John Durham blew it.
It’s not because the special counsel failed to get the convictions of Sussmann and Danchenko; we knew (and he knew) that in a Washington DC courtroom, the deck was stacked against him to such an extent that he would almost certainly lose. Our assumption has always been that he prosecuted those cases to get out the larger story of the Russia Hoax, and, to his eternal credit, he did that. Most of the media didn’t even cover it, though, or else distorted its findings, leading us to wonder: if the Durham Report drops in the forest and there’s no media to report it, does it make a sound?
Still, Durham did document that story for all who care to read it, present and future. And he showed conclusively that the whole thing was built on air, traceable to the “I’m with Her” Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign. He also revealed that the FBI --- and, yes, the Obama White House --- knew all along that Hillary’s campaign had been plotting to frame Trump for Russian collaboration.
No, Durham blew it by failing to take the opportunity to investigate the so-called Russian “hack” of the servers at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). As long as he was investigating the origins of the Russia Hoax, why on earth didn’t he look into what was arguably the genesis for the whole thing? The claim that Russians collaborated with Trump was all a tremendous hoax, so why should anyone believe Russians hacked the DNC? Isn’t it likely that this was just as much of a sham?
Aaron Mate of REALCLEAR COMMUNICATIONS wondered the same thing, and has dug deep into this mystery in an excellent article.
Mate writes that “Durham does not address the Clinton campaign’s equally central tie to Russiagate’s other foundational allegation: that Russia interfered in the 2016 election by hacking Democratic party severs and releasing the material through Wikileaks to help elect Trump.” And this was after unearthing new information that called the claim into question.
Durham could see that the Clinton campaign and its contractor, the cyber firm CrowdStrike, had stonewalled the FBI’s requests for critical data. Two key Clinton associates, Michael Sussmann (remember him?) and CrowdStrike president Shawn Henry, who were deeply involved in the handling of the investigation, appear to have perjured themselves before Congress, telling them the FBI never even asked for the servers.
It came out during the Sussmann trial that Sussmann was the one who had hired the (yes) Clinton-funded CrowdStrike to investigate the so-called “hack.” That was in April 2016, and in June, around the time Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele started working together to create the (yes) Clinton-funded Steele “dossier,” CrowdStrike came forward to publicly accuse Russia of hacking the Democrat servers.
Sussmann lobbied the FBI to get them to back this claim, even though they hadn’t had a chance to look at any evidence. The FBI initially declined but relented several months later, even though they STILL hadn’t had a chance to look at any evidence. According to Mate, they simply relied on CrowdStrike’s own forensics and redacted reports. Yes, redacted. For the FBI.
And this was even after Shawn Henry admitted under oath that his firm “did not have concrete evidence” that the Russians had hacked the servers.
As Mate reports in one stunning sentence: “Shawn Henry, a former close FBI colleague of Directors Robert Mueller and James Comey, made the disclosure to Congress in December 2017. Yet his testimony was kept secret throughout the entirety of the FBI’s Comey- and Mueller-overseen Russia probes, and only became public in May 2020.” Henry was also a Clinton associate.
Here’s what Mate wrote about that...in May 2020. For when you have time, this makes great reading today.
In his new piece, Mate goes on to show how both Sussmann and Henry lied under oath about the same thing, saying the FBI had not to their knowledge requested access to the servers. But the FBI did request access, and emails show they knew perfectly well about it.
Emails also show CrowdStrike’s efforts to avoid complying with the FBI’s request for on-site access. They would, “at no additional expense to anyone” because they wanted to support their “friends at the FBI,” send the Bureau “a copy of the firm’s imaging of the servers.” Wasn’t that nice of them? And never mind the request by Elvis Chan of the FBI San Francisco field office to come on-site; they talked Chan into accepting their offer to mail him the copy they had made.
While prosecuting the Sussmann case, Durham missed his opportunity to press both Sussmann and Henry on why they denied the FBI access to the servers. It might have been that their false statements to Congress were material and, therefore, criminal. (Mate contrasts this with the aggressive way false statements to Congress by Trump associates Roger Stone and Michael Cohen were prosecuted.)
Durham apparently didn’t follow up on emails he uncovered that show CrowdStrike and the Clinton campaign also ignored the FBI number-one “Priority Request,” made September 30, 2016: “Un-redacted copies of CrowdStrike reports” on both the DNC and DCCC “incidents.” (Note that they didn’t say “hacks.”) We know the FBI never got these, because the ‘Justice’ Department said so in a court filing dated May 2019.
As Mate reports, “In Senate testimony, James Trainor, then assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, recalled that he was ‘frustrated’ with the CrowdStrike report he received in late August 2016 and ‘doubted its completeness’ because Sussmann had ‘scrubbed’ it.” (!!!)
REALCLEAR INVESTIGATIONS filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the CrowdStrike reports, but were sent only the cover pages. Redacted reports were provided to the House and Senate Intel Committees but have not been released publicly. As for the unredacted CrowdStrike reports, they are in a hermetically sealed vault 10,000 feet beneath the surface of the Earth. (That might be an exaggeration, but not much of one.)
Another fact revealed in the Sussmann case (and we reported on this at the time): the Clinton lawyer personally reviewed and edited the FBI’s initial public statement on the alleged “hack” of the DNC. Amazingly, Sussmann’s input on the press releases was actually solicited, by Agent Trainor.
In their release, the FBI had called this a “possible intrusion.” That wasn’t good enough for Sussmann, who in an email said the word “possible” undermined the Clinton campaign’s messaging, which presented the Russian “hack” as established without question. Trainor took the word “possible” out and reworded it to please Sussmann!
Mate also shows that when the intel community --- in a statement approved by Obama --- first publicly blamed the Russians for a “hack,” it was still a week before CrowdStrike denied the FBI’s request for an on-site inspection of the servers. “This timing means,” he says, “that when the intelligence community made its first public attribution of Russian hacking, it had not only failed to inspect the servers, but had not even received CrowdStrke’s copies of them.” In other words, like the Russia Hoax, the story of the Russian “hack” seems to have been built on nothing.
In a detailed report two months later, the FBI and DHS pulled back a bit, using the word “likely” to describe a Russian hack, but by now the public had accepted it as fact. No doubt Hillary was well pleased.
So why in blazes didn’t Durham pursue this? As Mate writes, “Durham’s’ decision to ignore the FBI’s deference to the Hillary-funded CrowdStrike is all the more striking given his criticism of Hillary-funded sources in its search for collusion.” It’s been seven years since the so-called “hack,” and given the track record of the FBI and the Hillary campaign, there’s plenty of reason to believe this is just one more of their deceptions.
And the mystery remains: if there was no Russian hack, how did those emails get to Wikileaks?