Donald Trump company's server was connected to Russian bank: Report

The FBI has reportedly known about Trump's connection to Russian financial institution since the summer

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 1, 2016 12:24PM (EDT)


More evidence is piling up linking Donald Trump to the Russian government, including the discovery of a secret server that existed solely to connect the Trump Organization to a powerful Russian bank, and a report that the FBI was informed that Vladimir Putin's regime wanted to cultivate a relationship with the Republican nominee.

News of the secret server came to light after security experts became concerned that the revelation of Russian attacks on Democratic National Committee servers might indicate similar activity being used against the Trump campaign, according to Slate.

Instead, the experts discovered that the Trump Organization had set up an email server that only performed one function: irregularly pinging a single email server located at Alfa Bank — one of Russia's biggest banks, which has close connections to the Russian and Ukrainian political elite. Both servers were set up to reject connections from third-party servers, and neither was active outside of Moscow and New York business hours.

The information was presented to Paul Vixie, who wrote essential parts of the DNS code that makes the Internet work. "The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion," Vixie told Slate. "The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project."

He later added that "this bears every indication that it was collected from a live link" and that "no reasonable person would come to the conclusion other than the one I’ve come to."

When Alfa Bank was questioned about its Trump-oriented server, that server vanished, only to be immediately replaced by another that performed the same function, Slate reported.

It was also reported by The Hill on Monday that a former intelligence officer warned the FBI in July of "an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit."

The FBI chose not to disclose the relationship to the public, but was investigating any possible connection. FBI Director James Comey was reportedly reluctant to blame Russia for the attacks perpetrated on the Democratic National Committee out of fear that it would influence the election — a concern he did not have Friday, when he said the agency had discovered more emails relating to its inquiry into Hillary Clinton.

The Trump-Russia connection has been long suspected, but impossible to pin down. One of Trump's former campaign managers, Paul Manafort, came under fire this spring when it was revealed that he was connected to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. During the Republican National Convention, the Trump campaign forced through a foreign policy plank on Ukraine into its platform that was consistent with Putin's views (the FBI is now investigating Manafort's dealings).

Manafort has also been tied to Sergei Millian, the head of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce, since 2006. Millian has been publicly connected to Trump since 2014, and, according to the Financial Times, may have been seen as an intermediary between the Trump campaign and Russian business interests.

UPDATE: A representative from Alfa Bank contacted the author of this article with a statement that read, in part, "Alfa Bank wishes to make clear that there is no connection between Alfa Bank and Donald Trump, the Trump campaign, or the Trump organization. Any suggestion to the contrary is false." They attribute the odd server activity to "an email marketing/spam campaign by a marketing server, which triggered security software."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump Elections 2016 Russia Vladimir Putin