One of the largest unanswered questions about former President Donald Trump and Russia came into sharper focus on Thursday after The New York Times published a bombshell new report by Charlie Savage and Adam Goldman.
The story focused on the mystery of Trump Organization computer servers communicating with "Kremlin-linked" Alfa Bank in Russia.
Interest in the case has grown since special counsel John Durham indicted Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI when he came forward to alert them to the unusual traffic.
On Thursday, CNN reported Durham had issued new subpoenas in the case and noted it was "an indication that Durham could be trying to build a broader criminal case, according to people briefed on the matter."
The researchers who uncovered the traffic were not identified by Durham in the indictment, but were unmasked by The Times.
"Originator-1" is April Lorenzen, the chief data scientist at Zetalytics. "Researcher-1" is Georgia Tech computer scientist Manos Antonakakis. "Researcher-2" is David Dagon, a Georgia Institute of Technology data scientist.
The researchers are standing by their findings.
Dagon's lawyer told the newspaper the results "have been validated and are reproducible. The findings of the researchers were true then and remain true today; reports that these findings were innocuous or a hoax are simply wrong."
The newspaper noted what was going on remains a mystery.
"The F.B.I., which had already started its Trump-Russia investigation before it heard about the possible Trump-Alfa connections, quickly dismissed the suspicions, apparently concluding the interactions were probably caused by marketing emails sent by an outside firm using a domain registered to the Trump Organization," the newspaper reported. "A 2018 analysis commissioned by the Senate, made public this month, detailed technical reasons to doubt that marketing emails were the cause."
And the report noted the Alfa Bank server traffic was not the only thing discovered and taken to the federal government.
"Their other set of concerns centered on data suggesting that a YotaPhone — a Russian-made smartphone rarely seen in the United States — had been used from networks serving the White House, Trump Tower and Spectrum Health, a Michigan hospital company whose server had also interacted with the Trump server," the newspaper reported. "Mr. Sussmann relayed their YotaPhone findings to counterintelligence officials at the C.I.A. in February 2017, the people said. It is not clear whether the government ever investigated them."
The newspaper also reported on how the Pentagon helped discover the traffic.
"The involvement of the researchers traces back to the spring of 2016. Darpa, the Pentagon's research funding agency, wanted to commission data scientists to develop the use of so-called DNS logs, records of when servers have prepared to communicate with other servers over the internet, as a tool for hacking investigations," the newspaper reported. "Darpa identified Georgia Tech as a potential recipient of funding and encouraged researchers there to develop examples."
While sifting through the data, Lorenzen "noticed an odd pattern: a server called mail1.trump-email.com appeared to be communicating almost exclusively with servers at Alfa Bank and Spectrum Health."
In other news Thursday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) raged against fellow Republicans who she said are "upset with me most of the time." LISTEN:
'You're an idiot' Marjorie Taylor Greene rages at Republicans youtu.be