Trump DOJ Nominee Confirms Alfa Bank Ties

News  |  Jul 6, 2018

The New York Times has more detail on the warning Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) shared on Twitter Thursday night about President Trump's nominee to head up the Department of Justice's Criminal Division, Brian Benczkowski. Benczkowski "previously represented Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions, whose owners have ties to President Vladimir V. Putin."

His confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee is Tuesday. 

Alfa Bank was at the center of scrutiny last year over potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia after computer experts discovered data suggesting a stream of communications between a server linked to the Trump Organization and a server linked to the bank. Reports about the mysterious data transmissions fueled speculation about a back channel.

The F.B.I. investigated the matter, however, and concluded that the servers’ interactions were not surreptitious exchanges between the campaign and Russia, according to current and former law enforcement officials. Experts have argued that the server linked to the Trump Organization appeared to be controlled by a marketing firm, Cendyn, that was sending emails promoting Trump hotel properties.

Ahead of the Judiciary Committee hearing, Mr. Benczkowski told the panel that he had previously been forbidden by his firm’s confidentiality agreement from disclosing his work for Alfa Bank, but had obtained a waiver.

The disclosure was made in a July 19 letter to the committee that was obtained by The New York Times.


Along with Mr. Benczkowski’s letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kirkland & Ellis submitted to lawmakers a letter on Friday by Viet Dinh, a partner at the firm and another former Bush administration Justice Department veteran, denouncing rumors that Alfa Bank had been a conduit for illicit communications between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government.

Mr. Dinh attached two reports by independent cybersecurity experts — one by Mandiant, which looked at data transmissions in 2016, and another by Stroz Friedberg, which looked at another set in 2017 — and concluded that the data were not evidence of substantive contact between the bank and the Trump organization. The Mandiant report was spurred in part by records submitted to Alfa Bank by The Times last year as it investigated the data transmissions.

“As the victim of an apparent malicious hoax, Alfa Bank remains eager to get to the bottom of the false allegations against it, and stands ready to assist the committee and all other government authorities as needed,” Mr. Dinh wrote.

But Mandiant’s investigation of Alfa Bank was, at best, cursory. According to people familiar with Mandiant’s review, its experts were shown largely metadata, the information that travels along with a message, for the communications that took place. The contents of the messages — if there were any — were not available.

Read more: Justice Dept. Nominee Says He Once Represented Russian Bank (NYT)