Schiff staffer tried to pressure researcher to probe nonsensical Turmp-Russia story
New details have come to light in the wake of Special Counsel John Durham's 300-page report. The report, resulting from a four-year, $6.5 million investigation, concludes that the FBI "failed to uphold their mission of strict fidelity to the law."
The report provides insights into the origins of the Russia probe, revealing connections between individuals close to Hillary Clinton and the flow of information concerning Trump's alleged Russia contacts. The document argues that the Trump campaign should have received a "defensive briefing" on Russia's attempts to influence it, similar to what the Clinton campaign received when a foreign entity attempted to exert influence, as reported by the Daily Mail.
Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-30) is among the many criticized within the report. However, Schiff has quickly denounced the report, labeling it as a "waste of four years," adding that it has undermined the department and resulted in a political prosecution.
Concerning Findings Involving Schiff's Staff
The report also calls attention to a situation where a university researcher felt threatened by Schiff's staff's request to investigate a news article about the Trump Organization and Russia-owned Alfa Bank. This is a subject the FBI investigated, seeking to determine whether a “secret”server existed for Trump Organization communication with Moscow—a notion that ultimately proved fruitless.
A secure room within the House Intelligence Committee, which Schiff chairs, served as the venue where Schiff and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), and staff asked two university researchers to review a newspaper article about this alleged link. They recommended that the researchers instead consult a government research entity. A member of Schiff's staff then stated, "We are now in charge," seemingly attempting to assert authority over the researcher, who interpreted the comment as a subtle threat.
The report also highlights the FBI's failure to corroborate any allegations concerning the Alfa Bank connection and the secret server mentioned in the white paper provided by Clinton's lawyer Michael Sussman.
FBI's Startling Admission Regarding Initial Evidence
Special Counsel Durham points out the FBI's obligation to thoroughly examine a tip provided by an Australian diplomat concerning George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign. The tip was related to potential Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. This tip, resulting from a conversation between the two men in London, sparked the Trump-Russia investigation, known as the "Crossfire Hurricane."
The report includes a dialogue between two FBI officials evaluating this tip. One FBI official expressed the thinness of the evidence, which was a sentiment agreed upon by his colleague. This situation demonstrates the questionable basis upon which the probe into Trump's Russia contacts was started.
High Praise for Mueller's Work Amid Criticisms
Interestingly, amidst widespread criticism of the probe, Durham's report commends the work done by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The report acknowledges a "substantial body of information" available in the public record relating to former President Trump's relationships with Russian businesses and individuals.
As the report asserts, this evidence has been "well-documented in the careful examinations" done by Mueller in his own investigation. However, following this brief nod to Mueller's work, the report lays out its own "sobering" conclusions.
A Deep Dive into the FBI's Failures
Durham meticulously analyzed the FBI's approach, unveiling significant breaches of protocol and potential partisan bias that permeated the Bureau's handling of the 2016 investigations.
Notably, the report discusses specific figures involved in the original investigation who have since been controversial. Peter Strzok, a former FBI counterintelligence official, is one such individual.
The report states that Strzok, known for his text exchanges with Lisa Page, an FBI attorney, had shown apparent hostility towards Trump.
The report stated: "Our investigation gathered evidence that showed a number of those closest to the investigation believed that the standard arguably had not been met... even Strzok, who drafted and approved the opening EC, said there's nothing to this, but we have to run it to ground."
He also pointed out the involvement of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was controversially dismissed by Trump's Attorney General Jeff Sessions shortly before McCabe's retirement. The report stated that there was a “predisposition to open an investigation into Trump.”
Contrasting Treatment of Clinton and Trump Campaigns
Durham's report also highlighted a stark discrepancy in how the FBI treated the Trump and Clinton campaigns. The report states that when the Bureau received significant intelligence from a foreign source indicating a plot within the Clinton campaign to vilify Trump by linking him to Putin, no full-scale investigation was launched, unlike in the Trump campaign's case.
He describes this as a “significant intelligence failure” and an instance of “confirmation bias.” The report cited Clinton's response to this charge, dismissing the accusations as Russian disinformation.
Golden Showers Rumors Debunked
One of the more salacious elements of the original investigation was the rumors surrounding Trump's alleged activities in the Moscow Ritz, particularly the so-called “golden showers” incident. Durham's team spoke with the former GM of the Moscow Ritz and determined that PR executive Charles Dolan, a Clinton campaign advisor, was the likely source of this rumor.
The report dedicated considerable attention to this matter, essentially debunking the claim that Trump had stayed in the same suite at the hotel where Obama had lodged in 2009 during the Miss Universe Pageant.
Durham Defends Legal Record
Lastly, the report includes a defense of Durham's track record in court. Despite failing to secure convictions in certain cases where he personally made arguments before the jury, Durham emphasized that not all injustices or transgressions amount to criminal offenses.
He concluded by suggesting that it may not always be worth expending government resources on criminal prosecution, particularly when it could fuel perceptions of political bias.