John Durham testimony: Special counsel speaks on Trump-Russia report publicly for first time

John Durham
Special Counsel John Durham leaves a closed hearing of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Tuesday, June 20, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Jacquelyn Martin/AP

John Durham testimony: Special counsel speaks on Trump-Russia report publicly for first time

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John Durham will testify for the first time publicly about his report on his special counsel inquiry into the Trump-Russia investigators when he appears before the GOP-led House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Durham’s report in May revealed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wrongdoing related to the FBI‘s reliance on British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited and Democratic-funded dossier to obtain flawed FISA surveillance against Trump campaign associate Carter Page during and after the 2016 election.

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Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday that the Clinton campaign was “trying to manipulate our law enforcement agencies, our intelligence agencies, for politics — and maybe one of the takeaways is that the agencies were eager to go along with this.”

Jordan said a key question to answer related to the FBI’s actions was, “Did they get played, or did they want to do it? Were they really played?” Jordan suggested the FBI “wanted to believe it was real” and argued that “they just ran with it all.”

The Jordan-led House Judiciary Committee tweeted the day the Durham report was released that “they all lied to us” in reference to fired FBI Director James Comey, fired FBI deputy assistant director of counterintelligence Peter Strzok, and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, key figures in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, as well as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who pushed baseless claims of Trump-Russia collusion and read portions of Steele’s discredited dossier into the congressional record in early 2017.

“The Durham Report revealed that the FBI dropped four criminal probes into the Clintons, but had no problem at all pushing a fake dossier to take down Trump,” Jordan tweeted just after the Durham report was released. “What happened to equal justice under the law?”

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the ranking member on the committee, referred to it as “the discredited Durham report” and to the special counsel as “the discredited Mr. Durham” during a House hearing in May.

Durham’s lengthy and “sobering” report concluded the FBI had no proper basis to launch the controversial 2016 election inquiry, which soon transformed into special counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling investigation.

Durham’s report also revealed that evidence of Trump-Russia collusion never materialized and that Steele’s dossier was linked to Russian sources. It also concluded that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign played an outsize role in pushing such collusion claims to the media and the FBI.

Durham appeared behind closed doors for a classified briefing to the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, and Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), the committee’s chairman, gave a likely preview of what Durham will say in public on Wednesday.

“Our committee today received testimony from John Durham concerning his report on misconduct at the FBI and the Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” Turner told reporters in a short press conference following his meeting with Durham, saying his committee was “trying to find answers to misconduct — what are the solutions, what are the reforms.”

The Biden administration faces an uphill climb to reauthorize certain FISA powers in the wake of abuses.

“It was interesting to hear from Mr. Durham that he has concerns that there are reforms that need to go into place and that there are still issues that need to be addressed,” Turner said on Tuesday. “He was forthcoming in sharing with us, and I think we were able to get some information that would be very helpful for us in the work that we have to do on both FISA renewal and FISA reforms and also reform issues with the FBI.”

Durham’s report revealed that then-vice president and now-President Joe Biden was briefed in the summer of 2016 by former CIA Director John Brennan about an alleged plan by Clinton to tie former President Donald Trump to Russia to distract from her own use of an illicit private email server while secretary of state.

The Durham report concluded that “the FBI … failed to act on what should have been — when combined with other incontrovertible facts — a clear warning sign that the FBI might then be the target of an effort to manipulate or influence the law enforcement process for political purposes during the 2016 presidential election.”

Jordan had also pressed Garland in a letter in early June about Durham’s findings related to the faulty origin of the Trump-Russia investigation and the “failings” of the FBI. The GOP chairman placed special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation related to the Mar-a-Lago classified documents saga and the Capitol riot in the context of Durham’s report, arguing that “due to the FBI’s documented political bias, the Justice Department must ensure any ongoing investigations are not poisoned by this same politicization.”

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) sent a letter to Durham in May pressing him on his investigation of the Trump-Russia investigators, noting that “it seems odd that individuals would be allowed to avoid fully cooperating with your office, particularly given your authority to compel testimony and records.”

The GOP letter pointed out that several important figures either did not cooperate fully with Durham or did not cooperate at all, including Comey, Strzok, fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, former assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division Bill Priestap, convicted ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, and Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson.

FBI Director Christopher Wray testified in March the FBI misdeeds unearthed from its Trump-Russia Crossfire Hurricane investigation constituted “conduct that I consider totally unacceptable” and also admitted that “there have been compliance incidents that have to be addressed” related to the FBI’s misuse of 702.

Key leaders from the Justice Department, FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week as part of an effort to reauthorize FISA Section 702 powers related to the collection and exploitation of data collected overseas. Durham’s report has made reauthorization even more difficult.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle pledged not to extend the surveillance powers without reforms addressing their concerns on civil liberties, government overreach, and FBI misuse. The Section 702 powers expire at the end of 2023.

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The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also recently declassified a FISA Court opinion last month showing the FBI committed FISA violations 278,000 times in recent years, including on people believed to be connected to violent George Floyd protests and the Capitol riot.

Durham was appointed by former Attorney General William Barr in 2019 to investigate the origins and conduct of the FBI investigation into the Trump-Russia collusion claims. Durham’s final report did not recommend any new criminal prosecutions beyond his unsuccessful prosecutions of Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann and Steele dossier source Igor Danchenko.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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