying on Trump at Trump Tower, at a Trump apartment building, and at the Executive Office of the President,” says Epoch Times contributing investigative journalist Hans Mahncke.
Rodney Joffe, a tech executive working with former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, had exploited access to the White House’s internet traffic, according to a recent filing from special counsel John Durham.
It’s unclear whether he was paid to do so, but according to an earlier Durham filing, Joffe had claimed to have been offered a high-ranking position in a Clinton administration.
Tonight, we sit down with Epoch Times contributing investigative journalists Hans Mahncke and Jeff Carlson, co-hosts of Truth Over News. They break down what they’ve found in Durham’s new filing, and how these new revelations fit into a broader, three-pronged effort to craft the Trump-Russia collusion narrative.
Jan Jekielek: Hans Mahncke, Jeff Carlson, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Jeff Carlson: Thanks for having us.
Hans Mahncke: Thanks for having us.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, you guys have one of my favorite shows on EpochTV right now, “Truth Over News.” So before we even start, I want to make sure that our audience knows that both of you gentlemen have been doing all sorts of incredible research for the Epoch Times, both on things like coronavirus origins on one side, and on the other side, what’s known as Russiagate sometimes called Spygate.
Recently we’ve had these filings by Special Council Durham, especially a recent one, which some people are calling a bombshell. Others are calling, “Ah, there’s not much here. This is just a bunch of people blowing things out of proportion.” I want to find out where you guys land on this, having looked at it so closely, but also let’s actually start with the bird’s eye view of what actually happened with Russiagate, for those that might be uninitiated.
Mr. Mahncke: Sure. So in 2016 you had these allegations coming out of the Clinton campaign that Trump was colluding with Russia, and the volume was turned up on that after Trump won. And then you had the so-called Steele dossier that was released in January of 2017, which of course, then the media kind of seized on and then it became this huge deal that Trump had somehow colluded with Russia, ended up with us having a special counsel looking into all these things, Robert Mueller.
So, as time went on, we found out that, hey, that Steele dossier, that was actually done by a guy called Christopher Steele and he was actually paid by the Clinton campaign. Oh, okay. So that was sort of the first crack in the armor in terms of that story, that whole Russia collusion story.
And then we found out that the FBI itself hadn’t really followed the rules. There was the Carter Page FISA warrant. There were all kinds of problems with that. Basically, spying on the Trump campaign via that route. So those were the sort of things we knew over the past few years. And then Durham came along last year with sort of a whole new track of things to do with cyber spying, which wasn’t part of the equation until more recently.
Mr. Carlson: Yes. I mean, what Durham has exposed, you think you know everything about that’s going on in Spygate and we thought we understood. But he’s basically unfolded for us a whole new pathway into which information was being dug up regarding Trump, and it’s the cyber element.
Mr. Mahncke: Durham is sort of on two tracks. So he’s going after the Steele side of things and viewers would’ve heard that Steele’s informant or so-called primary sub-source was arrested back in November. So that’s one track. And then the one that concerns this new filing is Hillary’s campaign lawyer, a guy called Michael Sussmann. He was indicted back in September and there’s been a bit of back and forth between Durham and Sussmann’s lawyers in the past few months.
The latest filing really exposes the fact that Sussmann, via this other guy called Rodney Joffe, who is an IT guy, a tech executive, fed not only the FBI, not only the CIA, but also the Inspector General of the DOJ information that came from Joffe. So Durham sort of filled in some of the blanks for us in this recent filing. And probably the biggest bombshell in there was that, after the election, so after Trump was elected, this guy, Joffe, was spying on Trump at Trump Tower, at a Trump apartment building and at the Executive Office of the President.
Mr. Jekielek: So, it’s not just the campaign time, but also, what does it take to do this sort of thing? Is it actually established that it was happening in the White House?
Mr. Carlson: Well, the language that Durham uses is the Executive Office of the President. And we know that Joffe was maintaining DNS access for that. And Durham’s filing says that he had this access from 2014 and it was maintained into 2017. Now, what that exact termination point is, we don’t know, but he makes these filings in relation to Trump. And we know that it eclipses Trump’s victory, surprise victory, on November 8th. So, he was looking at DNS data, which is sort of like, you think of it like a phone book of where you’re going and what you’re looking at and sites that are visited, et cetera.
Mr. Mahncke: That’s right. So Durham says that Joffe was mining Trump’s data in the Executive Office of the President in order to find or, well, he says he was mining the data in the Executive Office of the President to find derogatory information on Trump. So, you’re going to have to assume he’s not spying on Obama at that point.
Mr. Jekielek: Right. Well, there’s been a lot of research, which both of you have actually been involved in over many years now. Right? So why don’t we kind of go back to the beginning. Because this all kind of started back in 2016 and of course we know, and one of the things we haven’t mentioned yet is that Sussmann of course is a Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer. So, what’s happening back in 2016?
Mr. Carlson: Well, there’s kind of a backdrop to all of this. Campaigns always engage in dirty tricks and back and forth and try and paint the other in a bad light. But we know that in February of 2016, there was a reference to the Swift Boat Project against Trump. And, for those who aren’t aware, Swift Boat, you’re engaging in, effectively, a smear campaign against the other party, in this case, Trump.
So it was acknowledged within the Hillary Clinton campaign that that project was underway and they said, “We need to make sure it’s well funded.” Well, in the early part of May, that is when Durham alleges that Sussmann had all of this data from Rodney Joffe regarding the Alfa Bank allegations that was compiled. And it was at that point that Sussmann spent the next three months walking through this data and compiling it before he ended up bringing it to the FBI.
And the timing of this, of when Sussmann started, was very interesting because he did it the day after Trump won the Indiana primary. So in other words, when Trump suddenly became… There was no hesitation, Trump was the candidate. They knew that on May 3rd. On May 4th, this work of aggregating all of this data that relates to the Alfa Bank allegations began and that work continued all the way up until July 29th of 2016. And the reason that date’s important is because of course we know just two days later, the FBI opens up its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.
Mr. Jekielek: Hans, do you have anything to add here?
Mr. Mahncke: Well, in the same month, in May of 2016, the other prong, the Steele prong, also got initiated because the Clinton campaign hired a firm called Fusion GPS to—they probably were working with them before that. But what we know is that Fusion GPS was engaged to basically compile this dossier, or work on the dossier. So they got this guy, Christopher Steele, on board at the same time, and we don’t know [the] exact date, but in May of 2016.
And then Steele sent his guy Igor Danchenko, the guy who was recently indicted by Durham, on various trips to kind of supposedly compile all this information. And as we found out since then from Durham, Danchenko basically went to Russia. He had a nice time, went drinking with his friends and things like that. And then he came back and just kind of told stories.
And then those were the stories that ended up in the dossier. So Danchenko is charged with lying to the FBI about those stories that were in the dossier. They’re basically all made up. So the interesting thing, as Jeff said, is right at the time when Trump became the presumptive nominee, you had both of these paths kick off, the Sussmann and Joffe path, which is the sort of the cyber smear. And then you had the dossier smear with Steele and Danchenko kicking off at the same time.
Mr. Carlson: And there’s another important element because these two prongs end up intersecting, and they intersect on July 29th. So when Sussmann finishes his data compilation, he has a meeting at the offices of Perkins Coie. Mark Elias, the infamous Clinton campaign lawyer, was there as well. At this meeting was Christopher Steele. Christopher Steele, who’d been doing his own work, his parallel work, if you will, with his dossier. It was at this meeting where Sussmann informed Steele of the Alfa Bank allegations.
Now, those allegations would then turn up shortly thereafter in Christopher Steele’s dossier. But again, Steele has testified to a UK court that he was first informed of the Alfa Bank allegations at this July 29th meeting with Sussmann. So they start off sort of ostensibly separate, even though it’s really a parallel tract, and they come together and they intersect on July 29th. Two days later, the FBI investigation is opened.
Mr. Jekielek: And just really quickly, Hans, the Alfa Bank allegations, what exactly is that?
Mr. Mahncke: Right. So the Alfa Bank allegations, in a nutshell, are that Trump was communicating with the Kremlin through this intermediary, and that was the Alfa Bank. So the Alfa Bank is a Russian bank. And allegedly there was [a] contact online, internet contact, between the servers of Alfa Bank in Russia and the servers over at Trump Tower. Now, that’s all been completely debunked. But that story was spun by Sussmann and Joffe and, as Jeff just said, they passed it to Steele on July 29th and shortly thereafter Steele started writing about that story.
One interesting thing to note here is that everything that Steele wrote was sort of written as sort of made to order. So you had the first report that came out in June, which was sort of the general report. That was the one with the Pee tape about Moscow and so on. That sort of just set the general tone for collusion and Trump is compromised and that kind of stuff.
Then, interestingly, in July you had a new report coming out, which was about the… Well, it touched on this sort of hacking, but it wasn’t very specific, and it wasn’t obviously good enough. So after the DNC emails were leaked on Wikileaks, within about three days, Steele came up with another report that exactly detailed what happened there and who hacked. It was to do with Trump. And so every time you had a report coming from Steele, you can trace it on the timeline. He was basically instructed, “Oh, now we need you to write on this. Now we need you to write on that,” and so on.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s fascinating. And of course, all along, while these two tracks that you’re describing are happening, presumably, it seems like they might be coordinated by Perkins Coie, right? There’s talking to the intelligence community as well.
Mr. Carlson: Well, that’s another element to this whole story. We know there was a report that Brandon briefed Obama on, that Hillary Clinton had come up with a plan to effectively smear her candidate, then candidate Trump, with allegations of being aligned with Russia, as well as Russia interfering in our election in order to hurt her and help Trump—help then-candidate Trump.
And at the same time that you have these tracks going on, you’ve got Steele, you’ve got Sussmann with the Alfa allegations. They come together right before the FBI opens their investigation. Well, the FBI is now looking into the Trump campaign. The director of the CIA, John Brennan, begins to brief members of Congress with information that surprisingly is very similar to what Hillary Clinton supposedly had in her plan.
He went and he briefed each of the gang of eight; kind of the security council, almost, if you will, of Congress. Briefed them and told them exactly the same thing, that he was informed that Russia was seeking to interfere in our election, was seeking to shape the election and was attempting to damage Hillary Clinton and elevate Trump as a candidate.
Mr. Jekielek: We’ve been hearing about this for a very long time, right? We’ve been thinking about this. Both Hans and Jeff, you guys have been researching this from a very, very early time in all of this. So it’s very interesting to see all these stories kind of come together. The thing that amazes me is that there’s new characters sort of appearing, that most people that were doing this research, frankly, were not aware of at all.
Like, for example, Joffe is someone that myself, talking to a number of people who were deeply involved in these investigations, including Kash Patel, we talked about this on Kash’s Corner. He just simply wasn’t aware of him being involved. At the same time, this character, he’s got unbelievable levels of access to what’s supposed to be an incredibly secure setting, right? Like ostensibly in the White House. So who is this guy? How did he get this clearance? What can you flesh out here?
Mr. Mahncke: Right, that’s the big unknown. How did this guy get his clearance? So this guy is actually from South Africa and, in the ’80s, he lived in Beverly Hills, but he ran a mail order scam. So the mail order scam consisted of, well, he was data mining, just as now he’s data mining as well. He was just kind of data mining in the old world where things were done by post. So he was mining people’s addresses and so on.
And then he started writing to these people in all kinds of states, these little postcards, telling them that they had won this big prize. And the big prize was this super great grandfather clock. And all they had to do was send in $70 for shipping and handling, and then they could have this great clock. Well, it turns out the clock was just kind of a very trashy clock, which is just said to have cost less than $10. So he kind of pockets the difference there.
He ran that scam across many states and he had to settle with, for instance, the Attorney General in Iowa, who said that he had cheated or scammed over 10,000 people, and that’s just in Iowa alone. So that’s what this guy was doing. And then all of a sudden, he shifts into DNS. So in ’96, he founds this DNS company. This company is later on taken over by another company in 2006, called Neustar. And that was kind of his rise to fame when he was… Maybe not fame, but sort of access, shall we say, where he was with Neustar and he became senior vice president and he was head of security, which is kind of a bit sketchy in itself.
So it’s not clear how he was able to rise through the ranks like that, given his background. But what is interesting is that you have this parallel where he was exploiting mailing lists in the past, and now he’s exploiting DNS data in the present or at least back in 2016. A little side note is in 2013, Jim Comey awarded Rodney Joffe the FBI Director’s Award for, I think, cybersecurity or something like that. So yeah, it really does make you think. How does some guy like that rise through the ranks? How did he get a security clearance? We don’t know.
Mr. Carlson: And there are material questions on this. You have somebody with a questionable background who gains this incredibly important access. You would think that he wouldn’t have been able to pass the background check but, whatever, he is in his position. And he’s now providing the information to Sussmann, according to Durham’s filings. Well, we think that there’s real national security concerns here. Who else is he possibly providing this information to? Was it limited to only Sussmann?
We know there were many reporters who were hungry for information. So, character-wise, there’s a lot of questions here, as well. How did he get here, and was his contact, was his efforts, was it geared only towards Sussmann? Were there more parties that received information? And we find it fascinating that there doesn’t seem to be a curiosity about that from the intelligence agencies.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, the obvious question is, is this sort of thing legal somehow?
Mr. Mahncke: Well, the legality of accessing information for the wrong reasons is a bit tricky. So if you have access to a database through your job, and you’re supposed to use the data for this and this, but then, because you’re curious or for whatever reason, you go and access the data for other reasons, it’s a bit of a gray zone. So last year the Supreme Court came back and said, “Well, if you had legal access to the data, then it’s not illegal.”
But there’s different shades to this. By the way, there’s a parallel here to Chelsea Manning who supposedly had access to a lot of the data that she shared. So again, is that legal, illegal? It’s not an easy question to answer. But in terms of whether what these people did was illegal, I think what Durham is really looking at is the conspiracy angle.
If you conspire with someone else to lie to the FBI, present false information, as Jeff said earlier, it wasn’t like they just got data on a USB stick and handed it over to the FBI. No, they spent weeks and months sort of collating the information, curating the information. There was an effort involved, because they wanted to shape a narrative.
And in fact, they were discussing the fact that they wanted to shape an anti-Trump narrative in their emails, which Durham got a hold of and which Durham sites in his filing. So they were shaping a narrative in order to kind of trick the FBI into thinking this is really serious stuff. That’s a conspiracy to lie to the FBI and that’s going to be a real problem for them.
Mr. Jekielek: Oh, fascinating. Well, and also, through these filings about Sussmann, Sussmann is kind of portraying himself as being this sort of interested party wanting to help share important information. Maybe can you speak to that a little bit?
Mr. Carlson: Yes. Sussmann is portraying himself in his counter filings as a high-minded whistleblower, somebody of good intent who simply came upon this information. It was presented to him and, as a private citizen, he was alarmed at what he saw and thought that it should be taken to the FBI. And that sounds well and good, but it ignores a couple of points. One of those is that there was, as we’ve already discussed, this parallel track of information, that there was the Alfa information and there was the DNS information.
And the other thing that, well, one of the other things that it ignores is that Sussmann spent three months collating this information. So he received this kind of raw data, if you will. He got it from Joffe sometime. May 4th is when he started actually collating. He probably got the data in April. And he spent the next three months repackaging that data. He was not going to the FBI with a USB stick and saying, “Hey, I just got this information. You folks need to take a look at it.”
Rather, he spent all this time crafting this information. Of course, we have the manner in which he approached the FBI, as well. Sussmann goes ahead and meets with James Baker, who happens to be a friend of his, and in testimony, Baker says, “I’ve never been approached like this before.”
Now, Sussmann knows full well that if he’s going in as one of the senior, at the time, he was in charge of cybersecurity, I may be getting his title wrong, but the gist is correct, in charge of cybersecurity for Perkins Coie. And he approaches Baker with this information, which he’s now spent months collating and is able to gain access to Baker both through his position and through his friendship with Baker and presents this information to Baker directly.
And this is where Durham’s public charge comes into play, is that Sussmann doesn’t tell him that he’s actually acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign, that he’s coming to him as a private citizen. But again, even on that basis, Baker himself has said, “No, this is the only time something like this has happened.” And what Sussmann was doing at this exact same time, to make sure that the FBI acted, is that he went to The New York Times and a couple other media outlets, including Slate, and gave them the story and then turned around and told the FBI what he’s doing.
And that creates a situation where suddenly the FBI is sort of forced to act. Not only do they have this information, but they now have to go to these media outlets and say, “Hey, hey, hey, just sit on the stories for a little bit. Let us take a look.” So he was kind of crafting, forcing the FBI’s hand in investigating this information.
I guess one other quick point is Joffe had a lot of contacts within the FBI. As Hans mentioned, he received his cyber award from Comey. If he had information that he felt that needed to go to the FBI, there was no need to have Sussmann involved as a supposed middleman in the first place.
Mr. Mahncke: There’s also one aspect that has not been kind of reported, at least not by the corporate media, who kind of tend to say that this is all kind of much ado about nothing. And I don’t think Durham has spoken about it either. We know, through another court case which was filed by Alfa Bank. So Alfa Bank, back in 2017, after the dossier came out, they sued Fusion GPS, that’s the firm run by Glenn Simpson, because at the time all they knew was these people, Fusion GPS, put out these reports. We were smeared in these reports. And so we are going to take them to court.
That case was run for a long time. There’s been a lot of obstructionism from sort of not only Fusion GPS, but all the people associated with Fusion GPS. So they don’t want to come in for depositions. They don’t want to hand over any documents, and so on. Anyway, last year Fusion GPS was forced to hand over something called privileged logs. Privileged logs are basically logs, like a big spreadsheet of all your communications, but all it says is to and from. It doesn’t really provide you any further information. It doesn’t provide the actual letter, email, whatever.
So they had to do that because now they’re arguing in court over which ones of these emails they have to hand over, which one is privileged, and so on. Anyway, long story short is that we didn’t know it at the time, when these Fusion logs had to be furnished to Alfa Bank. And they’re online. You can go to the docket for that case and you can download them there.
We didn’t really know what to make of it, but in those Fusion logs, the name Joffe appears and the name Sussmann appears. For instance, in August of 2016, there was a lot of communication going on between Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS people, other employees, Sussmann and Joffe. So if these two guys were just good Samaritans who just wanted to bring some data to the FBI. What were they doing coordinating with Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Christopher Steele, a month before they went to the FBI?
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. Well, and so also just for the record here, what are the implications of not disclosing that you’re working for a political campaign when you come with information of the nature that Sussmann did to the FBI, which he’s friendly with in the first place?
Mr. Carlson: Well, I may let Hans jump in here, from a legal perspective, but there’s certainly just the crafting of where that information is coming, what the possible motivation is, why you may be approaching the FBI. So if you’re James Baker, the senior legal counsel for the FBI and you get a call from Sussmann and he walks in and he hands you, it was a lot of information. As he said, it was about, I believe, an inch and a half thick of material, which included a white paper and a couple of thumb drives. And he says, “I’m getting this from a security expert and I really thought you should take a look at it.”
Well, it’s pretty hard for Baker to say no to that, and the way that he views it. It’s a very different case if Sussmann walked in with that same information and says, “Hey, I’ve got all this information for you to look at and I’m here on behalf of the Clinton campaign.” And it’s important to remember that, as a backdrop to all this, the Steele dossier was starting to become known in Washington circles.
Well, the Steele dossier is something that grew over time, but to the point at which those reports have been aggregated, Steele was actively meeting with the members of the media in both New York and in our nation’s capital in DC. And the intelligence agencies were certainly aware of the Steele dossier. So there would’ve been just this inherent caution surrounding how that material was viewed. They’re just two very, very different approaches. One is taken with a huge grain of salt. Another is taken with the fact that this may have national security implications and we need to look into this.
Mr. Jekielek: Hans, what about on the legal side?
Mr. Mahncke: I think Jeff spelled it out. The materialness of Sussmann’s lie, his lie to Baker being basically an omission; omissions are also lies, in law. So the omission was that he didn’t tell Baker that he was there for Clinton. As Durham found out, he charged Clinton for the visit with Baker, so it’s pretty clear that, at least internally, how this all went down. So the omission, then, according to Durham, and it’s pretty straightforward, is that, as Jeff explained, if Baker had known that this is from Clinton, they would’ve been much, much more circumspect about the information, than Sussmann coming in and just presenting himself as a good Samaritan.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s also this whole other dimension, because we know that within the FBI, a number of the players that were involved in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation were also, apparently, from the disclosures, from the text message and so forth, had a bias against Trump.
Mr. Carlson: Well, one thing that just keeps coming back to us, first of all, yes, you’re absolutely right. It’s been made very clear that there was a bias. First of all, how this investigation was open was on the flimsiest of excuses. I think anybody who goes back and looks at the actual Papadopoulos conversation with George Downer, the information from that conversation was relayed to the FBI. Ostensibly, that’s what the FBI opened the investigation on.
It was fairly ludicrous. It was information that was out in the public realm. So to think that the FBI would open a counterintelligence into the investigation, into an opposition presidential candidate, it really kind of is a flabbergasting excuse. And while we’re discussing this, I think that is one point is Durham has material issues with how that investigation was predicated. So in some respects, that’s all tied up.
But yes, you appear to have an intelligence agency that’s biased, which begs the question. If John Brennan brought this information to Obama, that Hillary Clinton had a plan to go ahead and vilify Trump with allegations of Russian interference, why is it that you pursue an investigation of the Trump campaign, but you don’t conversely look into the Clinton campaign? And really, from a 10,000 foot viewpoint, actually what Brennan did appeared to be, to set out, to prove that Russia was very much trying to interfere in our election. No investigation, to my knowledge, has ever been opened into the Clinton campaign on that basis.
Mr. Mahncke: Yes, I think the timing is so crucial here. So on July 28th, Brennan briefs Obama and says, “Hey, we overheard these communications that Clinton is planning to smear Trump with these Russia collusion allegations.” Three days later, the FBI opens an investigation, not into Clinton, but into Trump. I mean, it’s just totally flabbergasting. Those are the most simple terms you can put it in. It makes no sense whatsoever.
And, on top of that, where did that investigation supposedly start? Well, it supposedly started with Papadopoulos, as Jeff just said, but it actually started much, much earlier than that. And we have also a very specific data point as to when the FBI first received tangible information, which was when Christopher Steele met his own FBI handler, a guy called Michael Gaeta, on July 5th, about a month before the investigation opened. And Christopher Steele, at that point, already handed over some dossier reports, which he had at the time.
So the FBI would’ve, certainly by the time they opened, but they say, “Okay, we only found out a bit later.” Okay. Whenever it is that they found out that there are these Steele reports, they were saying, “Oh, this Steele guy, this is this former British intelligence officer. He’s very credible,” and so on.
What they should have done, in light of the Brennan information, is “Who does Steele work for?” And then they could have figured out really quickly, just following the money trail, that Steele worked for Clinton. And then everything would’ve made sense, because right there from the get go, they would’ve known, “Oh my goodness, what Brennan told Obama is actually true.”
Mr. Jekielek: It does sound bizarre. And I hadn’t thought about this before, that they would ignore information from Brennan, who was running the CIA at the time.
Mr. Carlson: Yeah. We talked at the start of this, about these parallel tracks and how that may have originated with the reference to the Swift Boat campaign. So, we have that February reference to Swift Boat. Then we know in May that these parallel tracks started. Then they converged conveniently on the 29th when Sussmann, Elias, by the way, Fusion GPS was there, as well, if memory serves, Steele, all meet together to go over what each had. Again, Steele said, “That’s where I heard about the Alfa Bank allegations.”
Two days later, you have the FBI open up an investigation after Brennan had told Obama the Clinton campaign had these plans. Now, another thing that Brennan did, in light of Crossfire Hurricane, is that he sent a memo to the FBI, to James Comey and to Peter Strzok, with exactly that same information, telling them that here was the Clinton campaign’s plan.
Now, bear in mind, by the time FBI, I believe it was September 7th, they’re deep into the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. That’s well underway. And yet they receive a memo from the CIA saying that Clinton had these plans. So not only do they continue with the investigation into Trump, again, no investigation is opened into Hilary Clinton. And I guess I want to be cautious of, I’m not sure how to say this, but let’s just let his actions speak for himself.
Brennan goes to Obama and gives him this information. He later gives the FBI the same information about the Clinton campaign. Well, what does Brennan do in between those two events? Brennan goes to every single member of Congress and tells them that he believes that Russia is trying to influence the election for Donald Trump and against Hillary Clinton. Now, that phrasing, and this is his words, this came out of his testimony, that phrasing, to the gang of eight, is remarkably similar to Clinton’s plan when she intended to smear Trump by claiming that Russia was trying to help Trump and hurt her.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the things that I’m just remembering from this most recent filing, because I think we should actually mention this, is that Joffe is actually being offered a job in a future potential Clinton White House, right? So that’s kind of wild, given everything we were just talking about
Mr. Mahncke: It is. Some of the news headlines on these recent events have been sort of to the effect that Clinton hired Joffe, paid him to do this spying. We don’t know that. Durham does not tell us whether he was paid, whether there was some bank transfer or whatever. Maybe through Fusion GPS. That’s how they paid Steele, which took a long time to figure out. Of course, Kash Patel and Devin Nunes actually figured it out, that Steele was being paid through Fusion and Fusion was being paid through Perkins Coie, and Clinton was paying Perkins Coie. So they had built this long chain.
So who knows, maybe there’s a long chain like that in the Joffe world. But what you just mentioned is just so much more glaring. Who needs to get paid if you are offered this top job in Hillary Clinton’s administration? If the headlines in the past few days had been that “Tech executive who was offered top job in Clinton administration spied on Trump,” I think those would’ve been far more convincing headlines than the ones we were seeing, and actually true. That is exactly what Durham has said.
Mr. Carlson: Yeah. And there’s one other point there and that is the fact that Joffe is a man of means. He’s a very wealthy individual. So a number of X dollars to him is probably meaningless, but a position within a potential Clinton administration is not meaningless. And it is unfortunate that those words got put out there because they got seized upon. And it’s notable that that’s what Clinton, in a tweet, was downplaying. So rather than disputing anything that was in Durham’s filing, she seized on the headlines as something that she could point a finger at.
Mr. Mahncke: What’s also interesting is that the other day, Hillary Clinton tweeted twice about Durham in the way that Jeff just described. Now, she’s never, ever tweeted about Durham. So it does appear that this is something that worries her. Perhaps she’s trying to protect Sussmann. We don’t know what exactly is going on, but I thought that was pretty remarkable.
Mr. Jekielek: So the thing that strikes me here, actually, is that we have these three prongs or three tracks of intrigue, for lack of a better term, right? So we’ve had this one that we’ve known about for a long time, the Steele dossier, the Steele track. And we have, of course, the intelligence community track, FBI, and so forth. This whole kind of realm of Sussmann and Joffe. That’s been what’s being kind of elucidated in these Durham filings now. So are we at the end of this track or is this just the beginning? What’s your perception here?
Mr. Carlson: I think we’re probably somewhere in the middle. Will there be another pathway, another track that’s brought forth? I’m sure there’ll be something. How big it is remains unknown. But to have a third pathway, where before there was only two, is pretty significant. And the fact that it involved the Executive Office of the President is also notable.
Now we see that there was another group that was working underneath to create this data, that was away from your traditional political operative of the Fusion GPS Chris Steele entity, and people who actually had access inside government. I think that’s maybe one of the biggest differences that we’re experiencing here, is this was somebody who has access to government information directly. Not your traditional political operative.
Mr. Mahncke: I agree with that. I think we are somewhere in the middle. The one remarkable thing about Durham is he drops these filings, and then you think it’s a big bomb shell, and then he comes up with another one and then he comes up with another one. So I think he’s still got a few aces up his sleeve. So we started off in September of 2021 when he introduced us to Joffe—the existence of Joffe. We didn’t know about him and his role and his access, as Jeff said.
And then he kept dropping other things. The recent one, of course, where he dropped access to the Executive Office of the President, and so on. There was another filing where he dropped a very peculiar kind of piece of information involving a visit by Sussmann to Inspector General Michael Horowitz. He’s the Inspector General of the DOJ. And, of course, he sort of came to fame in 2018 because of his Clinton email investigation, in 2019 because of the Carter Page FISA investigation.
And for reasons that are not entirely clear at this point, in March of 2017, shortly after Horowitz had opened his IG’s investigation into the Clinton email investigation, kind of seeing if everything was done properly there, he got a visit from Sussmann, Clinton’s campaign lawyer. And all we know from Durham’s filing is that Sussmann kind of alerted him to the fact that one of his staff members in the IG’s office, and we don’t know who that staff member is, it could be Horowitz for all we know, had used a VPN in a foreign country.
That’s a virtual private network. That’s sort of where you’re trying to hide your identity online. We don’t know what the context for that is, what the visit is for. Why would an IG personally meet a lawyer who kind of calls up and says, “Hey, can I come in?” It’s all very, very unusual. So I’m sure that Durham has some more information there that at some point he’s going to drop and we’re all going to probably be surprised again.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, so this brings to mind, of course, who is the actual intended audience for these filings, right? There’s this whole, on Kash’s Corner, we talked about this, that early on the Sussmann team basically went out and sort of demanded a lot of discovery and so forth. And it seemed like Kash was arguing that this was kind of a mistake because Durham responded by offering all sorts of information. To the point where the Sussmann team responded and said, “Okay, no, no, no, this is too much information. In fact, you should stop giving information now. That’s too much. Thank you very much.”
That’s, of course, my interpretation. So, on the one hand, you could say the information is for the general public knowledge, that something’s happening, new information that people didn’t know, for researchers. On the other hand, it could also very much be for basically talking internally to the Department of Justice, to the lawyers, showing the hand, so to speak. So what is your take on this?
Mr. Carlson: Well, that’s our position on matters, is that Durham is, with every single filing he’s made, there was another individual that was brought up, Charles Dolan. So every single filing that he’s made, there’s been this unexpected information that nobody thought we would get. And I think people have to understand the backdrop, and that is Durham is effectively operating in a hostile environment. The DOJ is not politically friendly to his efforts. It’s being run by people, Lisa Monaco, John Carlin. These are folks that actually had involvement in the FBI’s spying, or the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation back in 2016.
So, you could even see a stretch where these people are, at least questions being asked. So we think that what’s going on is that Durham is making this information public as a means of combating any sort of pushback or shutdown of his investigation from the DOJ. We think it’s very intentional to get this information out there, some of it, which seems to be fairly alarming, that, if indeed there was an effort to shut down his investigation at this point. There’s enough known that there would be just a chorus of questions being asked as to why that investigation was being shut down.
Mr. Mahncke: Yes, I agree. I think it’s a bit of both. So let the public know about the progress of his investigation, but perhaps slightly more emphasis on the fact of letting the people over at DOJ, Lisa Monaco, Carlin, people like that, who, by the way, were involved with not necessarily the Trump Swift Boat project, but certainly on the White House side, Obama’s White House side, with things like the intelligence community assessment, which Brennan, we talked about earlier, crafted to kind of describe how Russia wanted to elect Trump.
So these people were involved in that and now they’re, I wouldn’t say their bosses because, of course, Durham is Special Counsel so he’s kind of a bit separate, but he still has to get his budget signed off and he still has to submit reports. There is a bit of a turf war going on there for sure. And I’m sure that Durham is trying to prevent them from shutting it off. And he’s just kind of putting out enough for that not to happen.
And that certainly happened with one of the recent filings when he revealed the spying on the Executive Office of the President, which, by the way, you mentioned Kash had said that Sussmann probably now regrets having his lawyers having asked for all this information. I agree. I mean, initially they were like, “Give us everything. Give us everything.” And everyone was like, “Okay, okay.”
And now, of course, he gave the information about the Executive Office of the President, and guess what Sussmann’s lawyers did? They filed a motion and said, “No, no, that’s too much. Don’t include that kind of information.” And then Durham came back and said, “No, no, I needed to include that because, guess what? One of the lawyers who was on Sussmann’s team right, now worked in the Executive Office of the President under Obama during that period that’s affected here.” So Durham has always, so far, been able to kind of come back and explain not only what he’s doing, but also explain why he’s releasing certain information. And yes, I think that’s right. So Sussmann asked for everything—he got everything.
Mr. Jekielek: Hans, just to clarify, there was a lawyer that was working with the Executive Office of the President under Obama. Explain that a little bit.
Mr. Mahncke: Sure. So the period that Durham describes where Joffe was basically mining data from the White House starts in late 2016, when Obama was still around. There was a lawyer working there. I don’t think he’s named in these court filings. Anyway, that lawyer is now on the team of Sussmann’s defense. There’s another lawyer who’s mentioned in one of these recent Durham filings who worked for the law firm that’s representing Sussmann.
And that lawyer was brought into the DOJ by Biden in January of 2021. So again, Durham made sure to flag that up. I think it’s just in a footnote, but just sort of… And he says, “I understand,” or “we understand that this guy has now recused,” or words to that effect. So it’s always sort of a shot across the bow to DOJ. Like, “Hey, we’re keeping an eye on things.”
Mr. Jekielek: But basically this data mining, so to speak, it sort of spanned both administrations. That’s the message that maybe isn’t obvious to everybody.
Mr. Mahncke: I think it started earlier, but we don’t know what was mined or what was not mined. So what Durham says, what we know for sure, is that Joffe had access between 2014 all the way to ’17. That’s what we know. Now, there are no exact dates. Durham also doesn’t say what, exactly, for instance, did Joffe exploit during the Obama years. Was he doing the same data mining? We just don’t know that. But he does say that into 2017, he was mining the data for derogatory information on Trump, which suggests that, well, this was when certainly Trump was elected, and perhaps when Trump was president, unless you expect to find derogatory information on Trump from Obama.
Mr. Carlson: Yeah. Just to be clear, Durham has gone out of the way to say that the information, what they were looking for, information derogatory to Trump, never has Durham said that they were… has he mentioned Obama in terms of anything, looking for information, positive, derogatory, otherwise. So that is the notable difference. It’s always been in reference to information that’s been derogatory to candidate Trump.
Mr. Jekielek: So, this sort of answers the question that, again, someone actually asked me this question recently, is like, how did someone like Joffe gain access? Well, they were already kind of on the payroll at the White House in the first place. That’s what strikes me here, right?
Mr. Carlson: Yeah. I think there’s been a joke going around, you could see it on Twitter, is that Obama was the one who paid for Joffe, in essence, because Joffe was in place through Neustar.
Mr. Jekielek: So this question comes to mind, also. Is it even possible for a special counsel to be removed or slowed down or stopped? How does that work exactly?
Mr. Carlson: Well, certainly a special counsel can be impeded. His budget, his scope can be limited. His budget can be limited. I think Durham is already running a fairly tight process, budgetarily speaking. You can try to restrict access. Now, I believe, in certain cases, and Hans, help me out here, but I believe in certain cases you can actually shut down a special counsel, but there’s political ramifications that come with that. And that’s part of what Durham has been doing with these filings is sort of perhaps an insurance policy against that.
Mr. Mahncke: Yes, that’s right. That’s what the media kept saying about Trump, that he was going to shut down Mueller, which he could have done, but then there would’ve been the political ramifications. That’s exactly right. Short of shutting down, you can limit the budget, you can limit the scope. There’s all sorts of things that you can do. Now, the former attorney general, Bill Barr, was very smart in terms of spelling out the scope. He made it really, really broad. He said, “Anything that arises from the investigation,” which could be anything at all.
But the current AG, Garland, might come in and say, “No, no, that scope is too broad.” For instance, they could say, “Well, you don’t need a special counsel for this because this doesn’t affect the Biden administration. This can be done internally in the DOJ.” There’s all sorts of things that can happen there.
You remember with Rod Rosenstein, who was overseeing Mueller, Mueller did not have a broad scope to begin with, but Mueller kept asking for more scope. “Can I also look at these people? Can I look at that?” and so on, and of course, Rosenstein always signed off on that. So yeah, there’s many ways of restricting, limiting, hampering.
For instance, we just mentioned the lawyer who worked at the law firm, which is now representing Sussmann, who is now at DOJ. Now, I have no idea what that guy was doing there or what his involvement was with Durham’s cases, but Durham made it clear that he understands that this guy has now recused. So that seems to have been very important to Durham, to make that very clear.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, as we finish up here, where do things go from here? Even as we’re recording here, there’s been a flurry of more filings that have kind of come out. So where are things going now?
Mr. Carlson: You know, I think it helps if we again, step back and look at the larger picture, because that probably provides sort of the pathway for what Durham may be doing here. And that is that we had the one pathway that we knew about, which was Steele. And now we have another pathway that we knew about, that was provided by Joffe, who’s sort of behind the scenes. And we then had that intersect with the intelligence community.
And then we saw the efforts of the intelligence community in terms of not investigating the Clinton campaign, but certainly going after the Trump campaign and the intelligence community going to great pains to establish that Russia had interfered with our election, culminating in the intelligence community assessment, which hampered Trump throughout the entirety of his presidency.
So I think it’s possible that some of those actions may be that that’s sort of the ladder that Durham is climbing. The question may become how high does Durham actually climb? Does he stop and is it limited to Sussmann, Joffe, et cetera? I think that’s probably a pretty big question.
Mr. Mahncke: Yeah. No, I agree. Durham has surprised us over and over. Pretty much every filing has some bombshells in it. There’s a guy that Jeff briefly mentioned, which we haven’t even talked about, called Charles Dolan. That’s on the Steele and Danchenko side, not on the Sussmann side. Now that guy, supposedly he’s a Clinton operative, long, long time. Goes back to Bill Clinton. Now, apparently he fed Danchenko information, which all ended up in the dossier. So we’d never heard about this guy.
So, first of all, I think there’s going to be more surprises. Second of all, I think we’re looking at conspiracy charges on the Sussmann side, because clearly these guys, we talked about how they were coordinating with Fusion, they weren’t good Samaritans, all that kind of stuff. So tie that altogether. Of course, Joffe hasn’t been indicted yet, despite everything that we said about him and that he’s alleged to have done, according to what we already know. So I think you’re looking at conspiracy charges there.
On the Danchenko side, that case is proceeding. The fact that he’s alleged to have lied to the FBI. Steele has not been indicted. At least not that we know of. There might be a sealed indictment, of course. Steele is in the UK, so it’s not easy to get him within Durham’s jurisdiction. So it’s kind of those two paths, and those two prongs.
And then the third one. Yes. I have my doubts as well as to whether Durham has sort of the backing to go after basically government actors; Comey, Brennan, Strzok, all those people we talked about, and all the things they did. And again, what they did was terrible because, again, July 28th, they found out that Hillary had this plan. Three days later, they open an investigation, not into Hillary, but Trump. I mean, so, so bad. But can Durham go after them? I have my doubts about that. I think we’re going to see more action on those two paths, but not the FBI, CIA sort of government path.
Mr. Jekielek: Any final thoughts, Jeff?
Mr. Carlson: Well, I mean, as Hans said, Durham has continually surprised us and it’ll be fascinating to see what direction he moves forward here. And to me that is the big question, is we can kind of see through that he’s following these two prongs. The question is, how far does he follow those two prongs and does it just stop with the people like… Another group of people that could be brought into this are the Fusion GPS people, the people that employed Steele, the political operative side.
Or does it move a little bit higher? I know we’d like to all see something broader happen so that we don’t have these kind of things occur in the future. But that’s very hard to say. I mean, to this point, the only prosecution we actually have, that’s gone to a conclusion, is Kevin Kleinsmith, a lawyer who altered a FISA report, and he got off with probation. So there is a lot of wait and see that’s out there, a lot of folks that are sort of jaded watching these processes unfold.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Jeff Carlson, Hans Mahncke, such a pleasure to have you on the show.
Mr. Carlson: Well, thanks for having us on. We really appreciate it.
Mr. Mahncke: Thanks very much. It was a great honor.
Mr. Jekielek: We live in an age of censorship and disinformation, where some of the most prominent voices, most important voices, aren’t actually being heard because they’re being suppressed. I invite some of these people onto the show, onto American Thought Leaders. So, to stay up to date on the most recent episodes and our exclusive content, you can actually sign up for our newsletter at theepochtimes.com/newsletter. Just hit the check box for American Thought Leaders.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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