JUST IN: Special counsel John Durham finds the FBI should not have launched an investigation into Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 US election https://t.co/zmRcucf6dn
— CNN International (@cnni) May 15, 2023
… And one imagines he slammed the door as he departed in a huff. Per the Associated Press:
… The report Monday from special counsel John Durham represents the long-awaited culmination of an investigation that Trump and allies had claimed would expose massive wrongdoing by law enforcement and intelligence officials. Instead, Durham’s investigation delivered underwhelming results, with prosecutors securing a guilty plea from a little-known FBI employee but losing the only two criminal cases they took to trial.
The roughly 300-page report catalogs what Durham says were a series of missteps by the FBI and Justice Department as investigators undertook a politically explosive probe in the heat of the 2016 election into whether the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia to tip the outcome. It criticized the FBI for opening a full-fledged investigation based on “raw, unanalyzed and uncorroborated intelligence,” saying the speed at which it did so was a departure from the norm. And it said investigators repeatedly relied on “confirmation bias,” ignoring or rationalizing away evidence that undercut their premise of a Trump-Russia conspiracy as they pushed the probe forward…
The impact of Durham’s report, though harshly critical of the FBI, is likely blunted by Durham’s spotty prosecution record and by the fact that many of the seven-year-old episodes it cites were already examined in depth by the Justice Department’s inspector general. The FBI has also long since announced dozens of corrective actions. The bureau outlined those changes in a letter to Durham on Monday, including steps meant to ensure the accuracy of secretive surveillance applications to eavesdrop on suspected terrorists and spies…
Durham, the former U.S. Attorney in Connecticut, was appointed in 2019 by Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, soon after special counsel Robert Mueller had completed his investigation into whether the 2016 Trump campaign had colluded with Russia to move the outcome of the election in his favor.
The Mueller investigation resulted in roughly three dozen criminal charges, including convictions of a half-dozen Trump associates, and concluded that Russia intervened on the Trump campaign’s behalf and that the campaign welcomed the help. But Mueller’s team did not find that they actually conspired to sway the election, creating an opening for critics of the probe — including Barr himself — to assert that it had been launched without a proper basis…
The original Russia investigation was opened in July 2016 after the FBI learned from an Australian diplomat that a Trump campaign associate named George Papadopoulos had claimed to know of “dirt” that the Russians had on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of hacked emails…
Durham’s mandate was to scrutinize government decisions, and identify possible misconduct, in the early days of the Trump-Russia probe. His appointment was cheered by Trump, who in a 2019 interview with Fox News said Durham was “supposed to be the smartest and the best.” He and his supporters hoped it would expose a “deep state” conspiracy within the top echelons of the FBI and other agencies to derail Trump’s presidency and candidacy.
Durham and his team cast a broad net, interviewing top officials at the FBI, Justice Department and CIA. In his first year on the job, he traveled with Barr to Italy to meet with government officials as Trump himself asked the Australian prime minister and other leaders to help with the probe. Weeks before his December 2020 resignation as attorney general, Barr appointed Durham as a Justice Department special counsel to ensure that he would continue his work in a Democratic administration…
(It is widely known that Everything Trump Touches Dies, but I would be pleased if the Trickster God could speed up the defenestration of Bill ‘Ever Lower’ Barr’s reputation.)
CNN has put the entire report online, for the completists.
Josh Kovensky, at TPM, liveblogging: “Trump Was Treated So Unfairly, Durham Says”:
An entire section of this report is devoted to what Durham described as “disparate treatment” of the Trump and Clinton campaigns by the FBI.
It echoes in concept if not in tone one of Trump’s favorite complaints about the Trump-Russia investigation, or really any attempt to examine or hold him accountable in any way: that it’s unfair.
In this context, Durham raises the issue of which campaign received a defensive briefing from the FBI in 2016 and which did not, and also publicizes potential 2016 investigations into the Clinton Foundation which, he says, immediately went nowhere.
This, of course, is in contrast to the Trump-Russia investigation, which went on for years and resulted in the convictions of his campaign manager, national security adviser, and others…
But then again:
Durham: Nothing Should Change At DOJ or FBI
With more than 300 pages of narrative and criticism of the FBI’s decision to open its investigation into Trump-Russia, Durham says that he does not think there should be any “wholesale changes” in federal law enforcement.
“This report does not recommend any wholesale changes in the guidelines and policies that the Department and the FBI now have in place to ensure proper conduct and accountability in how counterintelligence activities are carried out,” the report reads.
He instead says that it’s all about “integrity,” and that he simply did his work to help the attorney general decide “how the Department and the FBI can do a better, more credible job in fulfilling its responsibilities, and in analyzing and responding to politically charged allegations in the future.” …
Today’s Conventional Wisdom, as declared by the CW experts at the NYTimes:
… The Durham report has been long awaited by supporters of Mr. Trump, who once hoped he would prove Mr. Trump’s theory that the Russia investigation had been a “deep state” conspiracy to sabotage him for political reasons. Mr. Trump would put high-level political or national security officials in prison, they insisted.
But over an investigation that lasted about four years — far longer than the Russia investigation — Mr. Durham failed to live up to those expectations.
Critics have long argued his investigation was superfluous: an inspector general for the Justice Department, Michael E. Horowitz, was already scrutinizing the Russia investigation for evidence of misconduct or bias, and he released a report on the matter in December 2019.
Mr. Horowitz did not find evidence that the F.B.I. had taken any investigative steps based on improper political reasons. And he concluded that the investigation’s basis — the Australian diplomat’s tip — had been sufficient to lawfully open the full counterintelligence inquiry…