Jared Novick had no doubt from the beginning, back in 2016, that he’d been tasked with “opposition research.” The work made him feel “extremely uncomfortable” but he just wanted to get it done and out the door, he testified. The IT executive was totally creeped out by the obvious data-mining project, targeting political candidate Donald Trump, when he got sucked into it by his business associate Rodney Joffe. At the time, he was the CEO of BitVoyant, while Joffe supplied his company with investment cash.
Opposition research on demand
Special counsel John Durham’s indictment of Democratic cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann calls Joffe “Technology Executive-1.” Jared Novick called him boss. Not directly, but when the guy who hands you piles of cash to run your business wants a task completed, you do the job.
The first thing he did was come up with the code-name “Crimson Rhino,” he testified at Sussmann’s trial on Thursday, May 26. That’s because the “last thing I wanted was Donald Trump’s name” displayed around the office. The research became part of the Alfa Bank operation.
Sussmann stands accused of hiding the fact he was working for two clients when he met with James Baker at the Federal Bureau of Instigation in August of 2016. One was Hillary Clinton’s Campaign and the other was Rodney Joffe. That makes what Novick has to say really important.
According to Novick, Joffe “called me asking to look at research and data related to Donald Trump and Russia.” He noted that “was extremely uncommon. It was unique. We never before did any tasking like this.”
It was different because it dealt with “an individual or a group of individuals.” He had an analogy to put it in perspective for the jury.
Satellite focus on a back yard
Novick explained to the court that the normal way his company works is sort of like “a satellite company that does flood plain analysis for a large area.” What Joffe was asking for was “similar to focusing a satellite on someone’s backyard in the hopes of finding something related to Trump and Alfa-Bank.”
It “felt very political” and “the whole thing felt like opposition research,” but he “reluctantly proceeded with the task.”
There was some interesting back and forth as Defense counsel tried to badger the witness into an admission that would help diffuse some of the damage but Novick hung tough. When asked if Joffe had “large contracts” with the government, Novick responded that he knew “some government agencies were suspicious of Rodney.”
One of the best parts was when Durham prosecutor Jonathan Algor asked Novick if he knew where his research report was headed.
The obvious opposition research on Trump “was to go to an attorney with ties to…” was interrupted by instant objection, sustained by the judge, before Novick could say “Hillary Clinton.”
The whole reason his team was put to work on the task was to supply “an inference” and “narrative” tying Trump to Russia. One which would support the freshly concocted data and psychobabble “whitepaper” Sussmann spoon fed to the FBI.