John Durham distances himself from right-wing hysteria over misconstrued Russia investigation report
Former Special Counsel John Durham, whom Donald Trump’s administration tapped to probe the origins of the investigation into his 2016 presidential campaign’s ties to Russia, has attempted to dissociate himself from right-wing media hysteria over his report.
Last weekend, conservative talking heads, as well as Trump, began mischaracterizing a February 11th court filing by Durham they claim contains “indisputable evidence” that then-Democratic presidential nominee and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spied on Trump during his run for the White House and his presidency.
Michael Sussmann, a Democratic cybersecurity lawyer who was charged with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is a key figure in the narrative. He maintains Durham “plainly intended to politicize this case, inflame media coverage and taint the jury pool.”
Durham has dismissed Sussman’s allegations as “simply not true.” In a separate court filing on Thursday, Durham said he had “valid and straightforward reasons” for including Sussman in his report. He also denied that he is responsible for how the news portrays his findings.
“If third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the government’s motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the government’s inclusion of this information,” he wrote. He pledged to keep confidential “information that legitimately gives rise to privacy issues or other concerns that might overcome the presumption of public access to judicial documents” if similar future circumstances emerge.
The New York Times explained on Thursday:
The dispute traces back to a pretrial motion in the case Mr. Durham has brought against Mr. Sussmann accusing him of making a false statement during a September 2016 meeting with the F.B.I. where he relayed concerns about possible cyberlinks between Mr. Trump and Russia. The bureau later dismissed those as unfounded.
Mr. Durham says Mr. Sussmann falsely told the F.B.I. official he had no clients, but was really there on behalf of both the Clinton campaign and a technology executive named Rodney Joffe. Mr. Sussmann denies ever saying that, while maintaining he was only there on behalf of Mr. Joffe — not the campaign.
At the C.I.A. meeting, Mr. Sussmann shared concerns about data that suggested that someone using a Russian-made smartphone may have been connecting to networks at Trump Tower and the White House, among other places.
It was this nugget that provided the pretext for the imaginary line that was drawn to Clinton. And though there is zero veracity to these claims, the story continues to percolate through right-wing airwaves. Trump has even called for Clinton’s execution.
The Times continued:
Mr. Sussmann had obtained that information from Mr. Joffe. The court filing also stated that Mr. Joffe’s company, Neustar, had helped maintain internet-related servers for the White House, and accused Mr. Joffe — whom Mr. Durham has not charged with any crime — and his associates of having ‘exploited this arrangement’ by mining certain records to gather derogatory information about Mr. Trump.
In the fall, The New York Times had reported on Mr. Sussmann’s C.I.A. meeting and the concerns he had relayed about the data suggesting the presence of Russian-made YotaPhones — smartphones that are rarely seen in the United States — in proximity to Mr. Trump and in the White House.
Clinton, meanwhile, has said that Trump is "spinning up a fake scandal to distract from his real one," of which there are many.
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