The FBI provided a friendly notification to a Trump Organization computer client during the Russia probe that the firm failed to update Trump’s marketing email domain from an old server host to a new one, according to a newly released text message by then-FBI lead investigator Peter Strzok.
The Strzok message provides an innocent explanation for why the domain name system (DNS) address was canceled and puts to rest a liberal conspiracy theory of a Donald Trump coverup.
Mr. Strzok’s subject matter on the Sept. 23, 2016, internal message was Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest commercial lender run by billionaire oligarchs. The liberal press and social media blogs alleged during the election, and still today, that Alfa and the Trump Organization maintained a dedicated secret communication link via a computer server. Thus: evidence of election collusion.
Part of the liberal narrative is that once this allegation reached Alfa Bank, the Trump domain mysteriously vanished.
Agent Strzok tells a different story: the FBI had contacted Central Dynamics which includes subsidiary Cendyn, whose servers in Pennsylvania are used for hotel marketing including the Trump Organization since 2009.
Over a year ago, Mr. Strzok says, Cendyn shifted the Trump domain to GoDaddy, the firm’s new server host.
But the DNS address book, or tables, was not updated. The Trump-email.com domain still resided at Cendyn.
By the day of his message, Sept. 23, the connection had ended, Mr. Strzok said, “indicating they likely updated their DNS tables after the FBI informed them of the oversight.”
What is noteworthy about Mr. Strzok’s message is the lack of expressed concern that the FBI was looking at anything criminal.
“Looks to me like they were poking around at it but from the beginning had indications there was nothing nefarious,” a congressional Republican staffer told The Washington Times.
Mr. Strzok’s text messages were released on Thursday by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, Iowa Republican, and Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican.
Mr. Strzok talked of more investigative steps needed before coming to a finding. By February, the FBI finished its Alfa probe and concluded that no such Alfa-Trump server connection existed, according to a December 2019 report by the Justice Department inspector general.
Computer scientists, one going by the name “Tea Leaves,” had posted their Alfa-Trump conspiracies online. But it was a Slate.com story on Oct. 31, 2016, that propelled the story into the ongoing presidential election.
Hillary Clinton tweeted the Slate.Com assertion, as did her chief adviser, Jake Sullivan, the incoming national security adviser for president-elect Joseph R. Biden.
The Slate.com story reported that after a New York Times reporter contacted Alfa in September, the “Trump domain name in question seemed to suddenly stop working.”
That coincides with Mr. Strzok’s innocent explanation that same month: the FBI had informed Central Dynamics (Cendyn) that it still maintained the obsolete “Trump-email.com” domain name and after the notification, the firm terminated it.
On the broader question of whether Alfa-Trump secretly communicated––a theory dismissed by the FBI––Alfa Bank has filed a lawsuit in Lancaster County, Pa., Court of Commons Pleas against “John Doe.”
In essence, the lawsuit says a hacker, or group of hackers, duped computer scientists and the news media.
The purpose is to try to find out who created phony DNS pings of supposed communication that never actually happened, the lawsuit says. Alfa lawyers have contacted computer scientists who endorsed and wrote about the conspiracy to see if they can lead them to the hackers.
Alfa’s assertions are based on the findings of three cybersecurity firms it hired.
“Alfa bank in fact engaged in no communications with the Trump Organization in 2016 or 2017 beyond the falsely generated and inauthentic DNS queries,” the court action says. “Indeed, Alfa bank has never had any business dealings with the Trump Organization.”
“Tea Leaves” findings were promoted during and after the election by Fusion GPS and its co-founder Glenn Simpson, who handled anti-dossier writer Christopher Steele. The dossier, financed by Democrats, stands today as discredited in its dozen or so felony allegations against President Trump and aides.
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