The Durham report marked the final chapter of a dramatic saga that began nearly seven years ago: the inception of Russiagate, and the launch of media careers of federal officials wrapped up in pushing the dubious collusion narrative.
Launched by the FBI in July 2016 as Crossfire Hurricane, the Robert Mueller investigation looked into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin's election interference operations. The media followed every aspect of the probe with glee.
The controversy plagued Donald Trump's presidency as The New York Times and The Washington Post published bombshell after bombshell, often based on anonymous sources, all fueling the collusion narrative. In the end, although members of Trump's orbit were charged and convicted of various crimes, the DOJ found no basis that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia. And as John Durham himself recently concluded, the origins of Crossfire Hurricane were based on "raw, unanalyzed and uncorroborated intelligence."
Throughout the three investigations, there were several key figures that emerged and the reports issued by Inspector General Michael Horowitz and Durham in particular laid out their critical roles in Russiagate. Many of the those high-ranking officials were rewarded with cushy TV gigs and lucrative book deals.
These are six of them:
McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, was fired In March 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions amid a slew of controversies, including how he lied to investigators about leaking information to the press during the 2016 election. That alone made CNN's decision to hire him as a contributor in August 2019 controversial. As the author of the 2019 New York Times bestseller "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump," McCabe still made out well during the Russia saga.
But according to Durham, it was at the direction of McCabe that Crossfire Hurricane be "opened immediately" back in July 2016 based on information the FBI had received from Australian authorities. Five months earlier, however, McCabe directed FBI field offices who had been investigating the Clinton Foundation to close their cases. Following vocal objections by the agents involved, a directive was put in place that "any overt investigative steps" would require McCabe's approval. FBI personnel were "frustrated" by such limitations.
The deputy director, who according to Durham was "heavily involved in all aspects of the investigation," was made aware that the FISA warrant on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page would not have been approved without information pulled from the infamous Steele dossier, the Clinton campaign-funded memo authored by ex-British spy Christopher Steele which was later discredited by Durham and Inspector General Michael Horowitz. McCabe, in addition to then FBI Director James Comey, put on pressure to get the FISA warrant approved, pressing who his team needed to talk to at the DOJ "to get this going."
Following the release of the Durham report, McCabe decried that it was "not a legitimate investigation" but rather a "political errand" on behalf of Trump. He told CNN colleague Anderson Cooper he "absolutely" stands by the Russia investigation though acknowledging the errors with the FISA warrant on Page were "regrettable" and something he would have prevented had he known they were included.
Before joining MSNBC in 2018 as the national security and intelligence analyst, he served as President Obama's CIA director. Behind closed doors, he acknowledged to DOJ investigators in 2020 that intelligence agencies "found no conspiracy" between the Trump campaign and Russia. Brennan also publicly admitted on "Morning Joe" in 2019 following the conclusion of the Mueller probe that agencies may have "received bad information" and that he personally "suspected there was more" to prove collusion "than there actually was."
According to Brennan's own notes cited in the Durham report, he briefed Obama and other national security officials on intel that "alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services." He then briefed Comey about his meeting with Obama the day prior but alleged to investigators he did not think he presented the intelligence regarding what Durham dubbed the "Clinton Plan" to the FBI director.
Days later, he met with Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden and other top officials including then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, briefing them all about the "Clinton Plan intelligence" among other material pertaining to Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Despite his public acknowledgments in 2019 and his private knowledge of Clinton's scheme during the 2016 election, Brennan fueled legitimacy about Russiagate as the Mueller investigation was ongoing.
In March 2018, after Trump accused the Obama administration of starting an investigation into his campaign "with zero proof of wrongdoing" before the election, suggesting it was to help Clinton win, Brennan told him his tweet was "a great example of your paranoia, constant misrepresentation of the facts, and increased anxiety and panic (rightly so) about the Mueller investigation." Days later, Brennan suggested Trump's congenial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin was because Russia "may have things that they could expose and reveal" about him.
In May 2018, Brennan called Trump's "SpyGate" accusations a "mischaracterization and dishonesty." And in an August 2018 op-ed he penned for The New York Times, Brennan asserted, "Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash."
"The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of ‘Trump Incorporated’ attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets," Brennan wrote at the time.
Notably, Brennan was among the signatories from former intel officials who suggested the Hunter Biden laptop that surfaced during the 2020 election was Russian disinformation. Although they admitted they had no evidence, their influence over the media was obvious as liberal outlets ran with the dubious claim.
Former Director of National Intelligence-turned-CNN national security analyst James Clapper told Congress he was not aware of any evidence of Trump-Russia collusion in July 2017.
According to Durham's report, Clapper was among top national security officials to receive intelligence about Russian interference, which also included the Clinton Plan intelligence, in September 2016. He was later among those who briefed Obama about the existence of the Steele dossier in January 2017 and then President-elect Trump the next day, per Horowitz's report, which also showed Clapper advising Comey that he should brief Trump either one-on-one or within a small group of people to discuss the "sexual activities" that were claimed in the dossier. Clapper himself revealed to Comey that he discussed the dossier claims with Trump after BuzzFeed News published the memo in its entirety.
In May 2017, Clapper denied the notion that the Russia probe was either "fake news or a witch hunt." In May 2018, Clapper firmly said on "The View" there was no spying on the Trump campaign despite the fact that four investigations into George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn were launched in August 2016.... (Read more)
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