John Durham | Lies and spies

The Special Counsel is investigating the FBI probe into ‘Russian poll meddling’

Published - November 21, 2021 12:31 am IST

John Durham is a U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel and he is indeed special for his task of investigating another investigation conducted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and more. The spotlight is on him not for what he is, but what he is investigating. His findings so far have pricked big holes in a story scripted by the FBI and amplified by Democratic partisans and media outlets — that Donald Trump was in cahoots with Russian operatives.

The allegations rocked U.S. politics since 2016, and sabotaged the presidency for Mr. Trump even before it began. A Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, could not substantiate the core of the allegation, that Trump advisers criminally conspired with Russian officials to impact the election. But he indicted six Trump advisers on other charges. Mr. Durham’s job is to uncover the origins of the FBI’s investigation and whether anyone acted unlawfully in launching it or subsequently. He is “authorized 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,” according to his appointment order. Crossfire Hurricane was the code for the FBI investigation into Mr. Trump’s alleged links with Russia.

The confusion and controversy over the FBI Russia investigation could be comparable to India’s CAG investigations premised on a dubious construct termed ‘presumptive loss’ to the exchequer. The argument based on a false premise, without evidence, was amplified by ‘investigative’ reporting, and political campaigning, undermining an elected government in the case of ‘2G scam’ in India. The charges that followed did not stand in courts. Now, add to this a foreign link — let’s say, the all too familiar insinuation that the Opposition in India is somehow linked with Pakistan, and then use that assumption to spy on them. All this happened in the U.S., ahead of the 2016 presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Mr. Trump, and later. Mr. Durham was appointed as a Special Counsel to unravel it all. Over the last two years, he has brought three indictments, but the latest one of a Russian national, Igon Danchenko who lives in the U.S., has so shaken the basis of allegations of Trump- Russia collusion that some commentators say the collusion was between the Clinton campaign and some Russians to implicate Mr. Trump.

Dossier on Trump

Mr. Danchenko’s indictment calls into question a dossier on Mr. Trump prepared by former British spy Christopher Steel, which was used by the FBI to obtain permission to spy on the Trump campaign. Mr. Durham’s investigations found that Mr. Dancheko was feeding Mr. Steel hearsay about Mr. Trump, which he got primarily from a source who was associated with the Clinton campaign. Mr. Steel’s dossier itself was funded by the Clinton campaign. In other words, one Clinton associate was feeding information to a Russian who was feeding it to another Clinton ally, who routed it to the FBI and the media as authentic information based on sourcing from Russia. Mr. Steele actively canvassed the media to publicise graphic details about Mr. Trump’s sexual encounters in Russia. Mr. Dachenko has denied charges of lying to the FBI, but what is already embarrassing the anti-Trump segments of the U.S. media is that they were taken for a ride.

Mr. Trump and the conservative media are excited about the indictment. The former President has said a lot more will be coming out as the Special Counsel continues his probe. While The Washington Post has admitted that the “allegations (against Mr. Danchenko) cast new uncertainty on some past reporting on the dossier by news organisations, including The Washington Post ,” some other platforms such as MSNBC are not giving up. “Danchenko lawyer blasts John Durham for presenting 'false narrative' about his client,” a headline on MSNBC website screams. The lawyer’s statement had little on the allegations but he said exposing his client’s activities was detrimental to U.S. national security. The Democrats and Trump critics say the Russia investigation was launched based on an Australian input.

John Ratcliffe, former Director of National Intelligence who declassified a lot of material related to the Russia probe, said a lot more will be revealed by Mr. Durham. According to Mr. Ratcliffe, the FBI knew the Clinton campaign was working on creating a false narrative on Trump-Russia collusion. He said he had handed over more than 1,000 classified documents to the Special Counsel — which is being used in the investigation. In all this, Mr. Durham has remained mostly silent.

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