News USA Special Counsel John Durham Finds the FBI Should Never Have Opened an...

Special Counsel John Durham Finds the FBI Should Never Have Opened an Investigation into Trump and Russia

(CNN) — Special counsel John Durham concluded that the FBI should never have opened a full investigation into connections between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, according to the three-year report prepared by the Trump administration appointee, and that was announced this Monday.

Durham’s more than 300-page report also claims the FBI used “raw, unanalyzed and uncorroborated intelligence” to open the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into Trump and Russia, but used a different standard in weighing concerns about the alleged election interference regarding Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

However, the special counsel did not recommend any additional charges against individuals or “wide-scale changes” in how the FBI handles politically charged investigations, despite strongly criticizing the agency’s behavior.

“Based on the review of Crossfire Hurricane and related intelligence activities, we conclude that the Department (of Justice) and the FBI failed in their important mission of strict adherence to the law in connection with certain events and activities described in this report,” Durham wrote.

The report also concludes that “at least on the part of certain personnel intimately involved in the matter” there was “a predisposition to open an investigation into Trump.”

Durham’s conclusions that the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign should not have been opened are at odds with a previous investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general of the FBI’s Russia investigation, which identified problems with the investigation but concluded in December 2019 that there was sufficient justification to open the investigation.

Attorney General Merrick Garland sent Durham’s report to lawmakers in Congress and made it public on Monday.

In a letter to Congress accompanying the report, Garland said, “Special counsel Durham’s unclassified report is attached in its entirety as presented to me, without additions, redactions, or other modifications.”

Durham’s conclusions condemning the FBI investigation into Trump are sure to fuel the debate about Russia, Trump, the FBI and the 2016 presidential election that is still raging more than six years later and as Trump once again campaigns for the White House.

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan announced that he has contacted the Justice Department to have Durham testify next week.

The investigation was launched in May 2019 by former Trump Attorney General William Barr, an investigation that Trump and his right-wing allies repeatedly predicted would “investigate investigators” and lead to bombshell indictments against those who scrutinized the former president. Four years later, the Durham investigation yielded a misdemeanor conviction, two trial losses and an investigation that fell short of the lofty goals set by the former president.

Durham got only one conviction: the guilty plea of ​​a low-level FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, who avoided jail time after admitting he had doctored an email about a surveillance warrant. Durham’s two other indictments, against a Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer and the main source of the Trump-Russia dossier, ended in embarrassing acquittals.

In a statement Monday, the FBI said its leadership “already implemented dozens of corrective actions, which have now been in place for some time,” in response to the conduct Durham examined. “Had those reforms been underway in 2016, the missteps identified in the report could have been avoided,” the statement added.

There is no “collusion evidence”

Despite acknowledging that the FBI had good reason to open an assessment or, at most, a preliminary investigation, the report asserts that the office should not have gone so far as to open a full investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump campaign were coordinating with the Russian government.

Durham mentions Andrew McCabe, former deputy director of the FBI and CNN’s senior law enforcement analyst, and puts the spotlight on Peter Strzok, former deputy director of the counterintelligence division.

“Strzok, to say the least, had pronounced hostile feelings toward Trump,” Durham wrote, citing previously known text messages between Strzok and Lisa Page, then an FBI attorney, in a footnote.

In his 2019 report, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz specifically said that Strzok and Page did not affect the initiation of the investigation or did not act out of political bias.

“While Lisa Page attended some of the discussions about opening the investigations, she did not play a role in the decision to open Crossfire Hurricane or the four individual cases,” Horowitz wrote.
Strzok and McCabe sued the FBI after they were fired.

On Monday, Durham attacked the FBI for failing to take various steps before launching Trump campaign investigations, such as interviewing relevant witnesses, reviewing its own intelligence databases or using “any of the standard analytical tools typically employed by the FBI.” FBI to evaluate raw intelligence”.

Durham suggested that if the FBI had taken such steps, it would have discovered that US intelligence agencies had no evidence linking Trump to top Russian officials.

The report cites by way of comparison examples of how the FBI approached investigations involving former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic White House nominee Clinton.

Durham notes that the FBI did not open an investigation into an alleged plot by foreign agents to target the Clinton campaign, but took other steps in response to those concerns, including holding defensive briefings for the then-Democratic presidential candidate and your personal.

New FBI position for “politically sensitive” investigations

While declining to recommend any changes to FBI policy, Durham proposes creating a career position for a nonpartisan attorney or FBI agent who would be tasked with challenging actions taken in “politically sensitive investigations,” including requests for surveillance orders.

The proposal was put forward by Stewart Baker, a former government lawyer who held senior positions at the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

The role of the Steele report

The report also criticizes the Steele report, an explosive document that had been used by the FBI to bolster its case for probable cause to obtain surveillance warrants against a former Trump campaign adviser.

The Steele report contained unverified allegations about Trump’s Russia connections, including his alleged business dealings, lurid Moscow dating rumors and claims his campaign collaborated with the Kremlin in 2016.

Durham says it found that the Crossfire Hurricane investigation “did not and could not substantiate any of the substantive allegations” contained in the controversial Steele report, which was used by the FBI to obtain a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA, for its acronym in English).

Witness testimony exposed the FBI’s excessive reliance on the report when it sought court approval to wiretap a former Trump campaign adviser in 2016. Other FBI officials described rookie mistakes that undermined the office’s brief investigation into a possible Internet back channel between Trump and Russia. In closing arguments during one of the trials last year, Durham told jurors that “the FBI failed” on many occasions.

two acquittals

Ahead of the 2020 election, Barr elevated Durham to “special prosecutor” status, further protecting his position and making it politically harder for the Biden-led Justice Department to control or shut down the investigation.

Durham went ahead with two trials throughout his investigation, which Trump told Fox News uncovered the “crime of the century.”

His case against Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann ended in an acquittal in May 2022. Durham accused Sussmann of lying to a senior FBI official in September 2016 while passing him information about Trump’s ties to Russia. . Sussmann’s lawyers accused Durham of intimidating witnesses into changing his story and selecting evidence to fuel claims of an anti-Trump conspiracy. Following his acquittal, Sussmann said he was “falsely accused” by Durham.

In October, Durham personally oversaw his trial against Trump-Russia report source Igor Danchenko, accused of lying to the FBI about his sources. Durham handled most of the arguments and witness questioning, but things quickly got out of hand. He attacked his own witnesses when they were helping the defense, and the judge dismissed one of the five charges midway through the trial. The Virginia jury returned verdicts of “not guilty” on all remaining charges.

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