Thursday, May 18, 2023

What is next after the Durham Report?

For those interested in the truth about the Russian collusion investigation, the Durham Report has hundreds of pages of details of the alliance of political, government and media figures behind arguably the greatest hoax in U.S. history. The only thing it does not have is an actual indictment or true accountability for the critical players in an effort to derail an American presidency. Indeed, some witnesses associated with the Clinton campaign appear to have refused to cooperate with the investigation. Congress could change that.

Buried in the detailed account is a little noticed footnote stating that Clinton General Counsel Marc Elias “declined to be voluntarily interviewed by the Office.” Likewise, Durham noted that “no one at Fusion GPS … would agree to voluntarily speak with the Office” while both the DNC and Clinton campaign invoked privileges to refuse to answer certain questions.

It is not clear whether Durham was able to get a full account from these sources, but he was still able to establish the details on how this unprecedented political hit job succeeded despite a lack of evidence. In the course of that account, Durham demolished the prior claims of Democratic members like Adam Schiff and many in the media. Durham concludes that the investigation should never have been launched and that the whole effort was based on “raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated” information.

It turns out that the “pee-tape” was the creation of a Clinton operative without any factual basis despite years of the media (and former FBI Director James Comey) referencing the false salacious claim.

It turns out that Trump was correct that the FBI did spy on his campaign despite years of mocking denials in the media.

Indeed, Trump was right that this was a manufactured hoax engineered by the Clinton campaign, weaponized by the FBI, and then promulgated by the media.

As expected, the media has imposed another virtual blackout on coverage of the report other than to deny that there is anything new for the public to see. For those of us concerned about the rise of a type of state media in the United States, the report and its coverage has only magnified those concerns.

So is that it? Just a shrug and spin?

Not necessarily.

In a recent Fox interview, former Attorney General Bill Barr indicated that he always viewed Durham’s primary mandate as establishing what occurred in the Russian collusion investigation and making that information public.

Congress can now use that foundation to compel cooperation from key figures in this scandal, if necessary, under a grant of immunity. The witnesses could still be prosecuted if they lie or mislead congressional investigators or commit perjury.

They could start with Marc Elias, who features prominently in the Durham Report.  It was Elias who managed the legal budget for the campaign. We now know that the campaign hid the funding of the Steele dossier as a legal expense. (The Clinton campaign was later sanctioned by the FEC over its hiding of the funding).

New York Times reporter Ken Vogel said that Elias denied involvement in the anti-Trump dossier. When Vogel tried to report the story, he said, Elias “pushed back vigorously, saying ‘You (or your sources) are wrong.’” Times reporter Maggie Haberman declared, “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.”

Elias was also seated next to John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, when he was asked about the role of the campaign, he denied categorically any contractual agreement with Fusion GPS. Even assuming that Podesta was kept in the dark, the Durham Report clearly shows that Elias knew and played an active role in pushing this effort.

Elias is now ironically advising Democratic campaigns on election ethics and running a group to “defend democracy.” He is still counsel to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) headed by Rep. Suzan Kay DelBene, D-Wash. Elias was recently severed by the Democratic National Committee from further representation and has been previously sanctioned in federal court in other litigation.

Elias testified at the criminal trial of his former partner Michael Sussmann, but the scope of that examination was strictly limited by the court. Congress could compel his testimony on the full range of conduct leading to the scandal.

Likewise, other figures from Steele to Comey could be compelled to give full accounts in light of this Report. Congress has an interest in hearing from these witnesses as it explores how to make real reforms at the Justice Department and the FBI.

The need for congressional action was made clear by the FBI itself in its immediate response to the Report. It insisted that it has reformed itself after what it described as “missteps identified in the report.”

There are many ways to describe an investigation into false allegations raised by an opposing political party to derail a presidency. Calling that a “misstep” is like calling the explosion of the Hindenburg a “mislanding.” The FBI has now gone through regular cycles of scandals followed by assurances of self-reform.

Even if one is willing to suspend disbelief over the latest “trust us we’re the government” press release, it ignores that fact that the FBI was accused again in 2020 of playing a role in burying the Hunter Biden laptop scandal.

If Congress wants to reform this system, Durham has given it a blueprint for how to do it. After the Report, there is now an undeniable right of Congress to seek this testimony as part of its legislative and oversight functions under Article I. While figures like Elias may  “decline to be voluntarily interviewed,” this does not have to be a voluntary exercise.

In speaking with many witnesses, Durham was dealing with some potential crimes with expired statutes of limitation. If witnesses lie to Congress, they could also face charges under a new statute of limitations.

If history is any measure, nothing concentrates the mind as much as a subpoena and immunity grant . . . and it may be time to concentrate some minds in Washington.

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