The indictments of John Durham has shaken up Washington recently as he laid out the critical role played by Clinton campaign associates in the creation of the Russian collusion scandal, including the inclusion of debunked but widely reported allegations. It is clear from the latest indictment why leading Democrats like Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to kill the Durham investigation.
None of that however prepared some of us for the response of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who called upon fired FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok to question the indictments. Strzok was fired at the recommendation of career investigators and has been cited as an example of the raw bias of key players in the Russian investigation. Yet, he was the choice of MSNBC to review the recent indictments and he did not disappoint in belittling the crimes alleged by the Special Counsel.
Maddow was one of the leading voices pushing the Russian collusion claims. She has not corrected her past statements or apologized for pushing the discredited claims. She was particularly assertive in touting the debunked Steele dossier.
On her Jan. 13, 2017, program, she stated:
“I mean, had the FBI looked into what was in that dossier and found that it was all patently false, they could tell us that now, right? I mean, the dossier has now been publicly released. If the FBI looked into it and they found it was all trash, there’s no reason they can’t tell us that now. They’re not telling us that now. They’re not saying that. They’re not saying anything.”
In March 2017, Maddow seemed eager to get people to just call the allegations facts. She invited Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) onto her show to highlight the 35-page dossier. She asked Schiff: “When you cited … that dossier, should we stop describing that as an uncorroborated dossier? Has some of the information of that been corroborated?”
Now Durham has detailed how the dossier was the product of the Clinton campaign, which long denied that it funded the dossier and only admitted the truth long after the election.
The response of Maddow was to invite one of the most biased and discredited figures in the scandal to cover the indictment.
Strzok’s bias and violation of FBI rules led to career Justice Department investigators referring his case to prosecutors and led to his firing from the FBI. His emails showed intense bias against Donald Trump and highly concerning statements about having an “insurance policy” in place if Trump were to win the election.
On January 4, 2017, the FBI’s Washington Field Office issued a “Closing Communication” indicating that the bureau was terminating “CROSSFIRE RAZOR” — the newly disclosed codename for the investigation of Michael Flynn. Strzok intervened.
Keep in mind CROSSFIRE RAZOR was formed to determine whether Michael Flynn “was directed and controlled by” or “coordinated activities with the Russian Federation in a manner which is a threat to the national security” of the United States or a violation of federal foreign agent laws. The FBI investigated Flynn and various databases and determined that “no derogatory information was identified in FBI holdings.” Due to this conclusion, the Washington Field Office concluded that Flynn “was no longer a viable candidate as part of the larger CROSSFIRE HURRICANE umbrella case.”
On that same day, however, Strzok instructed the FBI case manager handling CROSSFIRE RAZOR to keep the investigation open, telling him “Hey don’t close RAZOR.” The FBI official replied, “Okay.” Strzok then confirmed again, “Still open right? And you’re the case agent? Going to send you [REDACTED] for the file.” The FBI official confirmed: “I have not closed it … Still open.” Strzok responded “Rgr. I couldn’t raise [REDACTED] earlier. Pls keep it open for now.”
Strzok also wrote FBI lawyer Lisa Page, the same person Strzok had referenced his “insurance policy” to in emails. Strzok texted Page: “Razor still open. :@ but serendipitously good, I guess. You want those chips and Oreos?” Page replied “Phew. But yeah that’s amazing that he is still open. Good, I guess.” Strzok replied “Yeah, our utter incompetence actually helps us. 20% of the time, I’m guessing :)”
That exchange is not as disconcerting as Strzok’s actions. After a finding of “no derogatory information,” Strzok reached for the Logan Act and sent a research paper on the notoriously unconstitutional law.
Now that same fired official is holding forth on Durham, a prosecutor who has been widely praised as an apolitical and unbiased investigator. Strzok declared “I’m certainly concerned when I read these indictments, both Mr. Sussmann’s and Mr. Danchenko’s… They have subtle dog-whistles to these kinds of pro-Trump conspiracy theories.”
Here is my favorite line:
“The indictment makes a point to note that the FBI was unable to corroborate Steele’s reporting, but at the same time, it neglects to mention that we weren’t able to disprove it either.”
No line better sums up Strzok’s approach to his work.
First, Durham details how, in 2017, the FBI was informed that the main source for the dossier (and the Page secret warrant) told them that they were “unsubstantiated” and misrepresented. The FBI was also informed that American intelligence believed that Steele relied on a known Russian agent and that the dossier may have been the vehicle for Russian disinformation. The FBI also knew that that then-President Obama was briefed by his CIA director, John Brennan on an intelligence report that Clinton planned to tie then-candidate Trump to Russia as “a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server.” That was on July 28, 2016 — three days before the Russia investigation was initiated.
Second, it is bizarre to note that allegations have yet to be clearly disproven. The allegations have been debunked to the extent that the key source has called them unreliable and little more than bar gossip. More importantly, the issue is whether there was sufficient evidence to launch (and continue) the investigation.
Strzok also notes that Mueller was able to nail the national security advisor. However, Mueller prosecuted Flynn for false statements much like the Durham indictments. Mueller found no evidence to support charging of any Russian collusion crimes. Strzok seems stuck in denial and suggesting that somehow targets should effectively have to “prove the negative” — prove they are not secret agents of Russia.
I support the appointment of the Special Counsel on the Russian collusion allegations after Trump fired James Comey. While I stated that the Russian collusion allegations were unlikely to be proven as crimes, I felt the public needed the assurance of an independent investigation. That is also why I supported the Durham investigation. Now that Durham is confirming that the Russian collusion allegations were engineered by Clinton campaign associates, there is a full court press in the media to downplay or ignore the underlying evidence.
The problem is that Durham does not appear to be done.