Crossfire Hurricane, the infamous investigation into the allegation that former Republican President Donald Trump conspired with the Russian government to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016, was based on unsubstantiated intelligence and should not have been opened by the FBI, according to a report from special counsel John Durham.
The Department of Justice released the more than 300-page report Monday, signalling the end of Durham’s years-long investigation into an FBI probe that consumed much of Trump’s presidency and dogged his 2020 re-election effort.
“Neither U.S. law enforcement nor the Intelligence Community appears to have possessed any actual evidence of collusion in their holdings at the commencement of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” Durham said in the report.
Durham, who was appointed by then-Attorney General Bill Barr in 2020 to assess the investigation into supposed links between Russian officials and Trump associates, presented a damning indictment of the FBI’s willingness to breach standard procedure in their investigation.
[RELATED: Durham Probe Shows Need for FBI Overhaul]
Throughout the operation, the Justice Department and FBI failed to “critically analyze information that ran counter to the narrative of a Trump/Russia collusive relationship”, Durham said, calling the FBI’s conduct “extremely troublesome.”
Although the allegations against Trump were based on unsubstantiated intelligence reports and shoddy FBI practices, that didn’t prevent the American mainstream media from spending tens of thousands of hours advancing the conspiracy theory.
The report suggests “confirmation bias” played a role in FBI officials willfully ignoring information that ran counter to the Trump/Russia collusion narrative. In other words, FBI officials lent more credence to information that supported the collusion narrative because they believed it was true — or wanted it to be true. The same may be said of credulous media outlets that breathlessly amplified and parroted claims about Trump’s mythical ties to the Kremlin.
Even before the release of Durham’s report, the Crossfire Hurricane investigation had been mired in controversy. Earlier investigations by Republican-led congressional committees had uncovered text messages from career FBI officials that showed several key players in the investigation had partisan axes to grind.
Disgraced FBI Agent Peter Strzok, one of the officials most directly involved in Crossfire Hurricane, expressed disdain for Trump, pushed the FBI to open an investigation into Trump, and asserted he would prevent Trump from ever becoming president.
The report explains that confirmation bias led to “at least on the part of certain personnel intimately involved in the matter, a predisposition to open an investigation into Trump.”
The lack of substantive evidence supporting the launch of Crossfire Hurricane should have caused the FBI to question whether it was being manipulated for political purposes, Durham said.
“Unfortunately, it did not,” Durham said.
Durham also said the FBI “did not and could not corroborate any of the substantive allegations” in the infamous “unvetted and unverified” Steele dossier, which was used by the FBI in obtaining a FISA warrant targeting former Trump advisor Carter Page.
Collusion between the Clinton Campaign, the FBI and the media
The report additionally indicates a double standard between how the FBI treated the Trump and Clinton campaigns.
“Unlike the FBI’s opening of a full investigation of unknown members of the Trump campaign based on raw, uncorroborated information, in this separate matter involving a purported Clinton campaign plan, the FBI never opened any type of inquiry, issued any taskings, employed any analytical personnel, or produced any analytical products in connection with the information,” Durham said.
Durham’s report further outlines what they dub the “Clinton Plan intelligence,” the purported approval by Hillary Clinton in the summer of 2016 of a plan to “vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.”
In October of 2016, then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released a statement from Hillary for America Senior Policy advisor Jake Sullivan—who now serves as national security advisor to President Biden—that claimed a link between the Trump Organization and Russian-based Alfa bank.
Durham explains in the report how Michael Sussman, an attorney working for the Clinton campaign, met with FBI general counsel James Baker in September of 2016, providing Baker with purported data and “white papers” allegedly demonstrating covert communications between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization.
In the months leading up to the 2016 election, Sussman also provided members of the media who reported on this alleged collusion with the Alfa bank data and his allegations.
Durham writes that this statement by the Clinton campaign supports the notion that “the Alfa Bank allegations were part of a Clinton campaign plan to tie Trump to Russia.”
While the Clinton campaign claimed the Alfa Bank information was a smoking gun suggesting Trump was communicating secretly with the Kremlin, Durham’s investigation showed in 2021 that the claim was baseless.
Conclusions of the Durham report
Durham’s long-awaited report, concluded after over three years that “the (Justice) Department and FBI failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law in connection with certain events and activities described in this report.”
Despite these findings, Durham did not recommend any additional criminal charges against Crossfire Hurricane investigators, opting for condemnations rather than convictions.
The sole criminal conviction related to Durham’s inquiry was against former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, who in 2020 received a sentence of 12 months probation and 400 hours of community service for doctoring an email pertaining to a surveillance warrant.
Although Durham failed to bring forth the slew of indictments diehard Trump fans had long predicted, the information in his report is a vindication for conservative activists, independent media, and even Trump himself.
As mainstream media outlets like MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times, NPR, and the Washington Post fell for a Clinton campaign scheme, it was non-corporate independent media that maintained skepticism.
At the very end of the 306-page report, Durham devoted a single page to recommending possible reforms to FBI, suggesting that they appoint nonpartisan FBI agent or lawyer to challenge FISA applications and every step taken in the course of their investigations.
The FBI issued a statement on Monday in response to the release of the Durham report, calling their actions during Crossfire Hurricane “missteps”, and that they have since made dozens of reforms and corrective actions which would have prevented their mistakes.
On Monday, Trump responded to the findings of the report in a Truth Social post, saying that the “American Public was scammed.”
Will the proponents of the Trump/Russia collusion narrative be held accountable?
Senator Angus King (I-Maine) was one of the leading voices in supporting the Crossfire Hurricane narrative of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to undermine the integrity of the 2016 presidential election.
Watch: The Maine Wire’s supercut of Angus King defending now-debunked claims of Trump/Russia collusion:
“There wasn’t any political bias, they started an investigation based upon information that came from the ambassador from Australia, who heard information about the stolen emails,” King said in an MSNBC interview. “They had to open that investigation.”
King’s claim is directly contradicted by the findings of the Durham report, which indicate that the FBI’s investigation was opened upon uncorroborated evidence that was not adequately critically analyzed.
King’s office did not respond to a request for him to comment on Durham’s report.