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Exclusive: Special Counsel’s Office Is Investigating The 2016 DNC Server Hack

2016 Democratic National Convention
Image CreditJefParker / Wikimedia

There was previously no known connection between the special counsel and the government’s investigation into the 2016 Democratic National Committee hack.

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The U.S. Department of Defense tasked the same Georgia Tech researcher embroiled in the Alfa Bank hoax with investigating the “origins” of the Democratic National Committee hacker, according to an email first obtained by The Federalist on Wednesday. That email also indicates the special counsel’s office is investigating the investigation into the DNC hack and that prosecutors harbor concerns about the DOD’s decision to involve the Georgia Tech researcher in its probe.

The special counsel branded this person “Researcher-1” in court filings. His identity has since been confirmed by his attorney as Georgia Tech’s Manos Antonakakis.

Antonakakis first garnered public attention when Special Counsel John Durham indicted former Hillary Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann. That one-count indictment charged the former Perkins Coie attorney with lying to FBI General Counsel James Baker when Sussmann provided Baker data and white papers purporting to show a secret communication network between the Russian-based Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization.

In charging Sussmann, the speaking indictment explained that tech executive Rodney Joffe first alerted Sussmann to data allegedly compiled by April Lorenzen that supposedly revealed a backdoor communication network between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. Joffe later allegedly asked two Georgia Tech researchers, Antonakakis and David Dagon—the latter identified in the indictment as Researcher-2—to mine internet data for evidence establishing a Trump-Russia connection.

According to the indictment, in mid-August, Antonakakis “queried internet data” maintained by Joffe’s tech company for the mail1.trump-email.com domain. The results from that search, however, showed no apparent connections between the Trump email and Russia, causing Antonakakis to tell Joffe that the results do “not make sense with the storyline you have.” Nonetheless, Joffe provided Antonakakis, Dagon, and Lorenzen a draft “white paper,” which presented a tale of an Alfa Bank-Trump secret communication channel, which the three then reviewed for Joffe.

Sussmann would later provide the Alfa Bank data and white papers to Baker, telling Baker that he was not acting on behalf of a client. The indictment alleged, however, that in reality Sussmann was acting on behalf of both the Clinton campaign and Joffe when he fed the FBI’s general counsel that Alfa Bank story.

While it has been known since Sussmann’s indictment dropped in September 2021 that the Georgia Tech researchers had allegedly reviewed the Alfa Bank data and one of the white papers Sussmann provided to the FBI, there was previously no known connection to the government’s investigation into the DNC hack. However, one email contained in a cache of documents obtained on March 9 from Georgia Tech pursuant to a Right-To-Know request reveals Antonakakis’ involvement in the investigation into the hack of the DNC.

A little more than a week after Antonakakis’s scheduled testimony before a Washington D.C. grand jury, the Georgia Tech researcher wrote to the university’s general counsel and other members of upper management to highlight areas of concern to discuss “after the dust settles.” In that email, Antonakakis launched a soliloquy that perfectly described the Russia-collusion hoax and the plot by anti-Trump politicians and the deep state intelligence and law enforcement communities to take down the president of the United States.

But to Antonakakis, the special counsel appointed to unravel this scandal was the bad guy, and he was the victim: “From where I stand, and for the first time in my life I felt that I am being investigated by law enforcement because of my ideas and the work I have done for the [U.S. government/Department of Defense],” Antonakakis wrote.

Carter Page, Felix Sater, and Michael Flynn could not be reached for comment.

Antonakakis then continued with this revealing anecdote: “I was asked point blank by Mr. DeFilippis, ‘Do you believe that DARPA should be instructing you to investigate the origins of a hacker (Guccifer_2.0) that hacked a political entity (DNC)?’”

The Georgia Tech researcher told his colleagues he replied that was “a question for DARPA’s director”—a seeming confirmation that DARPA had, as the special counsel’s question presumed, directed Antonakakis to investigate who bore responsibility for the DNC hack, although it is unclear whether Antonakakis’ task concerned solely the supposed identity of “Guccifer,” or more broadly the question of who hacked the DNC.

How dare the special counsel’s office inquire into this question, Antonakakis’s commentary continued, alleging the question served as an indictment of Assistant Special Prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis.

“Let that sync for a moment, folks,” Antonakakis wrote, before seething: “Someone hacked a political party (DNC, in this case), in the middle of an election year (2016), and the lead investigator of [the Department of Justice’s] special counsel would question whether U.S. researchers working for DARPA should conduct investigations in this matter is ‘acceptable’!”

Antonakakis is oblivious to reality: The entire reason the special counsel’s office first reached out to Georgia Tech, Antonakakis, Dagon, and other researchers, and later subpoenaed them, was because Sussmann and Joffe allegedly exploited data solely for political reasons. Sussmann, allegedly on behalf of Joffe and the Clinton campaign, then presented that supposedly “scientific attribution”—that Antonakakis admitted he did not support—to the FBI and CIA to show an Alfa Bank-Trump connection and thereby taint Trump with another Russia scandal in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.

As if to punctuate his projection, Antonakakis continued: “Please, try to imagine a ‘United States of America’ where investigations and prosecutions are determined by ideas and political believes [sic].” There is no need to imagine this reality, however, because we lived through it for five years.

Then, in a final irony, Antonakakis declared his research and innovation necessary “to preserve our democracy.” Why? “For a single yet fundamental reason: data driven scientific attribution is unbiased politically. Data belongs to no political party,” Antonakakis wrote.

Yes, that’s right, Antonakakis actually penned these words: “Data driven scientific attribution is unbiased politically.” Let that sink in for a moment, folks.

Antonakakis reviewed the Alfa Bank white paper Hillary Clinton’s campaign lawyer later allegedly provided to the FBI in an effort to implicate Trump in a Russia conspiracy. This same man professes that data-driven scientific attribution is politically unbiased—even though Antonakakis believed “a DNS expert would poke several holes” in the hypothesis underlying the white paper given the government.

Russian Hack by The Federalist on Scribd

Beyond the outrageous, hypocritical umbrage Antonakakis takes over the special counsel’s investigation into feeding an unsupported “scientific” study to the FBI and CIA, Antonakakis’ email reveals a larger point concerning a question Antonakakis didn’t think to ask himself: Why was the assistant special counsel investigating the investigation of the DNC hacking?

Something caused the special counsel’s office to discover that DARPA had tasked Antonakakis with investigating the DNC hack. And something caused the special counsel’s office to question the Georgia Tech researcher about that project.

The public storyline until now had been that CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm Sussmann hired in April 2016, had concluded Russians had hacked the DNC server, and that the FBI, which never examined the server, concurred in that conclusion. Intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller likewise concluded that Russian agents were behind the DNC hack, but with little public details provided.

It now appears that DARPA had some role in that assessment, or rather Antonakakis did on behalf of DARPA, which leads to a whole host of other questions, including whether DARPA had access to the DNC server and data and, if so, from whom did the DOD’s research arm get that access? Was it Sussmann?

Most intriguingly, why is Special Counsel Durham concerned with the DARPA connection and the DNC hack or hacker in the first place?

Update: Since this article ran, Jared Adams, DARPA’s chief of communications, told The Federalist that DARPA was not aware of anyone affiliated with DARPA asking Antonakakis to research either the DNC hack or the hacker.