A university researcher felt threatened when pressed by a staffer to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and a Democrat senator seeking help to suss out alleged links between former President Donald Trump and Russia, special counsel John Durham revealed this week.
According to Durham’s report, which the Justice Department released on Monday, the researcher recalled traveling to Capitol Hill with a colleague in November 2018 to discuss a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) cybersecurity program with Senate Armed Services Committee staffers. Afterward, the pair agreed to talk with staffers of the House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence (HPSCI) after a staffer for Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), then the ranking member of the armed services panel, mentioned their interest in meeting.
In a “secure” room, a HPSCI staff member presented a news article about “Trump, Russia, and Alfa Bank,” the researcher recounted. This article appears to have focused on internet data that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign used to fuel speculation about an unfounded secret backchannel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank.
The HPSCI staffers said they wanted the university’s help looking into the matter, but the researcher told Durham’s team that he responded by saying it would be inappropriate for a public university — which in this case appears to be Georgia Tech University — to do that and he suggested they contact DARPA. That’s when the Reed staffer said, “We are now in charge,” and “one of the HPSCI staffers said that their boss (Congressman Adam Schiff) would soon take over” HPSCI leadership, per the report. The researcher, identified as “University-I Researcher-3,” “took the comment as a mild threat,” Durham’s report added.
Durham wrote that his team “considered” whether these activities might be relevant to a prosecution for contract fraud or abuse of government resources. The Daily Wire reached out to Schiff’s and Reed’s offices for comment.
The researcher said he “dragged” his colleague out of the meeting and offered a warning. “Don’t touch this with a ten foot pole, stay away from this,” the researcher recalled saying. But, as it turned out, the second researcher had been part of an effort to mine internet data to conduct opposition research attempting to link Trump to Russia, the special counsel’s report noted. Alleged details about this effort, linked to tech executive Rodney Joffe, were laid bare during Durham’s prosecution of former Clinton campaign Michael Sussmann, who was acquitted last year by a D.C. jury on a charge of lying to the FBI.
The first researcher told Durham’s team he did not recall his colleague mentioning the work he had already done at the university regarding the Alfa Bank allegations. The first researcher also told Durham’s team that he informed a DARPA program manager of the request from the HPSCI staffers, including “his objections to the nature of the request.”
The report says when the DARPA manager spoke with Durham’s team he “denied learning of the Alfa Bank allegations other than through media reports” and “maintained that he was unaware of any role that University-I personnel played in the Alfa Bank allegations.”
The special counsel made a number of referrals, including one to the Defense Department’s inspector general involving a matter that “involved the execution of a contract between DARPA and the Georgia Institute of Technology,” Durham’s report said.
At the time of the meeting, as reported by Durham, Schiff would have still been the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He later became chairman, a perch from which he often insisted there was evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. After Republicans won control of the House in 2022, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) booted Schiff from the panel over accusations that Schiff lied about investigations related to Trump. Schiff is now running for Senate.
In response to Durham’s report, which heavily criticized the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe, Schiff has defended the bureau’s work and argued the special counsel’s inquiry was “flawed” from the start.