Reporting from John Solomon at The Hill on Monday sheds light on a little-remarked episode in the Russiagate saga from February and March 2017. It may hold the key to a lot.
Solomon’s sources say that during negotiations with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, from which the Justice Department hoped to get an immunity agreement and some cooperation with Assange on redacting information from upcoming WikiLeaks data dumps, FBI Director James Comey spiked the whole process. Because of Comey, negotiations were shut down.
And, of particular interest to the Russiagate narrative, Assange was also offering to explain why the source of the John Podesta email data released by WikiLeaks in 2016 could not be the Russian hackers suspected by the FBI. (Assange was not offering to disclose his source; only to discuss why his information indicated it could not be the Russians.)
After Comey shut the negotiations with Assange down, attempts to revive them were unsuccessful. The end result was the devastating WikiLeaks release on 7 April 2017 of a CIA-developed hacking framework with which to build custom malware. This wasn’t just information about the kind of capability the CIA had; it was code-level data.
In the interim – in early March 2017 – WikiLeaks released a trove of information revealing that the CIA had developed cyber tools that could mimic the profile of Russian hackers, and make it look as if a hack had been done by the Russians when it was actually the CIA.
Both WikiLeaks releases occurred after Comey spiked the negotiations, which occurred in February 2017. But the odd thing about his intervention is that it apparently was done by going around the Justice Department negotiators. Comey got the deal-making shut down via another route.
That route was Senator Mark Warner (D-VA). Long-time Warner associate Adam Waldman, a lobbyist to whom Assange had reached out in January, as the Trump inauguration approached, was brokering the talks and had put Assange in touch with Bruce Ohr and senior counterintelligence official David Laufman at the DOJ. Their series of contacts had the negotiations in full swing by mid-February 2017.
That’s when Comey weighed in, by going through Warner rather than the DOJ principals. According to John Solomon, prosecutor David Laufman was determined to go ahead with the deal for Assange. But Assange pulled back, spooked by the Comey intervention and the mixed signals. Although the back-and-forth continued into March, Assange never had the confidence he needed to commit to the deal…