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Tipsheet

Once Again, Even Louder, For the People in the Back: There Was No Trump-Russia 'Collusion'

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The contents, revelations and determinations of the Durham report are simultaneously shocking and unsurprising.  When it comes to the Trump-Russia probe, how it was initiated, and the lengths to which various figures inside the FBI and DOJ went to keep it active, conservatives' collective suspicions have been broadly vindicated.  From the get-go, Durham found, there was no evidentiary basis for the explosive "Russia collusion" claim that fueled years of hysteria and breathless media 'bombshells' -- a bogus, opposition-manufactured scandal that hung over much of the Trump presidency.  In quoting a key line from the report, I also noted that the eventual Special Counsel investigation into this matter, led by Robert Mueller, also reached a 'no collusion' conclusion:

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I've seen leftists objecting to this correct observation, echoing the ridiculous meltdown over former Attorney General Bill Barr's accurate, initial memo laying out the Mueller report's bottom-line findings.  Believe it or not, there are still quite a few people who still refuse to concede that the Trump-Russia 'collusion' fable is bunk.  Let's be very clear: After a massive, lengthy, multimillion-dollar probe into what turned out to be a baseless conspiracy theory, Robert Mueller's team determined that there was no conspiracy between the Russians and anyone connected to the Trump campaign for the purpose of manipulating or influencing the 2016 presidential election.  When Barr made this point, describing it as a 'no collusion' outcome ("the Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election"), many on the Left, including much of the media, exploded with indignation.  But as we covered at the time, that's what Mueller and his team found, as Mueller was forced to admit his own report stated during Congressional testimony, shortly after the document was made public:

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“Although your report states collusion is not a specific offense — and you’ve said that this morning — or a term of art in federal criminal law, conspiracy is,” said Collins. “In the colloquial context, are collusion and conspiracy essentially synonymous terms?”  After repeating the question at Mueller’s request, Collins got the answer. “No,” said Mueller. “If no, on page 180 of volume one of your report, you wrote: ‘as defined in legal dictionaries collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy as that crime is set forth in general federal conspiracy statute [18 U.S. Code § 371],” said Collins. “You said at your May 29th press conference, and here today, you choose your words carefully. Are you sitting here today testifying something different than what your report states?” Mueller responded that he could answer if Collins would offer a citation for the reference, and Collins replied that he was reading from Mueller’s own work. 

“I just stated your report back to you, and you said that collusion and conspiracy were not synonymous terms, that was your answer, was no,” said Collins. “That’s correct,” said Mueller. “In that, page 180 of volume one of your report, it says: ‘as defined in legal dictionaries collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy as that crime is set forth in general federal conspiracy statute 18 USC 371,” Collins said again. “Now you said you chose your words carefully, are you contradicting your report right now? “Not when I read it,” replied Mueller.” “So you would change your answer to yes, then?” asked Collins. “No, no, if you look at the language…” Mueller stuttered. “I’m looking at your report, sir,” Collins said again. “Page 180?” asked Mueller with some uncertainty. “Page 180, volume one. This was from your report,” Collins explained again. “I would leave it with the report,” said Mueller. “So the report says yes they are synonymous,” said Collins, clarifying once more.

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That was an embarrassing moment for Mueller, who found himself cornered by verbatim quotes from his own report before retreating. The upshot was that the special counsel investigation had, in fact, found no collusion.  Yes, Russia interfered in the election (this is well established).  Yes, Trump recklessly egged them on in public statements.  But those things are a far cry from the central, weighty allegation that captured the imagination of nearly the entire American news media for years, unjustly tainting and distracting the duly-elected Trump administration.  What the Durham probe has established is that the team running Crossfire Hurricane had no "actual evidence of collusion" at the onset of their investigation into that very subject.  In other words, they should have had ample reason to suspect the whole thing was bogus from the start, which is why, as even CNN put it yesterday, Durham found that the DOJ and FBI never should have launched the inquiry in the first place.  No real evidence of collusion at the beginning, no evidence of collusion at the end, and nothing but delegitimizing turmoil and innuendo in the interim. A disgrace.

Some hacks who endlessly hyped this hoax have inevitably pivoted to dismissing the Durham report as a 'nothing to see here' irrelevancy.  But its core conclusion constitutes an outrage and a scandal. And the more you read, the worse it gets.  Two significant items:

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That seems profoundly bad and unethical.  And this is a damning list of countervailing evidence, leads and factors that the FBI/DOJ ended up ignoring as it plowed forward with the 'collusion' probe, including intrusive surveillance of Trump-connected figures (which also yielded no evidence of collusion):

This is extraordinary. "The FBI was willing to make use of the completely unvetted and uncorroborated Steele reporting in multiple FISA applications targeting a U.S. citizen, even after the Crossfire Hurricane investigators had determined that there were major conflicts between the reporting of Steele and his primary sub-source, Igor Danchenko - conflicts the FBI incredibly failed to resolve," the report states, adding that there was also "a complete failure on the part of the FBI to even examine - never mind resolve - the serious counterespionage issues surrounding Steele's primary sub-source, Igor Danchenko."  They marched ahead with this whole enterprise anyway, including securing multiple FISA warrants against a US citizen, based heavily on totally unsubstantiated rumors, and never even looked into whether those very unsubstantiated rumors were planted by an alleged foreign agent with "serious counterespionage issues."  Unbelievable.  

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Furthermore, despite receiving alleged intelligence that the Clinton campaign had decided to create a narrative about Trump-Russia collusion as a political strategy, "FBI leadership essentially disregarded [this 'Clinton Plan' intelligence], which it received at almost the exact same time as the Australian Paragraph Five information. This was despite the fact that at precisely the same time as the Clinton Plan intelligence was received (i) the Clinton campaign made public statements tying the DNC computer hack to Russian attempts to help Trump get elected, (ii) the FBI was receiving the Clinton campaign-funded Steele Reports, and (iii) the Clinton campaign-funded Alfa Bank allegations were being prepared for delivery to the media and the FBI."  The FBI essentially got tipped off that Team Hillary was going to try to seed this story, then Team Hillary started actively seeding that story almost immediately thereafter.  And they ignored that.  Why?  It's mind-boggling. It reeks of politics, if not corruption.  I'll leave you with a thought about accountability and reform, as well as a reminder of how even liberal Democrats enthusiastically vouched for Durham's independence and vigor as an investigator as recently as the Trump years:

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