In his newly released report, Special Counsel John Durham slammed the FBI for launching an investigation into President Donald Trump and Russia based on uncorroborated, thin intelligence, for ignoring or downplaying information that countered the narrative, and for treating accusations against Hillary Clinton and her campaign differently.
Durham’s report also details how the beltway-connected operatives conducting research for Clinton’s campaign fed these narratives into the FBI and news media. And it details once again the anti-Trump animus that existed among some FBI officials involved in the probe.
The Durham report reveals that intel alleged that the Clinton campaign may have created the Russia narrative and fed it into the news media to distract the public from her email controversies. In other words, evidence in the report indicates the Russia narrative was a creative of Clinton’s operation research team to interfere in a presidential election and undermine a duly elected president.
Read the Durham report in full here.
Because it’s long, we have excerpted some of Durham’s key findings for you below in a sort-of cliff-notes version of his topline findings. We start with the false allegations that, as the New York Times put it in 2021, there were “strange internet links between a Russian bank and the Trump Organization.” We’ve presented the excerpts in Durham’s own words:
- “With respect to the Alfa Bank materials, our investigation established that (tech executive Rodgee) Joffe had tasked a number of computer technology researchers who worked for companies he was affiliated with, and who had access to certain internet records, to mine the internet data to establish ‘an inference’ and ‘narrative’ tying then-candidate Trump to Russia. In directing these researchers to exploit their access in this manner, Joffe indicated that he was seeking to please certain ‘VIPs,’ in context referring to individuals at Perkins Coie who were involved in campaign matters and the Clinton campaign. During its investigation, the Office also learned that, after the 2016 presidential election, Joffe emailed an individual and told that person that ‘[he – Joffe] was tentatively offered the top [cybersecurity] job by the Democrats when it looked like they’d win.'”
- “The evidence collected by the Office also demonstrated that, prior to providing the unfounded Alfa bank claims to the FBI, (lawyer Michael) Sussmann and Fusion GPS (the Clinton campaign’s opposition research firm) had provided the same information to various news organizations and were pressing reporters to write articles about the alleged secret communications channel. Moreover, during his September 2016 meeting at the FBI, Sussmann told (Former FBI general counsel James) Baker that an unnamed news outlet was in possession of the information and would soon publish a story about it. The disclosure of the media’s involvement caused the FBI to contact the news outlet whose name was eventually provided by Sussmann in the hope of delaying any public reporting on the subject. In doing so it confirmed for the New York Times that the FBI was looking into the matter. On October 31, 2016, less than two weeks before the election, the New York Times and others published articles on the Alfa Bank matter and the Clinton campaign issued tweets and public statements on the allegations of a secret channel of communications being used by the Trump Organization and a Russian bank – allegations that had been provided to the media and the FBI by Fusion GPS and Sussmann, both of whom were working for the Clinton campaign.”
- “Based on the review of Crossfire Hurricane (the FBI’s Russia investigation into Trump) and related intelligence activities, we conclude that 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.”
- “As noted, former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith committed a criminal offense by fabricating language in an email that was material to the FBI obtaining a FISA surveillance order. In other instances, FBI personnel working on that same FISA application displayed, at best, a cavalier attitude towards accuracy and completeness. FBI personnel also repeatedly disregarded important requirements when they continued to seek renewals of that FISA surveillance while acknowledging – both then and in hindsight – that they did not genuinely believe there was probable cause to believe that the target was knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of a foreign power, or knowingly helping another person in such activities.”
- “Certain personnel disregarded significant exculpatory information that should have prompted investigative restraint and re-examination.”
- “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. 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.”
- “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.”
- “The speed and manner in which the FBI opened and investigated Crossfire Hurricane during the presidential election season based on raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence also reflected a noticeable departure from how it approached prior matters involving possible attempted foreign election interference plans aimed at the Clinton campaign.”
- “These examples are also markedly different from the FBI’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. 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.
- “Our investigation determined that the Crossfire Hurricane investigators did not and could not corroborate any of the substantive allegations contained in the Steele reporting. Nor was Steele able to produce corroboration for any of the reported allegations, even after being offered $1 million or more by the FBI for such corroboration.”
- “The FBI’s own records and the recordings establish that Page made multiple exculpatory statements to the individual identified as CHS- I, but the Crossfire Hurricane investigators failed to make that information known to the Department attorneys or to the FISC. Page also made explicit statements refuting allegations contained in the Steele reporting about his lack of any relationship with Paul Manafort, but the FBI failed to follow logical investigative leads related to those statements and to report to Department lawyers what they found.”
- “Within days of their receipt, the unvetted and unverified Steele Reports were used to support the probable cause in the FBI’s FISA applications targeting Page, a U.S. citizen who, for a period of time, had been an advisor to Trump. As discussed later in the report, this was done at a time when the FBI knew that the same information Steele had provided to the FBI had also been fed to the media and others in Washington, D.C.”
- “Perhaps the most damning allegation in the Steele Dossier reports was Company Report 2016/95, which Steele attributed to “Source E,” one of Danchenko’s supposed sub-sources. This report, portions of which were included in each of the four Page FISA applications, contributed to the public narrative of Trump’s conspiring and colluding with Russian officials. As discussed in Section IV.D. l.f, Danchenko’s alleged source for the information (Source E) was an individual by the name of Sergei Millian who was the president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce in New York City and a public Trump supporter. The evidence uncovered by the Office showed that Danchenko never spoke with Sergei Millian and simply fabricated the allegations that he attributed to Millian.”
- “The Office also investigated the actions of Perkins Coie attorney Michael Sussmann and others in connection with Sussmann’s provision of data and “white papers” to FBI General Counsel James Baker purporting to show that there existed a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and a Russia-based bank called Alfa Bank. As set forth in Section IV.E.1.c.iii, in doing so he represented to Baker by text message and in person that he was acting on his own and was not representing any client or company in providing the information to the FBI. Our investigation showed that, in point of fact, these representations to Baker were false in that Sussmann was representing the Clinton campaign (as evidenced by, among other things, his law firm’s billing records and internal communications).”
- “On October 31, 2016, less than two weeks before the election, the New York Times and others published articles on the Alfa Bank matter and the Clinton campaign issued tweets and public statements on the allegations of a secret channel of communications being used by the Trump Organization and a Russian bank – allegations that had been provided to the media and the FBI by Fusion GPS and Sussmann, both of whom were working for the Clinton campaign.”
- “The information from Papadopoulos was clearly raw and unevaluated. It was not the product of normal Intelligence Community collection and analysis, and it lacked the standard caveats accompanying uncorroborated information from an individual whose information was being seen for the first time. The information – involving an ongoing presidential campaign – was precisely the kind of unevaluated information that required rigorous analysis in order to assess its relevance and value.246 Nevertheless, the FBI predicated Crossfire Hurricane and its subsequent investigative activities, including the use of CHSs, undercover operations, and FISA coverage, on the statements attributed to Papadopoulos.”
- “As the record now reflects, at the time of the opening of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI did not possess any intelligence showing that anyone associated with the Trump campaign was in contact with Russian intelligence officers at any point during the campaign.”
- “Russian intelligence knew of Steele’s election investigation for the Clinton campaign by no later than early July 2016. Thus, as discussed in Section IV.D. l .a.3, Steele’s sources may have been compromised by the Russians at a time prior to the creation of the Steele Reports and throughout the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
- “The FBI Intelligence Analyst who had perhaps the most in-depth knowledge of particularly sensitive Russian intelligence information in FBI holdings during the relevant time period disclosed that she never saw anything regarding any Trump election campaign conspiracy with the Russians, nor did she see anything in FBI holdings regarding Carter Page, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, or Paul Manafort engaging in any type of conspiracy with the Russians regarding the election The FBI’s and the Department’s measured approach to these foreign influence allegations involving Clinton also stands in stark contrast to the speed with which the FBI undertook to include the Steele Report allegations in the FISA request it submitted to OI targeting Page.”
- “The speed with which surveillance of a U.S. person associated with Trump’s campaign was authorized – in the face of the unverified Steele Reports and in the absence of a defensive briefing being provided to then-candidate Trump – are difficult to explain compared to the FBI’s and Department’s actions nearly two years earlier when confronted with corroborated allegations of attempted foreign influence involving Clinton, who at the time was still an undeclared candidate for the presidency.”
- “In late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that U.S Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee.”
- “Because these officials relied, at least in part, on materials provided or funded by the Clinton campaign and/or the DNC when seeking FISA.”
- “Furthermore, the evidence gathered by the Office revealed a concerted effort on the part of Fusion GPS in late July 2016 – i.e., the same timeframe the Clinton Plan intelligence was purportedly approved – to communicate with the press regarding the Page allegations in the Steele reporting warrants against a U.S. citizen (i.e., the Steele Dossier reports) and taking other investigative steps, the Clinton Plan intelligence had a potential bearing on the reliability and credibility of those materials. Put another way, this intelligence-taken at face value-was arguably highly relevant and exculpatory because it could be read in fuller context, and in combination with other facts, to suggest that materials such as the Steele Dossier reports and the Alfa Bank allegations (discussed below and in greater detail in Section IV.E. l) were part of a political effort to smear a political opponent and to use the resources of the federal government’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies in support of a political objective.”
- “The FBI thus failed to act on what should have been -when combined with other, incontrovertible facts – a clear warning sign that the FBI might then be the target of an effort to manipulate or influence the law enforcement process for political purposes during the 2016 presidential election.”
- “The FBI was not able to corroborate a single substantive allegation contained in the Steele Reports, despite protracted efforts to do so.”