Duped by Durham: Media fall for the spin on report about Trump-Russia probe

Republicans are using the media's reaction to John Durham's report to spin this as a massive win

By Heather Digby Parton


Published May 17, 2023 8:59AM (EDT)

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

The long-awaited Durham Report about the "investigation of the investigation" of the origins of the Russia probe was finally released on Monday after four long years. And just like everything that touches Donald Trump these days, the right insists that it says something completely at odds with reality.

But what else is new?

Every nonsensical charge made by Donald Trump is deemed by his supporters to automatically be true and every charge against him is a hoax or a witch hunt. In this case, Trump and his media enablers have been touting this investigation for years as "The Big One" that finally proves that "Russia, Russia, Russia" was a witch hunt, set up by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. The report fails on every count to prove that case.

All Durham concluded was that the FBI should not have opened a full investigation but rather a preliminary investigation based on what it knew at the time. He says that when they got a tip from an Australian diplomat who had a conversation with a Trump campaign official saying the Russians were working to get Trump elected in the days right after the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computers, they used the wrong process to start their investigation. That's it. The rest is all smoke and mirrors.

Durham insists the FBI was too zealous in its investigation even though their suspicions were clearly vindicated when it became obvious that something very weird was going on with Trump's campaign that summer. After getting the tip from the Aussie diplomat, they observed that Trump hired a campaign chairman who had been working on behalf of Russian interests in Ukraine for years and was neck-deep in debt to a Russian oligarch. They saw that Trump was saying publicly that he wanted the Russians to do more hacking (which they did the day after he asked them to ) and although they didn't find this out until later, the fact remains that Russians were meeting with the campaign and family members at Trump Tower with offers to pass on dirt on Clinton. There were half a dozen other very unusual Russia connections that demanded investigation. If the FBI hadn't pursued all those leads it would have been a monumental dereliction of duty. A foreign government was blatantly interfering in the election.

Because Durham has no facts, his report is little more than innuendo and insinuations.

Moreover, unlike Durham, the special counsel investigation that grew out of the FBI's original investigation successfully convicted a whole bunch of people for crimes they uncovered. The report they issued did not find that the Trump campaign had illegally conspired with Russia but it certainly found that Russia worked to get Trump elected. They indicted 26 Russian nationals and 3 Russian organizations, including 12 intelligence agents, for hacking the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, and Hillary Clinton's campaign. Nonetheless Durham still fatuously maintains that Hillary Clinton was behind this nefarious plot to frame Trump even though his sad trial trying to prove that turned out to be a dud and ended in acquittal because the facts don't back up any of it and it makes no sense. (The only other person he put on trial was acquitted too.)

And lest we forget, special counsel Robert Mueller's report also found that Trump obstructed the investigation over and over again, obviously leading to even more suspicion that he must be trying to hide something. What innocent person acts the way Trump acted?

None of that apparently affected Durham (and former Attorney General Bill Barr's) preconceived conclusion that the investigation was unjustified from the get-go and the FBI was just out to get Trump. Because Durham has no facts, his report is little more than innuendo and insinuations, offering up nothing of substance that wasn't already revealed in the earlier Department of Justice Inspector General's report.

Needless to say, the reaction among Republicans was insane, starting with Trump himself who posted this on his social media platform:

THEY ARE SCUM, LIKE COCKROACHES ALL OVER WASHINGTON, D.C. Congratulations to John Durham on a Report that is being praised for its quality, importance, and professionalism, by friend and foe alike!"

You knew he would say that no matter what was actually in the report. After all, he claimed total vindication from the Mueller Report as well. And, as happened then, he was supported by the Republican establishment despite the fact that many of them know better:

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Presidential candidate Nikki Haley lied energetically on Fox News:

"It's a top law enforcement agency that didn't follow the laws,.To see what happened is unthinkable. Heads need to roll over this. Anybody that touched it or had a part in it needs to be fired and every one of their senior managers needs to be fired. The FBI has lost complete credibility when it comes to this and they have a lot of fixing to do to get the trust back of the American people."

Ron DeSantis too:

Unfortunately, some members of the mainstream media are helping to validate these lies. 

Media Matters tracked how CNN's initial reaction, contending that the report is "devastating to the FBI" and "to an extent exonerates Donald Trump" was used as proof among numerous right-wing media outlets, activists and even QAnon influencers that Trump was right all along. Even Fox got in on the action:

Fox & Friends personalities praised Tapper's commentary. After airing a video of Tapper, co-host Brian Kilmeade said, "Did you ever think you'd hear that on CNN? It does exonerate Donald Trump! Sure. The last person you'd think to do that!"

That's going to be the right-wing narrative from now on and apparently, CNN is going to carry that line as well. Even so, some activists are unhappy with John Durham, proving that no good deed goes unpunished. Judicial Watch put out a statement that concludes with this:

Durham let down the American people with few and failed prosecutions. Never in American history has so much government corruption faced so little accountability. Let me be clear, the FBI and Justice Department – and their political masters in the Obama White House – are responsible for the worst government corruption in American history. President Trump is a crime victim who was targeted by a seditious conspiracy by Obama, Biden, Clinton and their Deep State allies.

If it was only Donald Trump bellowing about this, maybe we could just breathe a sigh of relief that the "investigation of the investigation" is finally over and everyone will shut up about this nonsense. But since all the GOP presidential candidates have jumped on the bandwagon, we're going to be hearing a lot more about the Deep State's "weaponization" of politics, all because the Republican Party just can't quit the criminal miscreant they accidentally put in the White House in 2016. It's going to be a long campaign.

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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