'Wild goose chase' : Experts slam Durham as investigation into DOJ Trump-Russia probe ends with 'bupkis'
The four-year Trump-era probe examining why the FBI launched an investigation into Donald Trump, his 2016 campaign, and Russia’s efforts to attack the presidential election to help the GOP nominee win concluded Monday with the publication of a 306-page report that “appeared to show little substantial new information,” as The New York Times reports.
Former U.S. Attorney John Durham, once considered a well-regarded prosecutor, was assigned the lead the investigation by then-Attorney General Bill Barr four years ago, almost to the day. In October of 2020, Barr secretly altered Durham’s assignment, appointing him as a Special Counsel just weeks before the presidential election, ensuring the investigation would continue regardless of which party won the White House.
Legal and public policy experts, journalists, and political commentators are mocking Durham and his investigation, with several pointing out that Durham’s conclusions do not match the legal record, including sworn testimony.
“Special counsel John Durham concluded that the FBI should never have launched a full investigation into connections between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, according to a report compiled over three years by the Trump-administration appointee and released on Monday,” CNN reported, pointing to only the time Durham served as a Special Counsel.
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But experts say – and prove – the report obscures the actual facts.
MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, while reporting the breaking news of the release of Durham’s final report, interrupted herself to do some “fact-checking in real time.”
“Today’s report, NBC News notes, ‘accuses the FBI of acting negligently by opening the investigation based on big and insufficient information in a sweeping 300-page report made public Monday. This is likely to loom larger in politics than in law. I’m going to pause right here,” Wallace told viewers. “I’m going to keep reading you NBC’s reporting but I’m going to try to do some real-time fact-checking. Now that finding by Mr. Durham is contradicted by DOJ’s own IG, Mr. Horowitz, in 2019, who found that the investigation was opened was predicated, it was necessary, and that there was no bias.”
“Now, NBC News goes on to report that Durham finds that the FBI made a series of mistakes, including what I just talked about, the decision to open the Trump-Russia probe not being justified. Now the end of Donald Trump and Bill Barr’s term, their quest to investigate the Justice Department is where we begin today with these clashing narratives right the Durham report which contradicts another inspector general report already in the public sphere and on the record.”
\u201cNicolle Wallace fact-checks the Durham report in real-time, "Now that finding by Mr. Durham is contradicted by DOJ's own I.G. Mr. Horowitz in 2019 who found that investigation was opened, was predicated, it was necessary and then there was no bias."\u201d— Sarah Reese Jones (@Sarah Reese Jones) 1684181374
In fact, attorney and former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa observed, “I’ll be interested to see how Durham argues that there was no predication in the Russia probe when the DOJ’s OIG [Office of the Inspector General] found the opposite AND a Republican-led Senate Intel Committee found that Trump’s campaign manager was, in fact, in frequent contact with a Russian intel officer,” she wrote. “As many have noted, even before Durham’s report was released Monday, that FBI investigation Durham claimed had no basis of being opened, resulted in dozens of criminal prosecutions.
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Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti also takes Durham to task. He writes, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller “rightfully resisted using the term ‘collusion,’ which has no legal meaning in this context, instead focusing on conspiracy law. Durham’s report comes out and says there is “no actual evidence of collusion,” a media soundbite, not a legal conclusion. What a contrast,” he notes.
“The Trump-Russia investigation produced 37 indictments and several other outside criminal referrals. People were convicted at trial. People pleaded guilty. Hostile foreign government actors faced legal and diplomatic sanctions,” notes Media Matter’s Craig Harrington. “All of this was real!”
Indeed, in December of 2019, Vox reported, “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team indicted or got guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies during their lengthy investigation.”
“That group is composed of six former Trump advisers, 26 Russian nationals, three Russian companies, one California man, and one London-based lawyer. Seven of these people (including five of the six former Trump advisers) have pleaded guilty.”
That’s quite an accomplishment for an investigation John Durham claims should never have even been opened.
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Saying, “Point me to the confirmation bias here?” former FBI Counterintelligence Deputy Assistant Director Pete Strzok, who led the Bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, points out:
Paul Manafort – guilty
Rick Gates – guilty
Mike Flynn – guilty
George Papadopouolos – guilty
Roger Stone – guilty
Michael Cohen – guilty
Konstantin Kilimnik – wanted, $250k reward
Michael Sussman – not guilty
Igor Danchenko – not guilty
(above are direct quotes from Strzok)
Sussman and Danchenko were Durham’s, and they were found not guilty. The rest were the FBI’s.
Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign investigative correspondent Greg Miller of The Washington Post: “Durham report faults FBI for rushing to investigate candidate who urged Russia to hack opponent, was backed by Russian interference op, welcomed Russian offer of ‘dirt’, secretly pursued Moscow real estate deal, shared classified into w/Russian diplos…”
Others also slammed Durham.
“Durham’s mandate was to ‘investigate whether any… person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law-enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns.’ Failing, he wrote a 300-page take,” says Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz, adding: “Basically he took Hannity monologues and converted them into two failed prosecutions, a guilty plea for someone who got probation, and a lengthy report that provides fodder for more Hannity segments. Circle of garbage.”
Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler, who specializes in national security and civil rights, says, “Durham took well over twice as long as Mueller and found, literally, bupkis.”
The Atlantic’s Tom Nichols, a retired U.S. Naval War College professor and Russia expert, called Durham’s four-year probe a “wild goose chase.”
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