Durham Report: FBI improperly opened investigation into Trump without vetting leads

No surprises here, right down to the complete lack of consequences for those involved. Special counsel John Durham finished his investigation with a report that condemns the FBI, the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton, and House Democrats for flogging a made-up political attack for nearly three years based on nothing at all.

The FBI had no verifiable evidence that President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election when it launched a federal investigation into the matter, a final report released Monday from Durham concludes.

Durham, who has been investigating the FBI's role into the now debunked Russian collusion claim, recommended no criminal charges despite the findings. 

"Neither U.S. law enforcement nor the Intelligence Community appears to have possessed any actual evidence of collusion in their holdings at the commencement of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation," Durham wrote to Congress.

Durham concluded that the FBI failed to properly scrutinize leads that led to its investigation.

"In particular, there was significant reliance on investigative leads provided or funded (directly or indirectly) by Trump's political opponents," the report states. "The Department did not adequately examine or question these materials and the motivations of those providing them, even when at about the same time the Director of the FBI and others learned of significant and potentially contrary intelligence."

James Comey was the FBI director at the time and Andrew McCabe was deputy director.

Durham said the FBI relied on evidence from Hillary Clinton's campaign, including the since-debunked Steele dossier, without properly vetting it. Trump defeated Clinton in the 2016 election, and Trump sued Clinton, her campaign and the Democratic party last year over their claims regarding Russia-Trump collusion.

Durham gives us names:

As set forth in greater detail in Section IV, the record in this matter reflects that upon receipt of unevaluated intelligence information from Australia, the FBI swiftly opened the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. In particular, at the direction of Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Deputy Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Peter Strzok opened Crossfire Hurricane immediately. 22 Strzok, at a minimum, had pronounced hostile feelings toward Trump. 23 The matter was opened as a full investigation without ever having spoken to the persons who provided the information. Further, the FBI did so without (i) 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. Had it done so, again as set out in Sections IV.A.3.b and c, 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 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. 

In other words, Durham found not just a rush to judgment but an eagerness to break FBI rules and procedures to open its investigation. Durham rips McCabe and Strzok for using a completely new and unjustifiably low standard for such investigations, especially compared to a real issue of foreign influence involving the Hillary Clinton campaign:

The speed and manner in which the FBI opened and investigated Crossfire Hurricane during the presidential election season based on raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence also reflected a noticeable departure from how it approached prior matters involving possible attempted foreign election interference plans aimed at the Clinton campaign. As described in Section IV.B, in the eighteen months leading up to the 2016 election, the FBI was required to deal with a number of proposed investigations that had the potential of affecting the election. In each ofthose instances, the FBI moved with considerable caution. In one such matter discussed in Section IV.B.l, FBI Headquarters and Department officials required defensive briefings to be provided to Clinton and other officials or candidates who appeared to be the targets of foreign interference. In another, the FBI elected to end an investigation after one of its longtime and valuable CHSs went beyond what was authorized and made an improper and possibly illegal financial contribution to the Clinton campaign on behalf of a foreign entity as a precursor to a much larger donation being contemplated. And in a third, the Clinton Foundation matter, both senior FBI and Department officials placed restrictions on how those matters were to be handled such that essentially no investigative activities occurred for months leading up to the election. These examples are also markedly different from the FBI’ s actions with respect to other highly significant intelligence it received from a trusted foreign source pointing to a Clinton campaign plan to vilify Trump by tying him to Vladimir Putin so as to divert attention from her own concerns relating to her use of a private email server. Unlike the FBI’s opening of a full investigation of unknown members of the Trump campaign based on raw, uncorroborated information, in this separate matter involving a purported Clinton campaign plan, the FBI never opened any type of inquiry, issued any taskings, employed any analytical personnel, or produced any analytical products in connection with the information. This lack of action was despite the fact that the significance of the Clinton plan intelligence was such as to have prompted the Director of the CIA to brief the President, Vice President, Attorney General, Director of the FBI, and other senior government officials about its content within days of its receipt. It was also of enough importance for the CIA to send a formal written referral memorandum to Director Comey and the Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, Peter Strzok, for their consideration and action. 25 The investigative referral provided examples of information the Crossfire Hurricane fusion cell had “gleaned to date.”26

In fact, Durham concludes, the entire “Russia-collusion” scandal was the brainchild of the Hillary Clinton campaign. But even worse, Durham also found that the Obama administration had been briefed on the Clinton campaign being the source of these allegations:

The Office also considered as part of its investigation the government’s handling of certain intelligence that it received during the summer of 2016. That intelligence concerned the purported “approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security services.” 391 We refer to that intelligence hereafter as the “Clinton Plan intelligence.” DNI John Ratcliffe declassified the following information about the Clinton Plan intelligence in September 2020 and conveyed it to the Senate Judiciary Committee:

• In late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that U.S Presidential candidate 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. The IC does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.

• According to his handwritten notes, CIA Director Brennan subsequently briefed President Obama and other senior national security officials on the intelligence, including the “alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.”

And yet, no one involved in these briefings ever publicly acknowledged being briefed that Clinton’s team had cooked this up. In fact, in the months following this briefing, Obama would change his tune on election interference from reassuring voters to issuing warnings of Russian interference. That certainly suggests a level of collusion, but collusion between the Clinton team, the White House, and US intelligence officials from Brennan on down.

We’ll be going through the material over the next few days, no doubt, as everyone absorbs and digests the material. But it’s clear that anyone who claimed they had evidence of Russian collusion with Trump wasn’t just lying but actively colluding with Clinton and US intel on — shall we say it? — a disinformation campaign. That especially includes Adam Schiff and his Joe McCarthy-esque demagoguery on Trump and the 2016 campaign.

That’s why this feels so anti-climactic. Yes, we get a full accounting of the corruption within the FBI and Department of Justice that led to the near-derailing of a presidency, and likely the heavy influence on at least two national elections (2018 and 2020). However, no one will face criminal or even civil charges, and it seems highly unlikely that any new disincentives against politicizing intelligence and investigative resources will be created as a result. Everyone involved in the Russia-collusion hoax cashed out already, and the national media that thoroughly bought into this ridiculous dirty trick will hardly step up to provide any consequences against the actors in the hoax, lest they indict themselves.

Special counsels do little in providing accountability. They mainly help everyone dodge it, even if they are conscientiously performing their jobs. It’s the nature of special counsels, which is why they’re useless at best, and part of the obfuscation process in most instances.