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OPINION

How the Durham Probe Actually Proved Collusion

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

After years of comprehensive investigations, the investigation of Special Counsel John Durham has concluded, and his final report is a damning document. The FBI had no merit in its investigation into the Donald Trump campaign and its alleged ties with Russia said to have swayed the 2016 election. There were assertions made internally that it had no sufficient proof, and evidence clearly fed by the Hillary Clinton campaign was the catalyst to all the years of hysterical claims. 

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The press has been, expectedly, mostly downplaying and dismissing the findings. As pundit Mollie Hemmingway advised, do not take the word of reports coming from outlets that energetically pushed the collusion narrative. This muted response and some deflection reports from the press are done because the news outlets in this country were a key component in this Russian fable. They were not merely broadcasting and amplifying the rumors, the press was a key player in the entire process, and they were there from the very start as a participant behind the scenes.

The Russian collusion narrative came to us in waves, but as we now know, there were no real investigations on the part of journalists because otherwise, they would have exposed the vacant basis behind it all. Instead, there were numerous stages to the narrative, meant to perpetuate the storyline, and the press complex worked in concert to continue the story, bolstered with information fed to reporters in assembly line fashion from government agencies. 

Phase 1

Of course, the entire imbroglio was launched from the now severely discredited Steele Dossier, compiled by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS with funding from the Clinton campaign lawyers. DOJ official Michael Ohr was the spark, as his wife worked for Fusion, and he fed the intel gathered to the FBI, despite knowing it was likely Russian rumors and disinformation. (Oh, the irony, considering today's media climate.)

The FBI wanted to use information in this document to obtain a warrant to investigate a suspected foreign agent (Carter Page), and applied for FISA warrants, despite known flaws with the dossier. The Bureau needed corroborating evidence to satisfy the court. 

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Thus, the dossier was fed to the press. News reports from Michael Isikoff and David Corn of Mother Jones were entered as evidence, even as the FBI was aware it had been given the dossier by Steele. As a result, the FISA warrant was obtained with the Steele Dossier becoming "corroborated" with evidence that was nothing more than the very same dossier.

Phase 2

Upon the surprising Trump election victory, the nation's newsrooms had to react swiftly. Suddenly, a mapped-out future with Hillary Clinton and countless pre-written features on the first female president went to the landfill, and a new aggressive approach was going to be needed. Many news outlets saw this as a mission where they needed to address the social crime of a Trump presidency, leading to many commenting that now the news outlets were ready to do their jobs after an eight-year vacation under President Obama.

Newsrooms were recalibrated, and many outlets hired new staff in anticipation of needing to go after the new scourge in the White House. The pitchforks were being sharpened, and the torches were being refueled in the newsrooms across the country.

Phase 3

The Steele Dossier was now set for its public release. In January, ahead of Trump's inaugural, Jake Tapper first reported on the intelligence community looking into the Russia-Trump connection, citing "memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative whose past work U.S. intelligence officials consider credible." Meanwhile, a BuzzFeed reporter had, weeks earlier in December, been given access to a copy of the dossier and, when left alone, took pictures of the pages. 

Upon seeing the CNN report, Buzzfeed sprung into action, putting together a report and posting the Steele dossier in its entirety.

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Then BuzzFeed publisher Ben Smith notes his move had angered the CNN star anchor

Jake Tapper sent me a furious email that evening saying that publishing the document 'makes the story less serious and credible,' which was probably true—but if keeping a document secret makes it more credible, you might have a problem. Tapper also said he wished we had at least waited until morning to give his news the attention it deserved: 'Collegiality wise it was you stepping on my dick,' he wrote. 

So as Trump was poised to take office, the country was now exposed to the very problematic document that had been hoped to act as an October surprise, morphing now into the touchstone that would taint the next four years of his presidency. Without proper vetting and investigating, the Steele Dossier was freely referenced and held up as defacto evidence of wrongdoing before anything had been verified. The press did not need to do their jobs; they just pointed at a document and said, "See?!"

Phase 4

Crossfire Hurricane is the code name used for the investigation into possible Russian links to the Trump campaign. Begun in the summer of 2016, it involved high-ranking members of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and DOJ, with George Papadopoulos as a European player, who was suspected of Russian contacts and funneling information. Despite Trump's election victory, the investigations continued, with involvement going all the way up to President Obama. The public first became known of Crossfire Hurricane from a New York Times piece in February 2017, and from that point forward, it was used to assume Trump's guilt. 

Most news reports, even if using hedged language like "allegedly," would bring up this investigation as a form of proof of wrongdoing. Fusion GPS, with knowledge by the Clinton campaign executives, had already for months been leaking details of the Steele Dossier and staging clandestine meetings with the press with Steele in attendance to provide background. Now the investigation, and the Steele Dossier, were invoked perpetually and the drumbeat of "Russian collusion" had begun. 

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Phase 5

By the summer of 2017, the heat on the Russian myth had been turned up to boiling, and as a result, Robert Mueller stepped in. Appointed by the DOJ, the Mueller special counsel investigation took up the Crossfire Hurricane project. This only lent fuel to the media, as it was made an assumption that there was validity to all the charges. 

Mueller's probe lingered for years, allowing the press to chug along with charges of Russian control of the White House, bolstered by frequent leaks and inside intel being made public. Supposition was all that was needed, and there was actual praise heaped upon this reckless style of reporting. The New York Times and Washington Post shared the Pulitzer Prize for their series of pieces in 2017 covering the Russian collusion story. Seen today as sheer ridicule of the industry, the Pulitzer Committee lauded the inaccurate reporting:

For deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation's understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

This assessment is quite accurate, though not in the ways intended. "Deeply sourced" would indicate the numerous fed leaks from agency officials made to further the story and continue to impugn Trump's character. As for "relentlessly reported," who could argue?! The press industry was intent on keeping the Russian collusion story alive for years, even as the facts were coming in that unspooled so many of the claims.

Phase 6

When Mueller's final report emerged, finally, after nearly two years, it blasted apart so much of the collusion narrative. No connections were found with the Trump campaign, and all the years of supposition and hope it would lead to a conviction of sorts became blasted into confetti. But this did not entirely stop the press. 

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Those who are desperate to cling to the narrative point out that Mueller achieved dozens of indictments as a result of his work, but they do not analyze those too closely. The majority are Russian nationals working abroad with no hope of ever being dealt justice. Of those in the States, nobody was connected to the Trump campaign directly. The lone name to hold up is Paul Manafort, who was convicted for crimes he committed prior to working on the campaign. 

Phase 7

While not directly connected, the marriage of the intel community and the press industry has been proven consummated. In the fall of 2020, another October surprise was unleashed with the revelation that a laptop once belonging to Hunter Biden was made public. The press went to work – smothering the story. Major outlets refused to cover it, giving wan excuses that they could not find any merit to the case (technically, they were correct since refusing to look into the matter would lead to not finding evidence), and the New York Post was punished for running a completely accurate story. Then the press was given the permission slip to not investigate further. 

A letter signed by 51 officials from the intelligence community declared that they felt the presence of the laptop felt like a Russian psychological operation. The press was excused, breathlessly citing this letter as cause to dismiss the laptop story. Of course, they were ignoring a physical laptop that existed and relied on the claim of Russian involvement absent any proof; so while claiming there was no evidence the laptop was valid, they waved the paper about the Russians that had zero evidence and was completely invalid. 

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Adding to this collusion was that the Feds were behind the misinformation campaign. Mark Zuckerberg let it slip on the "Joe Rogan Experience" that in the summer of 2020, the FBI had notified Facebook, and other social media outlets, that the emergence of the laptop story was something to be wary of since it was Russian propaganda. The Feds were telling him this; months ahead of the news coming out. Also, the FBI knew full well this was a lie – it had been in possession of the laptop since the previous December.

Current Phase

We have now seen the entire press industry move into a quadrant where they justify themselves for not reporting on major news stories of this caliber, all based on who is in office and could become affected. The Durham Report is being met by most in the press with denials and shrugs, with some simply ignoring it outright. The findings of a recent House committee investigation into the Biden family have barely been touched, with the scant reactions to it being similar to yesterday's insistence that all of the evidence means that nothing was found.

Biden's economy, self-created border crisis, the bumbling in allowing a Chinese spy balloon to traverse the country, the historic fiasco of the Afghanistan pullout, and so many other travails are completely glossed over, and the denial of coverage is justified.

Meanwhile, in Mueller/Hurricane-like fashion, obsessing over the January 6 Committee was justified even as it delivered little more than a door prize in its findings. All of this shows that collusion is a certainly blatant and obvious reality – only it is taking place between the upper levels of our government agencies and the broad media complex. When that is the partnering, the question now rests on who it will be to hold those accountable?

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