This week’s Durham report is as close as we’ll get in our lifetimes to proof that the Deep State, working in concert with the mainstream media, exists.
The final 306-page report was written by former US attorney John Durham, who was chosen in the aftermath of the Mueller report to examine the FBI probe known as “Operation Crossfire Hurricane.” Durham in this final report provides the only comprehensive review of what came to be called “Russiagate” and shows how close our democracy came to failing at the hands of the Deep State.
We now know the FBI took disinformation produced by the Russians and used that to justify spying on the Trump campaign. Though Durham does not go into the mainstream media side of Russiagate, we also now see more clearly how the media played along to press a false narrative of collusion right to the precipice of impeachment or indictment.
The short summary of Durham: willingly or via incredible sloppiness, the FBI participated in an information operation designed first to keep Donald Trump out of the White House and failing that, drive him from office. The op was funded by the Clinton campaign, which paid former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to create a “dossier,” a report based on Russian disinformation funneled to him by Igor Danchenko (whom the FBI had until 2011 investigated as a Russian spy.)
Without vetting or investigating the (dis)information, the FBI used the dossier alongside a tip from a shady Australian diplomat to open full-spectrum surveillance of Donald Trump and his associates, lying to the FISA court along the way. This was the first known time such a thing was undertaken in American political history. The goal was to show collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. When that failed, the FBI pivoted into providing the bulk of the data behind the Mueller report. That report was designed to take down, via impeachment or indictment, a sitting president, and if that too failed, disempower him for much of his term. If you want to call it a soft coup attempt, you would not be far off.
Regarding the FBI, the Durham report unsparingly tells us they “failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law.” That they “displayed, at best, a cavalier attitude towards accuracy and completeness.” That the Bureau “disregarded significant exculpatory information that should have prompted investigative restraint and re-examination… there were clear opportunities to have avoided the mistakes and to have prevented the damage resulting from their embrace of seriously flawed information that they failed to analyze and assess properly.”
As for recommendations so that something like this never happens again, the Durham report weakly offers none and states “more training sessions would likely prove to be a fruitless exercise if the FBI’s guiding principles of Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity are not engrained in the hearts and minds of those sworn to meet the FBI’s mission of ‘Protect[ing]the American People and Uphold[ing] the Constitution of the United States.’” There was a bias at the heart of Crossfire Hurricane that kept agents from carefully examining evidence.
Durham generously does not state the FBI acted incompetently on purpose (it is chilling however to remember FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page exchanged texts saying “Page: ‘Trump’s not ever going to become president, right?’ Strzok: ‘No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.’”), allowing some space for beginner’s mistakes such as not vetting Christopher Steele’s sources and methods. Was it active or tacit support by the FBI? Durham does not say. It all suggests why Robert Mueller walked so close to the edge of indictment and backed off. If his indictments did not hold up under court scrutiny, the people in charge of all this would have been exposed. Mueller was protecting his beloved FBI from the criticism Durham just laid bare. There was a bias at the heart of Mueller’s work that kept agents from carefully examining evidence.
Christopher Steele meanwhile was worth his weight in gold to Clinton: he got the FBI to launch a full-spectrum investigation that included eavesdropping, use of a honey pot dangle, and foreign agents – all of which lead to three years of Mueller and right to the door of impeachment. The preliminary investigation the FBI should have launched instead (a Durham recommendation) would not have included all of those methods.
Steele’s second prong was the media. Steele set himself up as a source to compliant media about the dossier without revealing to them he was the author of the document. This information loop made it appear that a second entity was confirming the contents of the dossier, when in fact it was Steele surreptitiously confirming himself. It’s an old spy trick: getting inside, becoming your own corroborating source.
In intelligence work, for the receiver of information, this is known as cross-contamination, an amateur error the FBI seemed OK with. The scam also generated cover for all the politicians and intelligence operatives. They could go to their bosses and say the New York Times found a source confirming what they were hearing from Steele. There was a bias at the heart of the MSM which kept journalists from carefully examining evidence.
And in the end… not much. Only one person was ever convicted of anything (a future Jeopardy! clue, “who was Clinesmith for lying to the FISA court”) and no one in the media was driven into early retirement; on the contrary, Pulitzers were awarded for reporting Russian disinformation laundered through Steele and the FBI. Hillary Clinton came within a hair’s breadth of beating Trump, and the information op would have played a large part in that.
But the lessons learned are not for them. Muttering out loud any of the Durham findings a few years ago would have seen you dismissed as a conspiracy theorist. So the lessons are for us, or rather for us in 2024. We must be more skeptical of any claims of foreign collusion, more watchful of the FBI, and tougher critics of the media. We need to reject salacious gossip (e.g. the pee tape) pretending to be news.
We need to spend less time debating the existence of the Deep State and more time reigning it in.