Special Counsel John Durham finally delivered his conclusions after four years of “investigating the investigators” of the FBI’s counterintelligence case on Russia’s 2016 election interference, Crossfire Hurricane. The 306-page report was required to be produced to the Attorney General under the special counsel regulations, and the AG had the discretion to make the report public. There was no debate here about whether AG Garland would release this report – if he had not done so, conspiracy theories would have filled the information vacuum. It’s a good thing it’s public, though, because having to show his homework forced Durham to reveal that his sprawling investigation was as desperate on the inside as it seemed from the outside.
Officially, Durham, who was appointed by former AG Bill Barr in May 2019, was named as a Special Counsel to investigate whether “any federal official, employee, or any other person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns, individuals associated with those campaigns, and individuals associated with the administration of President Donald J. Trump, including but not limited to Crossfire Hurricane and the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III.” That’s a pretty sweeping mandate, and Trump and his supporters promised that by the end of Durham’s probe, roughly half of the FBI would be rounded up and sent to Gitmo. Instead, Durham ended up charging two random individuals unconnected to the FBI with making false statements and lost both cases. (I wrote about one here – and the other one was simply not worth wasting ink on, to be honest.)
What Durham was really expected to conclude, though, was that the entire Crossfire Hurricane investigation was improperly predicated – meaning, it shouldn’t have been opened in the first place. Such a finding would taint the entire investigation and everything that followed from it – including the appointment of Mueller, who continued the case after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. It would also taint the convictions of the individuals who Mueller convicted of lying to the FBI or Congress on Trump’s behalf, like George Papadapoulos, Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone, and justify Trump’s subsequent pardon of them. Rather inconveniently, however, just a few months after Durham started his probe the Justice Department’s Inspector General, Michael E. Horowitz, released his report into Crossfire Hurricane, which found several flaws in the FISA application for Carter Page but concluded that the basis for the investigation was proper. Specifically, Horowitz determined that the investigation was grounded in a tip provided by the Australian government that Papadapoulos had advance knowledge that Russia would release hacked emails from the DNC, and had bragged about it. (For those who have been following along, we already knew this from the Mueller Report.)