Republicans are notorious for living in an alternate, parallel universe where black is white, up is down, yes means no and a finding of no new indictments in the investigation into former president trump’s ties to Russia is good news.
Special Counsel John Durham was named by trump to investigate the FBI and its role in the allegations of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. In effect, Durham was hired to dig into the deep state, prove the FBI was out to get trump and to find ways to prosecute Republicans’ perceived enemies. Trump had screamed and tweeted that Durham would validate trump’s characterization of the Russia investigation as a bombshell, a hoax and the “crime of the century.”
It turns out there was no bomb, not even a wet firecracker, more like a wet noodle, but that hasn’t stopped those denizens of the alternate universe from claiming the sky was falling. I would stake my self-important reputation that none of those denizens read Durham’s 305 page report, never mind even lifting it up.
After four years, Durham issued his report last week on the FBI’s so-called, “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation and it is high on innuendo, low on facts and reads more like a political statement than a legal document.
Durham was appointed by trump to find evidence to show that the FBI did not have sufficient information to open the probe into trump’s 2016 campaign and its possible ties to Russia. Durham concluded that the FBI had insufficient information to warrant the probe but not enough evidence to warrant any charges. In other words, Durham couldn’t prove any crimes were committed.
The FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation led to a probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and resulted in charges against 34 people, including seven U.S. citizens and 26 Russian nationals. Mueller concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but did not charge any members of the trump campaign for coordinating or conspiring with Russia. Mueller also did not explicitly say trump committed obstruction of justice, but did not exonerate him either, instead laying out 10 instances of possible obstruction by the then-president.
Durham failed to come up with one successful indictment and mostly rehashed findings already made public by other investigations. In the GOP’s parallel universe, the failure to land new indictments shows that the deep state is working overtime to cover up for the FBI in its ongoing war against the Republicans and trump.
The GOP reactions to the report are just the latest in a long, uninterrupted series of matters that are part of the alternative, non-reality based universe. That would include GOP claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election; trump’s denial of any responsibility for the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection; trump’s thievery of top secret files; attempts by trump to strong arm the Georgia secretary of state to find enough votes to hand victory to trump; trump’s sexual assault against E. Jean Carroll, etc., etc., etc.
A lot of Durham’s report simply reinforces findings in recent years about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant applications, known as Section 702. FISA authority is meant to capture the communications of foreign targets but can also sweep up U.S. citizens. Republicans had claimed that the FBI abused FISA in applying for wiretaps on a former trump adviser, Carter Page.
Congress has until the end of the year to decide how to extend Section 702.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz last year released a series of reports on the surveillance applications for Page and a broader sweep of FISA warrant applications. In response, the FBI enacted changes to how the bureau handles its submissions to the court that oversees the warrants, including changes in procedures, auditing and training. The FBI, in a statement responding to Durham’s report, argued that if their changes had been in place in 2016 and 2017 “the missteps identified in the report could have been prevented.”
Durham doesn’t mention 702 directly in his report. But he said that he’s not recommending anything “that would curtail the scope of reach of FISA or the FBI’s investigative activities … in a time of aggressive and hostile terrorist groups and foreign powers.”
Sounds like a win for the FBI and a loss for the Republicans. That’s not how Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, saw it. Rather, commenting from the parallel universe, Jordan said Durham’s report “just further confirms that we’ve got to make major, major changes and that it (FISA) cannot be reauthorized as is.”
Jordan is chairman of the “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government” which has come up empty so far on evidence of weaponization. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., a member of the subcommittee, called the Durham report an “absolute indictment” of the broader surveillance law.
Standing firmly in the same alternate universe, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called the Durham report “damning” and said it shows that the FBI “wanted to get Trump. They didn’t care how they did it.”
“It is done and it’s damning,” Graham said. “They took the rule of law and threw it over to try to get a political outcome.”
It would give some credence to Graham’s claims if Durham had backed it up with evidence and indictments. But he didn’t, at least not in the real universe.
The ever responsible Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R- Texas, tweeted, “I’ve never been a reactive ‘lock ’em up’ type. But this Durham report is a lock ’em up moment.”
The equally, ever responsible Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., said he was almost speechless but managed to mutter that “if people don’t go to jail for this, the American people should just stand up and say, ‘Listen, enough’s enough, let’s don’t have elections anymore.’” Tuberville is the same senator who just last week said white supremacists are loyal Americans.
Fox News, a major occupant of the parallel universe, said the Durham report implicates Hillary Clinton and not trump in the FBI investigation. Fox doesn’t directly quote Durham but it does rely on a military historian, Victor Davis Hanson, who said Durham’s findings show Clinton should be investigated. Hanson said the report suggests there are more questions about Clinton’s overtures toward Russian entities than trump’s. That might carry weight if it was Hanson’s special investigation but it wasn’t.
Hanson, a trump supporter, has defended trump’s insults and incendiary language as “uncouth authenticity”, and praised Trump for “an uncanny ability to troll and create hysteria among his media and political critics.”
Those parallel universe people argued that Durham determined that former Secretary of State Clinton approved a plan for her 2016 campaign to “vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security services.” Unfortunately for those GOP conspiracists, the claim was never confirmed and the report says it is based on uncomfirmed Russian intelligence analysis. That much, Durham concedes.
John Ratcliffe, trump’s director of national intelligence, admitted there was no confirmation of a Clinton connection with Russian intelligence, in a letter to the Senate after declassifying the existence of the intelligence.
Durham won just three indictments, two were found not guilty and a third, an FBI lawyer, pleaded guilty to doctoring an email about a surveillance warrant for a trump campaign adviser.
One would expect that a skilled investigator like Durham would not add further confusion by referring to the same allegations that the juries rejected. But that is exactly what Durham did regarding Crossfire Hurricane.
Durham did not rebut the findings from special counsel Robert Mueller or the Department of Justice’s inspector general. He did not suggest changes that the FBI could make. He did not acknowledge that much of the report’s innuendo wasn’t proved in court.
The GOP has hammered on Durham’s conclusion that the FBI started its investigation partly on unsubstantiated and later discredited, information from the so-called Steele dossier. The dossier was indirectly funded by the Clinton campaign and contained salacious claims about trump in Russia.
“This information in part triggered and sustained Crossfire Hurricane and contributed to the subsequent need for Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation,” Durham wrote.
Durham acknowledged elsewhere in the report that investigators did not get the Steele dossier until months after the FBI opened the investigation based on a tip from an Australian diplomat. That unfortunate fact put a lie to GOP claims of a conspiracy by Clinton to prompt the investigation through the Steele dossier.
Durham criticized the F.B.I. for relying on the Australian diplomat’s tip without asking more questions but Durham took a step back as he also noted there was “no question the F.B.I. had an affirmative obligation to closely examine” what the Australians had provided.
And then there was trump, who wrote on his “Truth Social” site that Durham had concluded “the FBI never should have launched the Trump-Russia Probe! In other words, the American Public was scammed, just as it is being scammed right now by those who don’t want to see GREATNESS for AMERICA!” That would seem to sum up the atmosphere in the parallel universe.