Durham Report Demolishes Claims of FBI, Clinton Campaign, Others

Durham Report Demolishes Claims of FBI, Clinton Campaign, Others
Christopher Steele (L), Lisa Page

I realize that my vacation (Viva España!) puts me behind the curve on the topic of the Durham Report, but it’s an important enough development that I can’t let it pass without comment.

Three issues stick out.  The first (that I deal with today) is the fact that the chief law enforcement agency of the United States secretly went to bat for one presidential candidate and against another.  To put it mildly, that should never happen; in a true democracy, it can’t.

Now, John Durham isn’t the first to let us know about the shenanigans of the Clinton campaign and the FBI; we’ve known the basics for years.  We’ve known that the former paid the law firm of Perkins Coie that then paid Fusion GPS that in turn paid Christopher Steele for the sole purpose of slandering Donald Trump, a political dirty trick worthy of Richard Nixon at his worst.  And we knew that the FBI knew that the Steele dossier was bogus, but took some of its allegations to the FISA court anyway to obtain a warrant to surveil Carter Page.  And we knew that FBI officials then leaked the investigation to the press, the better to smear Donald Trump and, they hoped, contribute to his defeat at the polls.

Any minimally aware person could have easily concluded the above and wondered why it was Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton who was under investigation by, for example, Robert Mueller.

But what the Durham Report has done is provide a level of detail, an abundance of facts, that no one, including Mueller, previously had.  And that bumper crop of information incriminates the Bureau in ways that are hard to give sufficient weight to.  Truly, words fail.

Put simply, the FBI knew from the outset that it was the Clinton campaign’s idea to tar Trump with allegations of Russian collusion.  The top echelons of the FBI – people like Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok – knew early on that what the Report calls the “Clinton intelligence plan” was a purely political ploy entirely unsupported by evidence.  And yet the Bureau opened, not a preliminary investigation to ascertain whether there was enough evidence to pursue the matter, but a full-fledged one.  Crossfire Hurricane came into being in violation of longstanding Bureau protocols.

It is the Office’s assessment that the FBI discounted or willfully ignored material information that did not support the narrative of a collusive relationship between Trump and Russia… An objective and honest assessment of these strands of information should have caused the FBI to question not only the predication for Crossfire Hurricane, but also to reflect on whether the FBI was being manipulated for political or other purposes. Unfortunately, it did not.

And it wasn’t just the FBI.  From the beginning of the investigation,

Neither US law enforcement nor the intelligence community appears to have possessed any actual evidence of collusion…

Nor did they try to vet what had been given.

[T]he FBI [opened the investigation] without (i) one (sic) any significant review of its own intelligence databases, (ii) collection and examination of any relevant intelligence from other U.S. intelligence entities, (iii) interviews of witnesses essential to understand the raw information it had received or (iv) using any of the standard analytical tools typically employed by the FBI in evaluating raw intelligence.

All of that violated the most basic agency protocols.  If they’d been followed, perhaps the entire fiasco could have been avoided, but of course getting it right was never the goal.  Getting Donald Trump was.

Had it done so, …, the FBI would have learned that their own experienced Russia analysts had no information about Trump being involved with Russian leadership officials, nor were others in sensitive positions at the CIA, the NSA and the Department of State aware of such evidence concerning the subject. In addition, FBI records prepared by Strzok in February and March of 2017 show that at the time of the opening of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI had no information in its holdings indicating that, at any time during the campaign, anyone in the Trump campaign had been in contact with any Russian intelligence officials.

Lacking evidence, Bureau officials were desperate to get something – anything – with which to support the Clinton campaign’s narrative of Trump-Russia collusion.  As but one example, agents zeroed in on George Papadopoulos, convinced one of his friends to make 23 surreptitious audio recordings of him that were jammed with “approximately 200 prompts or baited statements” aimed at obtaining incriminating statements.  But Papadopoulos made no such statements and in fact did the opposite, making “174 clearly exculpatory statements.”  Again and again, he said that any presidential campaign’s involvement with a foreign power would be illegal, but the Bureau provided not a word of any of that to the FISA court.

And what of the fact, well known to the FBI, that “Russiagate” began with the Clinton campaign?  Did the FBI think that was worth looking into?  It did not, a fact the Durham Report finds damaging both to the targets of the collusion claims and to the FBI itself.  After all, damaging Trump and his presidential aspirations was the entire point.  As to the reputational damage to the Bureau, well, the Report offers no evidence that Comey, McCabe, et al thought it even worth considering.

All of this is quite an irony.  What began, and continued for at least three years, as a claim of corruption by the Trump campaign and Russia was in fact corruption by the Clinton campaign and the FBI.  The latter pursued an investigation that had nothing to do with legitimate law enforcement and everything to do with political influence, precisely what no law-enforcement agency should ever do.

But the scandal soars higher than just the senior leadership of the FBI, high as that is.  In fact, the CIA learned, in July of 2016, that Russian intelligence had concluded that, according to the Report, “Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee.”  Although the agency couldn’t be sure how accurate the Russian assessment was (it turned out to be spot-on), CIA director John Brennan considered it important enough to personally brief President Obama on it.

So, the director of the CIA and the President of the United States himself knew or had reason to suspect that Clinton and her campaign were attempting to falsely connect Trump, in the MSM and the public mind, to that eternal bugbear Russia, but did nothing to impede the process or even inquire into it.  Barack Obama was fine with what was going on, sleazy and false as it was.

It is impossible to overstate the gravity of the FBI’s actions.  They are a body blow both to our democratic process and to our perceptions of its legitimacy.  It doesn’t matter who the principals are, what happened should never happen.  Never.

But of course Russiagate relied entirely for its destructive power on a willingly-deceived Fourth Estate that, day after day, for almost three years parroted the false narrative of the Clinton campaign and entirely failed to question its claims.  After all, its goals aligned perfectly with those of Clinton and the FBI – destroy Donald Trump at any cost.

More on that next time.

This originally appeared at The Word of Damocles


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