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Steele Melting: Why Durham's Latest Indictment Matters

The Russia investigation hung over the Trump presidency, and our broader political discourse, for years.  Americans were repeatedly assured that evidence would confirm that the president was a pawn of the Kremlin, a Manchurian candidate, a Putin puppet -- and that his campaign colluded with the Russians in 2016.  In the end, no such collusion was ever established by the Mueller investigation, which boasted a large staff and had deep resources at its disposal.  In late 2019, the Justice Department's nonpartisan watchdog, Inspector General Michael Horowitz, delivered several blows to the credibility of the entire Trump/Russia/collusion narrative.  I summarized several of his findings and comments at the time:

The FBI used the now-debunked dossier as a "central and essential" component of their probe, continuing to do so even after their own work undercut Steele's fantastical document.  But under questioning, the IG made clear that he could not rule out bias as a motivating factor, and heavily hinted that he believes that it was.  Why?  Because the actions were otherwise "inexplicable" and the non-bias explanations he was offered were "not satisfactory"... Horowitz says the public is justified in refusing to believe all of the 'mistakes' were the result of mere incompetence.  "It’s fair for people to look at all of these 17 events and wonder how it could be pure incompetence,” he told the [Congressional] panel..."The activities we found here don’t vindicate anybody who touched this,” [he added].

Former Attorney General Bill Barr, about whom widespread leftist derangement took root long ago, made the decision to put a respected federal prosecutor named John Durham in charge of examining the full 'waterfront,' as to the origins of the Russia probe.  Some conservatives have been frustrated at the pace of Durham's investigation, wondering if he would ever produce any results.  A few weeks ago, Durham indicted a Democrat-connected attorney for lying to the FBI.  Then came a much more significant indictment late last week.  National Review offers a useful summary of the major players involved, concluding its editorial with this assessment: "At best, the FBI allowed itself to get duped into playing along with a political hit against, first, a presidential candidate and, then, the duly elected president of the United States. May John Durham continue to expose the details of this sorry scheme, and hold accountable anyone who broke the law in the course of advancing it." The Wall Street Journal's Kim Strassel explains the revelations further:

Special counsel John Durham this week obtained an indictment of Igor Danchenko, a Russian who provided information for the dossier. Mr. Danchenko is charged with lying to the FBI, but the bigger story of the indictment is Democrats’ central role in every aspect of the dossier and the FBI investigation...It took a year for congressional investigators to reveal the dossier had in fact been commissioned by the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS, working for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It took two more years for Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to expose that Mr. Steele had relied on a Russian source who said he’d never expected Mr. Steele to present his info as facts, since most of it was “hearsay.” Two more years on, Mr. Durham’s indictment says this source—Mr. Danchenko—obtained material from a longtime Democratic operative who was active in the 2016 Clinton campaign...

Mr. Dolan has long been in Clinton circles, having served seven years as head of the Democratic Governors Association and state chairman of Bill Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns. President Clinton appointed him to a State Department advisory commission, and the indictment notes he was an active “volunteer” on Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign. He also had far more ties to Russians than anyone in Mr. Trump’s circle, having for eight years helped handle “global public relations for the Russian government” and throughout 2016 interacted frequently with senior Russian officials and Russian Embassy staff...The indictment alleges Mr. Danchenko lied about Mr. Dolan’s interaction with the dossier when the bureau belatedly tried to check the dossier’s accuracy. The indictment says all this deprived the FBI of the ability to learn about the “reliability, motivations, and potential bias” of the Democratic source. True, though this latest indictment again paints the FBI as either inept or biased.

The unsubstantiated/discredited dossier was "central and essential" to the FBI's Russia investigation.  It was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign.  And we now know that it was populated with various inventions and innuendos fed by a longtime Clinton political ally to one of Steele's key sources -- who, in turn, allegedly lied to the FBI about the Clinton ally's role in fabricating "evidence" of Trump's supposed Russia-related malfeasance.  There were Democratic fingerprints all over this document from the very beginning, yet it played a crucial and irreplaceable in manufacturing a scandal that dominated American politics in many ways for years.  The US media eagerly followed every twist and turn, publishing a long line of breathless scoops and devoting countless broadcast hours to the allegations.  Many journalism awards were handed out for this coverage.  Now that the dossier, and therefore the crux of the scandal, is well and truly falling apart, with the same press follow these disappointing and embarrassing (from their developments) with equal vigor?  Of course not


Some reporters are acknowledging the seriousness of what's been revealed:

I'll leave you with leftist media critics Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald piling on:

Russiagate is already a sizable boil on the face of American journalism, but the indictment of Danchenko has the potential to grow the profession’s embarrassment to fantastic dimensions...If I were Rachel Maddow and had a record of saying things on air like, “Above all else, we know this about the now-famous dossier: Christopher Steele had this story before the rest of America did. And he got it from Russian sources,” news like the Dolan item would make me furious. Not only did she flog the Steele document for years, she specifically hyped its credibility on the grounds of how it was put together, and by whom. Now, we find out that the actual construction of the reports was like something out of a Three Stooges episode, with Igor, Chuck, and a Bronx Zoo zebra standing in for Moe, Larry, and Curly. The mere fact that some of Steele’s supposed “Russian sources” turned out to be this absurd stateside parade would have any honest journalist fuming.

This isn't over. But will there be any accountability for anyone? It's fair to be skeptical given how previous attempts at accountability have been reversed.

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