In the aftermath of the FBI re-opening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s abuse of classified information, the left and the media have been scrambling to find something to throw at Donald Trump (amazingly, he has kept his mouth shut for four days now showing how brutal the media coverage on Clinton would have been if he’d just taken a nice sabbatical to Antarctica or something instead of being in the news). One of the most ridiculous stories comes from the failed group blog, Slate. This is it:
The researchers quickly dismissed their initial fear that the logs represented a malware attack. The communication wasn’t the work of bots. The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.
We don’t yet know what this server was for, but it deserves further explanation.
So the logical hoops the author, a guy named Franklin Foer whose sole achievement in life is writing a book called “Jewish Jocks” (I’m unclear if this is about athletes or undergarments) are pretty amazing. As Ben Domenech writes in The Transom:
I don’t mean to be too hard on Franklin Foer, but this “Donald Trump’s Russian server connection” story doesn’t just fail the speculative smell test, it fails basic tests of technology and logic that would prevent any responsible writer from running with it. The basic gist of it is that the Trump Organization had a backchannel server setup communicating with Russia’s Alfa Bank. But beyond the rumor and implication in Foer’s piece, there’s a number of potential explanations that have nothing to do with untoward communication between the parties involved. This story was shopped to multiple outlets, and it appears most passed on it because the explanation could be as simple as spam. In fact, the direct ties between Trump and the Russians are just not there – and they don’t need to be. The Russians are getting what they want out of Donald Trump without having to communicate with him – he’s useful for them, win or lose, because of what he’s done to American democracy and our trust in electoral institutions.
Editors started saying that they’d passed on the story when they’d been pitched it because it was such a nothingburger. Noah Schachtman of the Daily Beast said of its flaws, “that’s why we ultimately passed on it.” John Little of Blogs of War just said he passed on account of the anonymous sources. Sam Biddle at The Intercept said that “at least five outlets including The Intercept have been looking at this for weeks and decided it didn’t add up.”
But finally a very Clinton-friendly blog decided to run with the bullsh**.
And there are actually an explanations that don’t involve Trump at all. It could be malware. It could be marketing email. If we’re hellbent on nefarious motives, it is more likely, given what we’ve seen of the sophistication of the DNC and John Podesta and Hillary Clinton, that Trump is a victim not a perpetrator. The technology exists that allows third parties to use your computers and servers to monitor the traffic on those devices as well as using the microphone and camera applications to conduct physical surveillance.
But there is more. My colleague Dan Spencer posted earlier on a FBI report that it found no links between Trump, his inner circle, his campaign, and Russia. From that article:
F.B.I. officials declined to comment on Monday. Intelligence officials have said in interviews over the last six weeks that apparent connections between some of Mr. Trump’s aides and Moscow originally compelled them to open a broad investigation into possible links between the Russian government and the Republican presidential candidate. Still, they have said that Mr. Trump himself has not become a target. And no evidence has emerged that would link him or anyone else in his business or political circle directly to Russia’s election operations…
In classified sessions in August and September, intelligence officials also briefed congressional leaders on the possibility of financial ties between Russians and people connected to Mr. Trump. They focused particular attention on what cyberexperts said appeared to be a mysterious computer back channel between the Trump Organization and the Alfa Bank, which is one of Russia’s biggest banks and whose owners have longstanding ties to Mr. Putin.
F.B.I. officials spent weeks examining computer data showing an odd stream of activity to a Trump Organization server and Alfa Bank. Computer logs obtained by The New York Times show that two servers at Alfa Bank sent more than 2,700 “look-up” messages — a first step for one system’s computers to talk to another — to a Trump-connected server beginning in the spring. But the F.B.I. ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts.
This allegation that Foer portrays as a mystery has been investigated by the FBI and declared to be a nothingburger. What makes this whole article totally dishonest is that Foer knew the FBI been informed and had debunked it before he shopped the story.
Mollie Hemmingway at The Federalist identifies this for what it is. It is part of an oppo drop designed to take the focus off Clinton and put it on Trump.
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