Special counsel appointed by Trump's attorney general says FBI had no basis for investigating Trump's links to Russia
Special Counsel John Durham finally finished his 4-year investigation and released a report.
He was examining the FBI's investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign's links to Russia.
He thinks the FBI didn't have enough solid intel to open that investigation in the first place.
Special Counsel John Durham concluded that the FBI didn't have sufficient evidence to open its investigation into Donald Trump's connections with Russia, according to a report published by the Justice Department on Monday.
For nearly four years, Durham — appointed by former President Trump's attorney general Bill Barr — investigated the origins of the FBI's investigation into links between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia. In his 300-page report, he found that it had no basis for opening the investigation in the first place.
"At the time of the opening of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI had no information in its holdings indicating that at any time during the campaign anyone in the Trump campaign had been in contact with any Russian intelligence officials," the report says.
The FBI investigation, with the code name Crossfire Hurricane, was opened in July 2016 to examine Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election. It was taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in 2017. When it concluded two years later, it found more than 100 points of contact between people associated with the Trump campaign and Russian government-linked individuals or entities.
Mueller's team, however, didn't find sufficient evidence to bring charges against any Americans for conspiring to illegally influence election results — though it did bring dozens of other criminal cases.
Crossfire Hurricane was also the subject of a 2019 report by the Justice Department Inspector General, which harshly criticized the FBI's use of unsubstantiated intelligence during the course of its investigation. The inspector general investigation faulted the FBI for aggressively using FISA applications to obtain court orders that allowed it to spy on Trump campaign members. In one case, the inspector general's office found, an FBI employee fabricated information for one such application. Durham's report repeats much of those findings.
"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," the Durham report says.
Kevin Clinesmith, the FBI official who doctored an email used in a FISA application, pleaded guilty in a criminal case that the inspector general's office referred to Durham. Durham separately brought two cases to trial, for a cybersecurity researcher affiliated with the Democratic party and a Russian policy researcher, both of whom he accused of lying to the FBI. Both cases resulted in acquittals.
While the Durham report appears to contain little new information about Crossfire Hurricane, it is likely to inflame concerns from Trump and his supporters that a "deep state" within the FBI was acting to undermine his campaign for the 2016 election, which he won. On his website Truth Social, Trump said Durham's report demonstrates that Americans were "scammed."
"After extensive research, Special Counsel John Durham concludes the FBI never should have launched the Trump-Russia Probe!" Trump wrote. "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!"
Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that Durham "over promised and under delivered."
"At long last, after two failed trials and at the cost of more than $6.5 million taxpayer dollars, the Durham investigation has come to an end," Nadler wrote. "The accompanying report is, sadly, pretty much what we expected from this effort: a political rehashing of what the Justice Department Inspector General already made public in 2019."
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a letter accompanying Durham's report that he had not made any redactions or modifications. In his own letter, Durham thanked Garland for giving him free rein.
"We want to thank you and your Office for permitting our inquiry to proceed independently and without interference as you assured the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee would be the case during your confirmation hearings to become Attorney General of the United States," Durham's letter says.
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