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Durham Report holds lingering consequence for Joe Biden, Congress and U.S. allies

Current president was briefed in August 2016 about Clinton plan for Russia collusion dirty trick

Published: May 15, 2023 11:36pm

Updated: May 16, 2023 12:12am

Special Counsel John Durham’s final report will have lasting consequences far beyond the FBI failures he unmasked in the now-discredited Russia collusion scandal.

President Joe Biden, as he faces a re-election campaign, Congress as it weighs whether to end warrantless spying and U.S. allies often enlisted to help U.S. intelligence all face "sobering" questions from the report’s bombshell revelations.

In the end, Durham’s top line conclusion Monday was hardly unexpected: The FBI had no evidence or intelligence to warrant opening a probe of Donald Trump as the GOP nominee for president in 2016, disregarded its own rules to protect civil liberties, and failed to heed blinking red sirens that the Russia collusion allegations were nothing more than a political dirty trick by Hillary Clinton and her supporters.

But the questions of what to do with those truths and how to impose consequences for the bad behavior highlighted in the 306-page report are hardly settled.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan began the process of resolving those issues – summoning Durham to testify before his panel next week while suggesting Monday night his colleague may use the power of the purse to defund actors who allowed the Russia collusion probe to persist for three years in the absence of any justification or evidence.

Several key players also face new questions about their own behavior.

The current president – already facing harsh questions about whether his allies in the intelligence community played a dirty trick in the 2020 election by falsely portraying the Hunter Biden laptop as Russian disinformation – was outed in Durham’s report as having been briefed in summer 2016 about a plan by the Clinton campaign to manufacture the Russia scandal against Trump.

Biden was present at an Aug. 3, 2016, briefing during which then-CIA Director John Brennan met with administration officials to discuss Russian efforts to interfere in the election. 

"Specifically, Director Brennan's declassified handwritten notes reflect that he briefed the meeting's participants regarding the 'alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on 26 July of a proposal from one of her [campaign] advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security services," Durham wrote in the report.

Allies who look to the United States as the leader for honest investigation and accurate intelligence – the anti-Banana Republic as some might say -- also will take pause in seeing Durham lay bare Great Britain’s expletive-riddled reaction to realizing it had been dragged into a counter intelligence investigation without merit.

The report outlines the interactions between the FBI's legal attaché in London and intelligence officials about the UK intelligence community's poor reception of the investigation. The London attaché expressed incredulity at the "thin" evidence predicating the case and told officials that the British personnel were "openly skeptical" and warned that FBI plans for an operation "made no sense."

After American intelligence officials showed British operatives the tape of a Trump adviser, the attaché described British reaction as being "not positive because of the lack of any evidence." A subsequent interaction involved the attaché saying that the British had "had enough."

Former House investigator Kash Patel, during a Monday appearance on the "Just the News, Noise Noise" television show, indicated that the revelations of foreign ridicule of the investigation would serve to undermine the United States as a model off of which to base an impartial justice system.

The revelation, he said, "continues to erode our system of justice and continues to create a two-tier system of justice. People can't look to America and be like, how do you install a uniform singular system of justice anymore?"

And Congress must decide whether the FBI —which violated its own rules and allowed a probe to persist in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing — should be entrusted for another several years with the awesome intelligence tools it abused in Russia collusion, including the Section 702 warrantless surveillance and FISA warrants up for renewal this year.

A longtime FBI man, retired Assistant Director for Intelligence Kevin Brock, told "Just the News, No Noise" television show Monday night the bureau’s trust was certain to be diminished.

“The FBI essentially was hijacked by a handful of senior executives who had an agenda, who did not like Donald Trump, and who used the awesome powers of the FBI to launch an investigation against all policy, against all legal guidelines and restrictions that would prevent the misuse of the FBI,” Brock noted.

“They opened up a case without adequate predication, the predication that's vital to every American to protect them from an FBI just doing an investigation because they don't like the color of your shoes,” he added.

Durham’s report was unequivocal about the bureau’s sins in Russia collusion.

​"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 in a 300-plus page report sent to Congress and others and obtained by Just the News.

The prosecutor faulted the department and the FBI for failing to follow their own standards and allowing a probe to persist, including the surveillance of an American citizen, without basis under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

"Based on the review of Crossfire Hurricane and related intelligence activities, we concluded the Department and the FBI failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law in connection with certain events and activities described in this report," Durham wrote.

"The FBI personnel also repeatedly disregarded important requirements when they continued to seek renewals of that FISA surveillance while acknowledging – then and in hindsight – that they did not genuinely believe there was probably cause to believe that the target was knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of foreign power."

You can read the full report here:

The FBI acknowledged past failings, saying Durham's findings justified the changes that current Director Christopher Wray made after taking over from fired Director James Comey.

"The conduct in 2016 and 2017 that Special Counsel Durham examined was the reason that current FBI leadership already implemented dozens of corrective actions, which have now been in place for some time. Had those reforms been in place in 2016, the missteps identified in the report could have been prevented," the FBI said.

"This report reinforces the importance of ensuring the FBI continues to do its work with the rigor, objectivity, and professionalism the American people deserve and rightly expect."

Durham specifically faulted the FBI for relying on evidence from the campaign of 2016 Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, including the now-discredited Steele dossier, saying leadership lacked the necessary distrust of politically motivated allegations.

"Our investigation also revealed that senior FBI personnel displayed a serious lack of analytical rigor towards the information that they received, especially information received from politically affiliated persons and entities," he wrote. "This information in part triggered and sustained Crossfire Hurricane and contributed to the subsequent need for Special Counsel Mueller's investigation."

"In particular, there was significant reliance on investigative leads provided or funded (directly or indirectly) by Trump's political opponents. 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."

The special prosecutor pointedly highlighted what he portrayed as a dual system of justice, noting the FBI never opened a counterintelligence probe of Clinton's campaign, despite receiving intelligence she had authorized a dirty trick to paint Trump as a stooge for Russian President Vladimir Putin to impact the outcome of the election.

"The FBl'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," the report concluded.

"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," Durham also wrote. "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."

Durham also laid out significant evidence that Strzok, who led the Crossfire Hurricane team but was fired from the FBI, worked with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair, to go around the counterintelligence chief of the FBI, Bill Priestap, his boss, to keep the investigation going by getting the approval of then FBI-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who also was later fired.

The report quoted Priestap as identifying "instances when Strzok shared information directly with McCabe before Priestap could provide the information to McCabe himself. Priestap said these actions drove him 'insane.' He also told the Office that Strzok was the worst offender in this regard and that these events occurred mostly when he (Priestap) wanted to go in one direction and they (Page and Strzok) disagreed and thus went around him."

The report also divulged that the handling agent who first was contacted July 5, 2016, by ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier funded by Hillary Clinton's campaign, appeared to be aware that Clinton's campaign was connected to his work, including the notation "HC" in his notes. That agent said his initial reaction to Steele's allegations of Trump-Russia collusion was one of "disbelief" and that Steele was "politically motivated" but he passed the allegations up the FBI chain anyway.

"Notwithstanding his skepticism about the reporting, Handling Agent-I deemed the allegations to be something he could not arbitrarily discount, " the report said.

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