Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Victory Lap


Special Counsel John Durham, rear, in his first movie role, Horse Feathers, 1932.

Let's just review why the FBI started the Crossfire Hurricane investigation sometime toward the end of July 2016.

After a long nomination campaign in which foreign relations played an unusually big role, dominated by candidate Trump's interest in "getting along" with Russia, whose president, Vladimir Putin, he knew "very well" after hanging out with him in the 60 Minutes green room in September 2015

and who was said (also falsely) to think Trump was a "genius", and during which Democratic National Committee computers were hacked by what they claimed (correctly) were Russian intelligence forces, some surprising things happened during the Republican convention in Cleveland, attended by Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak; 

(1) about July 11 the Republican platform committee removed language from the platform promising to arm Ukraine against possible Russian aggression at, it was reported, the instigation of the Trump campaign

“The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.”

(2) on 22 July the Wikileaks organization published some 20,000 emails stolen from computers of the Democratic National Committee

(3) on 27 July Trump publicly acknowledged his awareness (which he would later deny) that it was Russian intelligence that had stolen the emails and invited them to steal some more, from the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, though he may have been "joking"

“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at a news conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

(I've always thought that was especially weird and interesting, that he thought "our press" would reward them—how, exactly? --by putting them on Page Six of the New York Post?)  and later in the week announced his support for Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Plus at least one thing the FBI knew that the rest of us didn't: back in April (around the time the CrowdStrike firm cut off Russia's access to the DNC), one of Trump's foreign policy "advisers", 28-year-old George Papadopoulos, had been told in London by a mysterious Russia-connected Maltese who was helping him try to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin that Russian intelligence possessed "thousands" of emails' worth of "dirt" on Hillary Clinton (Papadopoulos had told the Alexander Downer, the Australian High Commissioner in London about this over drinks, and after the Wikileaks email dump Downer realized that this was serious and informed the Yanks).

There was never any mystery whatever about why the FBI would want to investigate the possibility of collusion between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign. It was obvious, from the moment Downer sent them that note, that Russia's support for Trump and Trump's accommodation to Putin were connected. The only questions were how and by whom (and to me that latter is obvious too: the dignified convention manager Manafort, with his history of making millions by serving Russian interests in Ukraine, and his louche longtime business partner Stone, literally the inventor of ratfucking, both acolytes, like Trump himself, of the late Roy Cohn—the characters whose brazen lying and commitment to omertà did most to prevent Mueller from reaching a conclusion).

The alternative narrative nurtured by Trump and followed up by FBI inspector general Michael Horowitz (who was too honest to take it very far), attorney general William Barr, and this poor old special counsel John Durham whose pathetic and irrelevant little case has just blown up in his face, the narrative according to which some malevolent person or persons unknown (or somebody known whose identity changes from day to day, from Christopher Steele to this Michael Sussmann who has just been acquitted of the minor crime Durham falsely accused him of committing), probably in the pay of the Democratic National Committee, managed to hoodwink the entire US intelligence community into suspecting a completely innocent Trump

(as if he hadn't been found holding a smoking gun over somebody's dead body as it were)—that alternative narrative, implausible and incoherent, wasn't even meant to be taken seriously, though it certainly was "rewarded mightily by our press" pretending that it was serious indeed. It isn't even worth talking about any more, though I guess I'll have to keep doing it. It was nothing but a monumental effort at flooding the zone. That should be clear at this point to anybody who's able to look at it with any objectivity, though "our press" and the harrumphing conservatives will continue to act as if it isn't.

Durham's last trial, of Steele's primary sub-source, Igor Danchenko, again for lying to the FBI, is set for October. As I explained a few months ago, it's another meritless dud, which Durham will certainly lose if Danchenko's lawyers are halfway competent. 

I realize, as Steve would remind us, that it won't make any difference politically, and "our press" will snap back into bothsiderism practically as soon as the verdict is read, just as it's going to do this week—even Charlie Savage at The New York Times (who has done the best reporting on the Sussmann case) can't help trying to make the Republican case sound rational

Some supporters of Mr. Trump had been bracing for that outcome. They pointed to the District of Columbia’s reputation as a heavily Democratic area and suggested that a jury might be politically biased against a Trump-era prosecutor trying to convict a defendant who was working for the Clinton campaign.

Even as he makes it clear how empty Durham's case was:

In reality, the Alfa Bank matter was a sideshow: The F.B.I. had already opened its inquiry on other grounds before Mr. Sussmann passed on the tip; the final report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, made no mention of the Alfa Bank suspicions.

But [should have said "and"] the case Mr. Durham and his team used to float their broad insinuations was thin: one count of making a false statement in a meeting with no other witnesses [and very inconclusive evidence that the statement was false]. 

But let's just take a moment to remember what the Crossfire Hurricane case actually was, and enjoy today's bit of vindication.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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