The Questions John Durham Didn't Ask
As he wraps up his Russiagate investigation with the now-failed prosecution of Igor Danchenko, we are left only with questions about what John Durham failed to do.
As he wraps up his Russiagate investigation with the now-failed prosecution of Igor Danchenko, we are left only with questions about what John Durham did not do.
The mainstream media barely covered this event, which began with an attempt to overthrow and dispose of the president of the United States. Best to start with what we learned. Durham established what FBI Director James Comey likely knew from near day one: the Steele dossier was politically driven nonsense created by the Clinton campaign. The FBI knowingly ran with its false information to begin a legal process against American citizens, to include Donald Trump as a candidate and as president. The FBI’s goal was to destroy candidate Trump—and, when that failed, destroy President Trump—by tagging him as a Russian agent.
The FBI as an organization knew for sure in early 2017, likely earlier, that Trump was not a Russian spy. But the bureau allowed the process to drift on through the Mueller report and all the rest. Mueller established a “dossier validation” unit that found none of Christopher Steele’s reporting could be corroborated. Mueller also shut down attempts by FBI agents to investigate a Clinton crony with high-level connections to Putin, and failed to complete an espionage investigation into Steele’s Russian primary sub-source.
Imagine how different Trump's term would have been had we all known with certainty what the FBI did. No Maddow, no walls closing in, no insinuations America's president was dealing cards to the Russians right out of the Oval Office. What was lost for the nation’s business we'll never know.
The 2019 Horowitz report, a look into the FBI’s conduct by the Justice Department Inspector General, now backed up by Durham's work, made clear the FBI knew the dossier was bunk and purposefully lied to the FISA court to keep its lies alive. The FBI knew Steele, who was on their payroll as a paid informant, had created a classic intel officer’s information loop, secretly becoming his own corroborating source, and gleefully looked the other way because it supported their goal of spying on the Trump campaign, hoping to bring Trump down. Make no mistake, this was a failed coup attempt by the FBI.
How bad was it? At no point in handling information accusing the sitting president of being a Russian agent—what would have been the most significant political event in American history—did the FBI seriously ask themselves, “Exactly where did this information come from, specific sources and methods please, and how could those sources have known it?” The FBI learned Danchenko was Steele’s near-single, primary source in 2017, via the Carter Page tap, and moved ahead anyway. Were all the polygraphs broken? Was there no “?” key on their word processors?
And that is what we must focus on, what Durham failed to ask.
FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to Durham's charge that Clinesmith lied on the FISA application for Carter Page to obtain a court's permission to electronically surveil Page and, via the two-hop rule, the bulk of Trump's inner circle. That rule allows those with a direct tap on one person (say, Carter Page) the legal ability to listen in two hops downstream. So if Page called Michael Cohen (one hop) and Cohen later called Trump (two hops) that would have constituted legal surveillance.
Page was a patsy, and the FBI knew it but needed a patsy bad enough to lie to create one. What was hidden from the courts was that the FBI knew Page was already a source, an agent, for the CIA and was not working for the Russians. It was with the tap on Carter Page that the whole investigation of Russiagate, Crossfire Hurricane, began. Did Clinesmith act alone in formulating his lies? Was he ordered to lie? Was his lie part of any broader pattern of lies on later FISA applications? Who worked with Clinesmith to create the FISA application and when was the lie incorporated? How many people above Clinesmith (McCabe, Comey, et al.) knew about the lie and played along? How far up the FBI chain did they know it was all constructed, that Page was a stooge alright, but one clearly documented as working for the American side? Durham never seemed to ask, and we the public may never know.
Though Clinton lawyer Michael Sussman, Durham prosecution number two, was found not guilty of perjury, his trial revealed all sorts of questions Durham allowed to fade out. Testimony showed Hillary Clinton herself signed off on the plan to push out the information about the link between Trump and Alfa Bank despite concerns that the connection was dubious at best. This was the first confirmation that Clinton was directly involved, in the instant the decision was made to feed the false Trump-Alfa story to the FBI and mainstream media. It followed WikiLeaks releasing information taken from the DNC servers that showed, inter alia, the Clinton campaign’s efforts to disparage Bernie Sanders. The leaks broke during the Democratic Convention and threatened to split the party. It was crisis time for the Democrats.
Concurrent with the WikiLeaks disclosure and the sense of panic inside the campaign at the 2016 Democratic National Convention came Clinton’s sign-off to begin the Russiagate dirty tricks campaign. That is the specific “why” behind the timing of the Russiagate narrative. Durham left Clinton out of his questioning, albeit with the help of the court blocking such "non-relevant" lines of inquiry in Sussman's trial.
The Sussman trial also revealed the extent of spying on Trump. Newsworthy in Durham’s indictment of Sussman were allegations tech company Neustar and its executive Rodney Joffe accessed “dedicated servers for the Executive Office of the President of the United States (EOP.)” Joffe then “exploited this arrangement by mining the EOP’s DNS traffic and other data for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump.”
Joffe also “enlisted the assistance of researchers at a U.S.-based university” (likely Georgia Tech) who had access to “large amounts of Internet data.” This would have been how Joffe got access to data from Trump’s private computers; working off a Pentagon-paid for contract, Georgia Tech had already taken the data. “[Joffe] tasked these researchers to mine Internet data to establish ‘an inference’ and ‘narrative’ tying then-candidate Trump to Russia,” he added. “In doing so, [Joffe] indicated that he was seeking to please certain ‘VIPs,’ referring to individuals at Law Firm-1 and the Clinton campaign.”
Durham never pursued the Joffe line. Who paid him? When did he start monitoring the Oval Office? What did he learn? When did he stop? Was any of the monitoring, likely unconstitutionally, shared with the FBI? Was the FBI aware of the action and what, if anything, did they do to support it, profit from it, or try and limit it? Were Georgia Tech researchers culpable?
Durham's third and final prosecution was of Igor Danchenko, who was also found not guilty on all counts heard by the jury. Danchenko, of the Brookings Institution, was the primary Russian source for Steele's Dossier. He also served as a cover for Charles Dolan, a Clinton operative who simply made things up (such as the pee tape) and washed his lies through Danchenko to give them additional validity and hide his connection to Clinton.
The FBI lapped up what Steele served them, pigs at the trough, and like Steele himself, never seriously questioned where the information they were acting on originated. Even in 2017 when the FBI learned the primary source was U.S.-based Danchenko, Crossfire Hurricane as the investigation into Trump was called, was allowed to proceed.
Left answered: exactly when did the FBI learn Steele's near-only source was bogus? When did they learn Dolan was the originator of the pee tape? Why did they not conclude the investigation at that point? How high up the FBI chain of command did knowledge of the lackadaisical sourcing by Steele go? Director Comey? If not, why not? Is this why Comey was fired by Trump? The FBI was actively investigating the President of the United States as a Russian spy and Comey was not aware of the details?
And speaking of sources, why was Steele himself never charged with anything? Steele, throughout most of Crossfire Hurricane, was on both Clinton's payroll to create and disseminate false information, and the FBI’s to peddle the same falsehoods to them, all guaranteed by nothing more than his secret squirrel reputation as a British intelligence officer.
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Why didn't Durham walk his indictments up the ladder? Or instead, why did he not proceed sideways, leaving Hillary but moving deeper into the FBI? Why not see if Fiona Hill at Brookings connects the failed Russiagate coup with the failed Ukrainegate impeachment, both of which she played a pivotal behind-the-scenes role in? Why didn't Durham use the stage of congressional hearings to bypass Joe Biden’s Justice Department and throw the real decision making back to the voters?
It is all over now. Biden is president, and it is easy enough to say “so what?” Most people who did not support Hillary Clinton long ago concluded that she is a liar and untrustworthy. Her supporters know she’ll never run for public office again, hence the sense of anti-climax.
But what matters is less the details of Hillary’s lie than that someone as close to being elected would lie about such a thing, treason, claiming her opponent was working for Russia. No doubt that for many Clinton’s manipulations are weighed against Trump’s transgressions, whataboutism. But Trump's 2016 win did not absolve Hillary of her sins. And those who worry about elections being stolen via vote miscounts are thinking way too small. If you want to really worry, think like a Clinton.