Right-wing media's latest "bombshell" — the Durham report — is a nothingburger

Conservatives have framed John Durham's filing as definitive evidence that Clinton spied on Trump – but it's not

By Jon Skolnik

Published February 15, 2022 4:00PM (EST)

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and John H. Durham (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images/United States Attorney's Office, District of Connecticut)
Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and John H. Durham (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images/United States Attorney's Office, District of Connecticut)

Right-wing media is having a tizzy about the apparent lack of mainstream coverage around an alleged – and highly dubious – scandal that former president Donald Trump was being spied on by the Hillary Clinton campaign back in 2016. 

The conservative furor centers on a court filing by John H. Durham, the Trump-era special counsel probing Russia's 2016 election interference. 

On Friday, Durham filed a pretrial motion alleging that Michael A. Sussmann, a cybersecurity prosecutor, lied about his connections to the Clinton campaign in a September 2016 meeting with the FBI in which Sussmann provided testimony about Trump's alleged ties with Russia. These alleged ties, according to The Washington Post, involved "possible evidence of a secret communications channel between computer servers associated with the Trump Organization and with Alfa Bank, a Kremlin-linked financial institution."

RELATED: The debunked "Russian influence" nonsense is infantilizing liberals

The motion also claims that in February 2017, Sussman told the FBI that one of his own clients, technology executive Rodney Joffe – whose company apparently maintained internet-related servers for the White House at one point – "exploited" his access to these servers to dig up dirt on Trump. 

Even though Durham never directly said in his motion that Clinton coordinated a campaign to "spy" on Trump through Joffe, The New York Times noted, conservatives have been quick to draw such conclusions, accusing liberal media of being biased for not covering the alleged scandal. 


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"The press refuses to even mention the major crime that took place," Mr. Trump said in a statement on Monday. "This in itself is a scandal, the fact that a story so big, so powerful and so important for the future of our nation is getting zero coverage from LameStream, is being talked about all over the world."

"We now know that the Clinton campaign paid a tech firm to infiltrate the servers at Trump Tower and then later infiltrate the servers at the Trump White House, in other words, illegally spying on a presidential candidate," Fox News Sean Hannity said on Monday. "The goal [was to] fabricate evidence that President Trump was a Russian asset. 

"This is far worse than Watergate," he added. 

Fox News on Tuesday also noted the amount of media coverage the alleged scandal had thus far received by ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, CNN, and MSNBC. According to Fox News Research, all of these channels have respectively dedicated "0 minutes."

While there may be reason to investigate Sussmann, there is still little basis to believe that Joffe's work was part of a grand scheme to smear Trump.

As the Times' Charlie Savage noted, the White House data allegedly "mined" from the White House was targeted before Trump took office.

Additionally, the incitement alleges that Joffe's company "had come to access and maintain dedicated servers for the EOP [Executive Office of the President] as part of a sensitive arrangement whereby it provided DNS resolution services to the EOP." So if Joffe's firm did record the web addresses of White House users, the Post's Glenn Kessler noted, then that may have simply been part of a pre-arranged contract rather than a politically-motivated breach of conduct.


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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