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Durham report highlights media stories for debunked Trump-Russia collusion coverage

The New York Times, Slate, and Mother Jones were all mentioned in the report.

Published: May 15, 2023 8:35pm

Special Counsel John Durham's report released on Monday highlighted multiple media stories based on debunked information regarding the Trump-Russia collusion narrative.

On Monday, Durham released a final report after more than three years investigating the Trump-Russia collusion probe, declaring the FBI had no verified intelligence or evidence when it opened up the Crossfire Hurricane investigation of Trump's campaign in the summer of 2016. The prosecutor, however, recommended no new criminal charges.

In the report, Durham highlighted stories published by Slate and Mother Jones regarding the Alfa Bank allegation.

The Alfa Bank allegation was based on information given to the FBI and the media by 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann in an effort to connect the Trump Organization with Russia's Alfa Bank, a purported hotline to the Kremlin. The FBI found that the supposed connection between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank was a spam email server sending marketing emails, not crime or a threat to national security.

While The New York Times published an article on Oct. 30, 2016, titled, Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.l Sees No Clear Link to Russia, which correctly "noted that the FBI had not found 'any conclusive or direct link' between Trump and the Russian government and that 'Hillary Clinton's supporters ... pushed for these investigations,'" on the same day, "Slate published an article titled Was a Trump Server Communicating with Russia? that likewise discussed at length the allegations that Sussmann provided to the FBI," according to the report. However, despite noting the spam email server, the Slate article left the question regarding the Alfa Bank allegation open-ended.

"Notably, also on that day, Mother Jones published David Corn's article titled A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump: Has the Bureau Investigated this Material?" the report also notes. "The Mother Jones piece referenced the Foer Slate article on Alfa Bank and also disclosed that it had reviewed memos prepared by the 'former western intelligence official.' Corn included information in his October 31, 2016 article that referenced the [Michael] Isikoff's earlier Yahoo! News piece on Carter Page and the Russians. In addition, the Corn article contained allegations that were consistent with those contained in some of the Steele Dossier reports that eventually were published in January 2017 by BuzzFeed."

Another article by The New York Times was also noted in the report, but because the information reported was contradictory to the FBI's records.

The article reported that "four unnamed current and former U.S. intelligence officials claimed about Trump campaign personnel being in touch with any Russian intelligence officers," which FBI records found "was untrue." Then-Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, Peter Strzok, who was later fired from the FBI, provided "a contemporaneous critique" of the article.

Strzok later critiqued the same assertions mentioned in a later Times article, according to the report.

The aforementioned Yahoo! News article, U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin, "detailed Carter Page's alleged meetings in July 2016 with Igor Sechin, Chairman of Russian energy conglomerate Rosneft, and Igor Divyekin, a senior official in the Russian Presidential Administration," according to the report. "The article contained information that was nearly identical to Steele Report 2016/94. The information in the article allegedly came from a 'well-placed Western intelligence source' and had been confirmed by a 'senior U.S. law enforcement official.'"

The report later noted, "until late in the process, several drafts of the Page FISA application contained a footnote that explicitly attributed the information in the Yahoo! News article to Steele."

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