Russian Collusion: The Durham investigation continues apace and the media continues to deny the reality of Hillary Clinton’s role

Last week, the Special Counsel released another round of indictments which the media dutifully ignored and then promptly pretended didn’t mean anything, but one thing is clear:  The Clinton campaign was behind the hoax the entire time, funneling false reports to an incredibly naïve and corrupt FBI and the media including the original Steele Dossier, and we’ve known this for almost five years now.

It should’ve been obvious that the Trump campaign and then White House was the subject of a potentially illegal investigation by the FBI and the CIA as early as January 2017, even before President Trump took office.  Buzzfeed News published the infamous Steele Dossier in its entirety on January 10 outlining bizarre, outlandish claims that “Trump Has Deep Ties to Russia.”  The dossier was ridiculous on its face, containing basic errors, from claiming there was a Russian Consulate in Miami when no such building exists, to easily falsifiable assertions such as Michael Cohen meeting with Russians in Prague, with outlandish nonsense like Trump staying in a hotel room formerly occupied by President Barack Obama and hiring prostitutes to urinate on themselves in between.  Of course, this didn’t prevent either the mainstream media or, much worse, the FBI from treating many of the allegations as true, especially as we didn’t know precisely where the dossier originated at the time.  Even in those early days, however, we knew one thing:  No other evidence to justify the charge of Russia collusion, that is a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to defraud the American people by illegally interfering in an election, had been presented.  There were overhyped stories about Trump transition team members, Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions, meeting with their Russian counterparts.  There were ridiculous rumors about secret servers that were easily debunked.  There were reports of completely unrelated meetings, but nothing more.

Suddenly, however, a mysterious dossier appeared on a not quite reputable news site that supposedly detailed the entire conspiracy in a single, completely unsourced document. In a trial by jury, the term “reasonable doubt” is used as the standard of evidence for a jury to convict.  That is a fact that would cause “prudent men to hesitate before acting in matters of importance to themselves.”  In any rational world, the fact that a single document riddled with errors emerges seemingly out of nowhere alleging the worst election conspiracy in a Democratic Republic in modern history, if not all time, should have caused everyone in the world to hesitate, stop, and answer a few basic questions:  Who produced this dossier?  When and why?  How could one single entity possibly have information as far afield as secret meetings in Prague to golden showers in Russian hotel rooms?  Why were basic facts wrong?  If basic facts were wrong, how do we know anything is true?  Which of these allegations is actually verifiable and which are purely unsubstantiated rumors?

Unfortunately, nothing close to this happened.  In fact, it was the exact opposite.  Mainstream media outlets pretended their journalistic standards prevented them from relying on or printing the dossier in its entirety, but the underlying charge, as ridiculous as it was without a whole lot of additional evidence, informed all of their coverage moving forward.  The FBI provided cover of their own in this regard when then Director James Comey briefed President Elect Trump on the Russian hotel room story a few days before Buzzfeed released the entire dossier.  This allowed the mainstream media to report on these allegations, however fact free and unverified, with the implicit support of the federal government.  Essentially, they presented a false bargain:  People in positions of authority are taking this seriously, so should we and therefore we have no need to actually verify the contents or wonder at the origins.  The Wall Street Journal first broke the news that former British Secret Service counterintelligence analyst Christopher Steele was the primary author of the dossier shortly thereafter.  Mr. Steele was immediately hailed as a “highly regarded Kremlin expert” and “one of MI6’s greatest Russia specialists” by the media, allowing them even further latitude to use the dossier to frame all future coverage of President Trump.

By February 2017, CNN was busy running vague stories acting as if the dossier was the real thing.  The “dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals”, and some conversations have been “intercepted during routine intelligence gathering,” corroborated by US investigators.  Though the conversations were not named, it was claimed, they “took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier.”  It took three years for The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple to write the obvious, asking “CNN to point us to any subsequent reporting—by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, for instance, or the Horowitz report—that shores up the Sciutto-Perez story about confirmed communications from the dossier.”  Further, the article itself alleges that the dossier was correct about internal Russian conversations, not conversations with Trump or his campaign team.  It’s possible the conversations occurred and Mr. Steele heard about them.  It’s possible they didn’t and he made it up.  It’s also possible these conversations occur all the time, and Steele just reported on standard operating procedure.

In none of these cases, however, does anything substantiate the collusion charge.  This “dialing down” of what would substantiate such a charge was also a typical technique, exemplified by Mr. Comey himself.  “The bureau began an effort after we got the Steele dossier to try and see how much of it we could replicate. That work was ongoing when I was fired. Some of it was consistent with our other intelligence, the most important part. The Steele dossier said the Russians are coming for the American election. It’s a huge effort. It has multiple goals…And that was true.”  Yes, that every limited claim might have been true. The Russians have come for every election for the past fifty plus years.  Russian interference is standard operating procedure, and says absolutely nothing about Trump and the collusion charge.  Either way, the Russia collusion conspiracy myth was born, culminating in the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate the matter in May 2017, an event that was once again viewed as clear evidence that the FBI had something solid behind the scenes.

It wasn’t until October 24, 2017 that The Washington Post finally revealed where the dossier originally came from.  By that point, we’d heard rumors that the dossier had been moving in top Washington circles as early as late spring and summer 2016.  Supposedly, John McCain had seen it and sent it to the FBI personally.  In other words, its existence had been known about by the establishment long before the public release, even informing media stories for Mother Jones and Yahoo News during the campaign, but it took until almost a year after the election to learn the truth.  The dossier was paid for by President Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton through a Washington, DC law firm.  It was pure political dirt, not assembled under the auspices of any legitimate investigative party and funded for the sole purpose of smearing the opposing candidate.  Once again, in any rational world, this should’ve called the entire investigation into question and likely ended the entire thing.  Instead, the mainstream media continued to insist there must be much more to the story, and so completely separate threads were woven together, including a Trump Tower meeting that was completely unrelated and an odd story about George Papadopoulos at a British bar.  By this point, however, some conservatives started catching on and the outlines of the real conspiracy came into view:  Hillary Clinton funded opposition research was somehow recycled by the campaign into the FBI as a pretext to secretly investigate President Trump.  California’s Devin Nunes took the lead in Congress.  He was instrumental in revealing the real source of the dossier and ultimately made an explosive claim in January 2018:  The FBI relied almost exclusively on the dossier to obtain a secret warrant against Trump campaign aide Carter Page both before and after the election, citing news stories based on the dossier itself as collaboration.

This charge was laughed at at first, considered so ridiculous it couldn’t possibly be true.  The Washington Post went so far as to claim it was a “joke” and a “sham.”  Surely, the FBI and the FISA courts wouldn’t launch an investigation into a Presidential Campaign based almost entirely on material supplied by the opposing campaign?  There have to be checks and balances for that sort of thing, no?  This belief persisted until December 2019 when Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a much anticipated report.  He concluded that there were “serious performance failures” throughout the FBI’s investigation including omissions of “significant information” in warrants filed with the FISA courts.  Here is a sampling, “We determined that the Crossfire Hurricane team’s receipt of Steele’s election reporting on September 19, 2016 played a central and essential role in the FBI’s and Department’s decision to seek the FISA order.”  Further, the FBI had only “corroborated limited information in Steele’s election reporting, and most of that was publicly available information.”  Mr. Horowitz went even further, claiming, “The CIA viewed it as ‘internet rumor.’”  On the integrity of Mr. Steele himself, Mr. Horowitz included the FBI’s own notes, “Their notes stated: “[d]emonstrates lack of self-awareness, poor judgment;” “[k]een to help” but “underpinned by poor judgment;” “Judgment: pursuing people with political risk but no intel value;” “[d]idn’t always exercise great judgment- sometimes [he] believes he knows best;” and “[r]eporting in good faith, but not clear what he would have done to validate.”

At the risk of repeating myself a third time, this should’ve been the end of the story in any rational world.  The focus should’ve shifted into how the FBI could have launched such an investigation in the first place.  The media, however, still wasn’t convinced.  Reporting on Mr. Horowitz claimed he’d actually “cleared” the FBI because he didn’t state outright that political bias against President Trump was the primary motivation.  Yes, they may have been sloppy.  They may have lied.  They may have misled the court.  They may have opened an investigation with no reasonable predicate, but they didn’t do it out of hatred for Trump, therefore their behavior was acceptable.  How they arrived at that standard is unclear, but the Horowitz investigation was enough to motivate Attorney General William Barr to open a formal Department of Justice probe into what the FBI was doing when.  The investigation has since moved to a Special Counsel and is officially a criminal matter at that. Mr. Durham himself has worked slowly and methodically ever since.  Last year, he indicted Igor Danchenko for intentionally misleading the FBI about his conversations with longtime Clinton crony Charles H. Dolan, who also turned out to be a source in the dossier.  Mr. Danchenko emailed Mr. Dolan in August 2016, claiming he was working on a “project against Trump,” asking for “[a]ny thought, rumor, allegation” related to the firing of his Campaign Manager Paul Manafort. Mr. Dolan himself then lied to the FBI about the same subject.  Quoting from the indictment, “In sum, given that [Dolan] was present at places and events where Danchenko collected information for the [dossier], Danchenko’s subsequent lie about [Dolan]’s connection to the [dossier] was highly material to the FBI’s investigation of these matters.”

Last week Saturday, Mr. Durham filed another round of indictments.  This time against Michael Sussman, a Democratic lawyer tied to Clinton who provided information to the FBI based on possibly illegally purloined internet data.  This information “demonstrated that Trump and/or his associates were using supposedly rare, Russian-made wireless phones in the vicinity of the White House and other locations,” another completely false claim.  This was one of several false claims including that a Russian bank had directly connected to Trump Tower servers, something Hillary Clinton herself tweeted during the campaign, “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.”  Mr. Sussman had already been charged with making false statements to the FBI about his ties to the Clinton Campaign.  At this point, it should be obvious to everyone that the Clinton campaign itself concocted the Russia collusion story out of whole cloth and then sold it to a ridiculously incredulous FBI through every means available.  Indeed, Trump’s Director of National Intelligence declassified a memo saying exactly that.  Hillary Clinton had approved a plan to “stir up a scandal” against candidate Trump, claiming he was tied to Russia.  None other than President Obama was personally briefed on this.

The media, however, still remains in denial:  None of the mainstream networks, nor The New York Times nor The Washington Post covered the new indictments, but two days later they sprung into action to defend the indicted.  The New York Times claimed these indictments don’t mean what conservatives think they do, wondering if journalists should even cover them in the first place because they are “byzantine.”  CNN did full damage control, actually defending Mr. Sussman.  An executive from the firm that provided the possibly illegal internet data, Rodney Joffe, was described as “is an apolitical internet security expert with decades of service to the U.S. Government who has never worked for a political party, and who legally provided access to DNS data obtained from a private client that separately was providing DNS services to the Executive Office of the President (EOP).”  They quote Mr. Sussman’s team more than Mr. Durham, “But Sussmann says that isn’t so” and “Sussmann’s team added that the reasons for concern that Sussmann took to the CIA about Trump and Russia weren’t intentionally manipulative.”  They claim access to internet traffic isn’t spying because “Durham’s court filing doesn’t allege that the pro-Clinton researchers’ use of internet data meant that there was any eavesdropping on content of communications.”

In other words, they continue to mislead and obfuscate, pretending their too stupid to see what should be obvious to anyone.  As The Wall Street Journal described it, this is the dirtiest political trick in all of history, but that doesn’t quite go far enough: Far more than just the opposing campaign was involved. This reached the highest echelons of the government. Alas, none of this seems to matter to the mainstream media, and they will likely continue to ignore it forever.

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